Sifa 2017 to feature Korean opera, ‘intimate’ stories from homeowners

Sifa 2017 to feature Korean opera, ‘intimate’ stories from homeowners
Sifa-commissioned Trojan Women was the brainchild of Ong Keng Sen and was first staged last year in Seoul. Photo: National Theater of Korea
Residents of 30 HDB flats, condos and houses open their homes to audiences while Ong Keng Sen teams up with S. Korean hitmaker for musical
Published: 6:44 AM, April 20, 2017
Updated: 11:34 PM, April 20, 2017

SINGAPORE — Real-life residents of HDB flats, condominiums and landed properties will be throwing open their doors and welcoming the public into their homes as part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa).

There, in the heart of their private residences, the audience will get to hear true stories from the home-owner. Open Homes is touted as one of the most intimate experiences of Sifa. Homes in neighbourhoods from Chua Chu Kang, to Frankel estate, Clarke Quay and Clementi, will be featured. The programme is hooked on “how ordinary folks find ordinary stories very inspiring”, said theatre director and arts producer Jeffrey Tan, who is the head of the project.

Open Homes first premiered at Sifa in 2015, where 25 homes were opened up. It involved some 2,000 visitors in 100 shows. This year’s edition will see 30 homes and 120 shows. Tan hopes that Open Homes will have audiences engaging with the idea of “enchantment” — the theme of Sifa this year — and that they will be inspired in the discovery of “who the people in our neighbourhoods are, what kind of experiences are they going through, (to understand) that they have valuable experiences and stories” to share.

In a message on Facebook, festival director Ong Keng Sen said that “built into the nerve system of Sifa” is the opportunity to “experience what it is to be human”. 

This marks the final year that Ong will be at the helm of the popular annual event. And it would be unlike him to go out without a bang.

For this fourth edition of the festival, Ong has planned a programme of 90 events. There will be 16 commissions, including two Singapore collaborations with international artists. 

His own contribution is a staging of the Sifa-commssioned Trojan Women, a collaboration with the National Theater of Korea. The production, based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1965 adaption of Trojan Woman, is a contemporary Asian musical, starring famous pansori singer Anh Sook-sun. Songs were written in collaboration with K-pop hit-maker, Jung Jae-il. 

The production saw its premiere in Seoul in November (2016). Response to the 12-show run was an “emotional storm”, said Ong, because Helen of Troy was played by a man — pansori singer, Kim Jun-soo. The 25-year-old has appeared music shows like Mnet’s I Can See Your Voice, and will reprise his role as Helen in Singapore.

“(The production) will go back to Seoul again this year and (head) to the London International Festival next year,” Ong revealed, adding gleefully that it is his “swan song” for Sifa.