Now into its 10th year, Opera in the Park will once again entertain audiences on 17 June at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The idea behind Opera in the Park is simple: enjoy the classical and normally formal music of opera in a not-so-formal setting. I have fond memories of bringing sandwiches and drinks in a basket, putting down a simple mat on the grass, and enjoying the free entertainment.

The programme line-up for this year offers a selection of classical favourites such as Rossini’s La Gazzetta, O lusinghiero amor, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Voi che sapete, and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, O Mio Babbino Caro. The line-up is carefully curated to celebrate the Music of Our Youth and embodies vitality and the young spirit.

We speak to roller coaster lover and conductor Joshua Tan, who will be leading the show, about Opera in the Park and the future of opera in Singapore.

First things first, what is your favourite roller coaster in the world?
The Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags Darien Lake!

Do you get an adrenaline rush from conducting like how you get one from roller coasters?
I’ve been conducting full time from 2009 but I still get very nervous before I get on stage and very often, I still get an adrenaline rush.

What are the greatest misconceptions you get when you tell people that you’re a conductor?
That I merely wave my arms and that is all to it. Plus one needs to be a megalomaniac to want to be a conductor.

Do you think Opera in the Park will be able to bring in the younger generation?
Yes! Most of the best stuff in life cannot be bought. Great music in a wonderful setting and without any admission charges. One can’t ask for more. In fact, I expect a very large crowd! Usually we have a very good turnout for park concerts. Judging from the attendance of previous years, Opera in the Park is here to stay for good. Hopefully we can do it twice a year in the future or bring it to different public venues.

Would you encourage more youth to take up your line of work? How would you engage the youth to be more interested in classical music?
Unless one is totally devoted to music I would not encourage it. It is almost like being a missionary!

Events like Opera in the Park certainly help. We need to bring classical music to youth and to make it as affordable and accessible as possible. We also need to dispel the misconception that it’s ‘uncool’ and the dominion of the so called ‘elite’.

Opera in the Park is on 17 June, 6pm at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Admission is free.

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