WE AWOKE TO MONDAY morning the last day of our Easter weekend fling in Singapore. While packing up I had a panic attack when I realized how difficult it was to close the luggage. The thrill of the three day shopping frenzy still lingering in my mind. No need to worry about bulging luggage now there’s more sightseeing to squeeze in before the Tiger Airways afternoon flight departure.
This morning we toured the Esplanade—Theatre on the Bay. This marvel of technology has been open since 2003 and cost S$600–million. The Singapore Arts Festival is coming up in June 2005 and the Esplanade is certainly the place to be for those reading this issue.The arts centre is home to theatres indoor and outdoor concert hall recital studios shopping and dining facilities all housed within two futuristic domes referred to fondly as “The Durian” owing to the spiky sunshade curtain covering the twin glass structures.
The Esplanade sits on six hectares of prime land on the Marina Bayfront across the way from Marina Square and serves if you will as Singapore’s cultural shop window.
The concept of an arts centre had been discussed since the 1970’s but then the government felt it more appropriate to use the existing financial resources to build up the economy. No one venue in the world “has it all” but the Esplanade comes very close. It is one of five unique theaters in the world. Nearly 70% of the concerts are free to the public so Operation costs are supported by the weekly pools (state lottery). There are 170 full time employees when actually a complex this size should have 300 persons. Needless to say the employees have a passion for the heater and are very multi-tasked.
The entire building sits on a cushion of rubber to prevent vibrations when the subway passes nearby. All the walls have an inner wall of water to minimize noise outside. Everything was done to assure the best acoustics.
There can be no greater judge of such a venue than the renowned Spanish tenor Jose Carreras who remarked—“Having the Esplanade means Singapore can enjoy a high level and wide variety of cultural life. The Esplanade’s concert hall has very good acoustics. It is probably the world’s best modern hall and one of the world’s top concert halls of all time. I like performing in it and I would like to return.”
No small wonder Jose would like to return when we saw the dressing rooms. The performing artists are comfortably accommodated in 42 dressing rooms. The Oriental Singapore Hotel handles the entire service operation. The artists are pampered with butlers fine meals and refreshments in the spacious three storey sub level area.
Creating the spiky sunshade was an engineering miracle. The team of engineers studied the pattern of the sun and wind for one year to determine the correct angle to position the 5000 pieces maximising cool airflow under the dome.
The 1600 seat concert hall (with additional 200 seats in the Gallery) decorated in cool green and silver. At the highest third level are 52 doors opening to air space to lengthen the sound according to the type of music presented also three acoustic canopies reflect the sound.
The theater has 1800 seats decorated in warm red and gold. The seven storey height of the back back stage could house a concord jet. Plenty of space for the most stupdendous opera setting.
The visual art gallery is called Jendela or the Malay word for Windows. In March 2005 the work of a Japanese artist was exhibited. She used two types of media stamping and paper folding. Using rubber shoes she printed portraits of young and old faces on bed sheets. The second area exhibited portraits she created by stamping the embossed numbers of a credit card on A4 size canvas. The third area was a silhouette shadow exhibition from folded paper with a spotlight shining at an angle. It was even possible to distinguish the mustach of a gentleman’s silhouette. The Jendele Gallery has a team recruiting artists in Asia to display their work.
In the immediate vicinity of the Esplanade-Theatre on the Bay there are more than five thousand world-class hotel rooms seven and a half thousand car parking spaces three hundred restaurants one thousand shops two convention centres and one hundred and fifty bars. You could live here!
Boarding our coach outside the Esplanade we then headed off to Raffles City shopping centre for lunch. Here we found another top class shopping mall with a variety of dining facilities. Typical of a bustling food court the area was packed and many intriquing scents lingerd in the air. Being our last day we opted to enjoy Singaporean specialities. Some of the dishes I spotted around our table were Hainanese chicken rice—Laksa-rice noodles in coconut curry gravy with shrimpegg chicken and cockles—the ubiquitous satays of beef pork and chicken and Rojak—a local salad comprising a mixture of fruit and vegetables.
I chose to cool off with a local ice dessert kacang a mound of grated ice smothered in sweet syrups with a base of jelly red beans corn and topped with attap seeds.
Special thanks to Tiger Airways The Gallery Hotel and Singapore Tourism Board for the opportunity to get to know Singapore once again after a four year absence. It’s tough to find one word to describe Singapore. The Island state has much to discover every day. From the famous old neighborhood Ya Kun Kaya coffee house to the Esplanade a Singapore holiday is full of possibilities.
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