Yesterday I felt ready again to watch another Opera performance in Singapore. The second one. Brave me.
Crime Scene “The Esplanade”
The place to
go avoid for you is the strangely formed, spiky new Opera house called “Esplanade”, situated at Singapore’s harbor. It often gets praised for its unique design (by the foreign press) and the Restaurants inside (by the local press).
The designated architect chose Singapore’s national item, the “Durian Fruit” as its obvious design template.
The Durian fruit has its spikes and its smell to defend itself against enemies and potential threats, keeping them away in a distance.
I believe the architect of “The Esplanade” chose the Durian fruit not without hidden intentions. Symbolized he wants to tell us, you, potential guests, to stay away from the place as well, keep a safe distance, and save yourself from a traumatic experience.
Go, Listen To Pavarotti On Your iPod Instead
“The opera is like a husband with a foreign title – expensive to support, hard to understand and therefore a supreme social challenge.” (Quote By Unknown)
My grandfather was a conductor at a big opera house in Germany, means, I got strange looks by my buddies during school when I told them I would go and watch “Parsifal” in the evening instead of “Rambo 2″, but I also learned to understand and treasure the real Opera and its strangely and other-world seeming environment.
By walking into an warm and pompously opera house, you get transferred into another festive and magnificent world. And this is why the designer of Singapore’s opera house sent and still sends us the “hidden message” of “Stay Out Of Here – Go listen to Pavarotti on your iPod instead”.
There is no other beautiful world inside Singapore’s Opera house. Just the mere reality that you can still get a cultural shock after being here over three years already.
In Singapore watching an Opera performance is a social challenge indeed.
1. Don’t Dress Up
It is obvious that wearing a Tuxedo or ball gown in Singapore’s climate might result in immediate death through heat stroke or massive amount of water loss, dressing up like it is common practice for an Opera performance, is there for a little bit tricky.
However being forced through my work to wear long sleeved shirts and tie every day, and being an Ang Moh, I know that it is manageable to dress up decent without any problems and to still survive the Singapore tropic weather while looking more or less well dressed.
Sitting in Singapore’s Opera House you will however very soon realize that it is mainly the Ang Mohs, tourists or Expats who dress and think that way. Crocs, shorts, Tshirt and Soccer jersey are in the majority.
There for: Don’t Dress Up!
2. Don’t Switch Of Your Phone, Eat And Talk
Oh those deadly looks I got when coughing through the final aria or dropping my lorgnette at the opening overture. In Europe I mean.
Yesterdays performance was starting ten minutes late because the crowd didn’t stop talking and making noise. Although I have to give kudos to the ambitious guards which were trying their best to calm the people down so that the orchestra could start playing. That hadn’t happen in 20 years of watching opera before.
During the performance don’t bother to answer your phone, eat Hamburgers or satisfactory snuffle your nose. It is common practice not to use tissues for blowing your nose but to reserve your table and the numerous “Please Switch Off Your Phone” signs are only place holders for the upcoming promotional pictures. A final burp before the ending will make your introduction to the Singapore Opera complete.
There for: Eat, Drink and be loud!
I often rant about expats and tourists not complying with local customs and their denying to integrate within the countries borders and life. However, my blog is not called “AngryAngMo” without a reason and its the above described events that put the “Angry” in front of the “Ang Moh”.
As usual it is of course just a minority of people that creates those pictures and impressions, making my local friends shaking their heads in disbelief synchronized with mine. But especially in “sensible” environments like an “Opera House” it can be a single person already, that spoils the evening for a whole auditorium.
There for: I will go and watch my third and fourth and fifth opera performance in Singapore as well, because I love opera, and because I believe in the common sense and ability of people to learn.
(Hint: Switch your phones of, leave the food at the Hawker center and keep your bodies sounds for yourself, at least as long as the orchestra plays and the tenors are singing)