Powerful voices, remarkable music, stories of love, loss, pain and sorrow –there are many reasons to fall in love with opera. His own passion for opera led writer and food critic Erza S.T. to establish the Indonesia Opera Society ten years ago, with the aim to create better awareness about opera in Indonesia and give local talents the opportunity to perform alongside international artists.
The Indonesia Opera Society, which has produced several opera events in Jakarta over the last decade, celebrated its tenth anniversary in true opera style last month: with a grand Opera Gala that featured world-class singers and musicians from ten different countries, as well as renowned artists from Indonesia.
The Opera Gala was held at the Segara Ballroom of The Dharmawangsa Jakarta and surprised with an impressive line up that consisted of Sopranos Gayane Vardanyan (Armenia), Evelyn Merrelita (Indonesia), Anna Dinna Migallos (Philippines) and Amelie Fleetwood (Sweden); Mezzo Sopranos Angelique Noldus (Belgium) and Tamta Tarieli (Georgia); Tenors Anando Mukerjee (India) and Fransico Corujo (Spain); Baritone singers Massimo Di Stefano (Italy) and Tim Kuypers (Netherlands); and Bass singer Harland Hutabarat (Indonesia).
The singers were accompanied by the Nusantara Symphony Orchestra from Indonesia, while Japanese conductor Hikotaro Yazaki returned to Jakarta to lead the orchestra. Another special guest star of the evening was pianist and composer Ananda Sukarlan, who specifically wrote a seven-minute concerto for this special occasion.
Dutch Baritone Tim Kuypers, who performed “Credo in un Dio crudel” from Otello by Giuseppe Verdi, and, as part of an ensemble, “Chi mi frena in tal momento” from Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti as well as “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, spoke to NOW! Jakarta about his impressions of Indonesia, life as a singer, and what is necessary to protect his biggest asset - his voice.
How did you first become interested in opera?
It started when I was still in school. My music teacher then thought, hey, this young boy seems to have a very nice voice, and that’s how I first got into music and opera. The thing with me is that when I start something, I want to do it 200 percent or not at all, so I later did my Bachelor and Master of Opera at the conservatoire of Amsterdam. After that, I moved to Munich where I became a member of the Studio of the Bavarian State Opera, and that is where I mainly work, within Germany, Austria, France. But it’s not only opera I’m doing, I also sing Lied, which is in many ways more personal and intimate and therefore sometimes more satisfying.
Do you have a favourite opera?
No, not anymore. Since I have become a professional opera singer, you see and learn so much more. For instance, I suddenly realized that one opera that I used to like also has its weak moments. But one opera I definitely still want to do at some point is “Wozzeck” by Alban Berg. It’s a difficult one, for both singers and audience. The music is almost atonal.
Do you also listen to other music?
Almost exclusively! I used to listen to classical music in my free time, but that really changed over the years. Now I listen to a lot of rock music and jazz. Anything but opera and Lied, basically, because sometimes you simply need to unwind.
How do you take care of your voice?
Actually, it’s not so difficult, especially in Europe because we don’t use a lot of air conditioning over there. It’s different here in Indonesia. Yet for me, it’s quite simple. Drink a lot of water and be well-rested. There are definitely some singers who can be quite hypochondriac, but I am not one of them.
Is this your first time in Indonesia?
No, I was actually already here in April and May for a vacation. Two weeks before that, I coincidentally received a phone call from the Ambassador who asked me if I was interested in performing here. I travelled to Java, Bali and Lombok, and I must say, that I enjoyed my time in Java the most. I was visiting some remote villages, and the people were just extremely friendly and welcoming.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I hope I will still be the same person I am now - happy. Whatever it is that I am doing in ten years, or wherever I am, be it in Munich or elsewhere, I simply hope I’ll be happy. I do love music but a very good friend of mine once told me that if music and singing are your only passion, you have to quit, because it simply won’t be enough. I always had a great interest in photography and cooking as well - my father is a chef - so I have actually a nice triangle of things I truly like. Of course, music and singing remain my number one, but at the same time, it is also my job, whereas photography and cooking are hobbies. If I take photos that don’t look so great or cook a meal that perhaps isn’t as delicious as I thought it would be, it’s still fine. I can always try again.