Welcome from L’arietta Productions:
Hi there and welcome to the Asian premiere of “Speed Dating Tonight!” by Michael Ching, based on a concept by Dean Anthony. It has been a long and bumpy ride to get to this point, but after two long years, here we are. During this time we have had ample opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves the difficult questions of why we do what we do. We see this happening across various sectors as more and more people start to consider what it is they truly value, not just as artists as human beings.
During the Circuit Breaker, we brought you a version of “Fragile Hearts,” with the composer Michael Ching’s new lyrics to your screens at home. Out of that conversation, a whole new work arose, a prequel if you like, to Speed Dating Tonight called “All Dressed Up, (No Place to Go)”. A mini-opera series written for the digital screen. Today we are privileged to continue the story of those characters first introduced in the prequel. Two years might have passed since they were going to go on a date but the need for a human connection remains the same.
Making a connection with another human being could look as simple as a gentle touch or a nod. A connection could be romantic, platonic or brotherly. Humans crave to belong, and we are not meant to be alone. Our characters are all fragments of us: hopeful, awkward, loving, and yearning to be understood.
So we hope you kick back, relax, enjoy the tunes, laugh and cry with the characters, spot the clever references to well-known operas, and hopefully leave satisfied that art has fed your soul.
When the lovely folks at L’arietta first approached me in late 2019 to direct Speed Dating Tonight!, it was, quite literally, a different time. We sat through too-long meetings at work, trying not to yawn openly in our colleagues’ faces, negotiated for elbow room and cup-holders in the cinema while watching the latest Marvel blockbuster, and looked forward to Friday evening drinks at the bar, where Corona was a beer someone might actually order.
Looking back on the experience of dating through the lens of the middle-aged married who had been there, done that and were done with it, thank goodness, music director Aloysius Foong and I set about selecting songs from the Speed Dating Tonight! catalogue that would capture the desperation, drama and delight of blind dates.
And then the pandemic hit.
Except for our heroic essential workers and healthcare frontliners, we sat trapped in our homes with only food deliveries and the latest hit Korean drama on Netflix to remind us that the outside world still existed. Even the most misanthropic among us began to miss the sight of other people’s faces and actually being able to tell how they felt by reading facial expressions. And Singaporean artists, already blindsided by the cancellations and indefinite postponements of work projects with few to no viable income streams in sight, were suddenly in the news, topping a list of roles deemed unnecessary and unimportant to society in this frightening new world.
Thanks to the National Arts Council Digital Presentation Grant, and our close relationship with composer Michael Ching who responded fast and wrote even faster, our creative team was able to quickly pivot our efforts to create All Dressed Up (no place to go), a nine-part opera video series designed to introduce digital audiences to some of the characters of Speed Dating Tonight! Hopefully, you were able to enjoy part of that presentation today while sipping your delicious Hendrick’s gin cocktails downstairs before the show.
And now here we are, finally, at the Asian premiere of one of the most performed contemporary operas in the last decade, with more than 100 productions since its world premiere in 2013 at the Brevard Music Center. As the world cautiously starts to reacquaint itself with the joys of human company and connection, we invite you to join us on a 75-minute musical journey through the triumphs and tribulations of the search for conversation, companionship and love, with a few quirky surprises strewn along the way, not to mention some much-needed laughter.
Thank you for supporting the arts and, in particular, Singapore’s young opera scene. We are so happy to see you again. Enjoy the show!
Special Note from Michael Ching
I’m so glad that SPEED DATING TONIGHT! is finally getting performed in Singapore. Originally scheduled two years ago, the detour that L’arietta Productions made in commissioning and creating the series of video dates called, “All Dressed Up, No Place to go” helped deepen my relationship with the team there. Some of those pieces proved very popular in the last few years and will continue to be used in other productions. (For example, as I write this in Taos, New Mexico in the US, the production here includes dater #82, “At Feeds the Soul,” one of the songs written for and premiered by L’arietta.)
Back in 2013, the original version of the opera had 25 options for daters. As of this writing, there are over 90. If anybody in the audience or company has an idea for another dater, e-mail me at the address below. I’m planning on stopping when I get to a hundred!
Thank you L’arietta!