Thursday, 26 September 2013

Stockholm: A taste of Sweden in 3 days, 22 - 24 Sep 2013

Arrived half past two in the afternoon at Stockholmm Arlande Airport.  I was feeling alright even though I had an 8-hour transit at Doha Airport, and slept on the floor of the transit lounge with my bedsheets. Qatar Airline has also stopped providing free meals at the airport for transit passengers since May.  Was it due to cost cutting measures?

Immigration clearance at the Swedish airport was slow.  The staff at the information counter however was friendly, and you could purchase the 99 Kronas bus ticket to the city centre, lasting 50 minutes. I alighted one stop earlier and thus had to drag my for a longer distance.  There is a faster train services to the city centre but it costs more.

The City Backpackers Hostel is conveniently located in the city area and is 15 minutes walking distance to the Old Town.  The rooms are comfortable and clean and there were free computer terminals at the lounge area. Free pasta was provided in the kitchen.  

The supermarket is about 10 to 15 minutes walk away and the food items are generally reasonably priced.  For example, a roasted chicken cost US$7 which was good for 4 meal portions. An egg was about US$0.40.   As meals in restaurants are expensive. self catering at hostel is a good option

After settling down quickly, I walked along the main shopping area, which was a block away from the hostel, and headed towards the Old Town, where the Royal Palace is also located.

The Old Town was well maintained and painted.  The buildings were mainly used asrestaurants and souvenir shops. Tourists wandered along the cobbled streets, and chanced upon a square or a church occasionally.   The Old Town itself was not big and could be easily covered in less than 2 hours.

End of Day 1.

I did not have an early start the following morning.  Obtained some information from the tourist information centre and headed to the Royal Palace at the Old Town.  The Palace was closed on a Monday but there were tourists gathering outside to observe the changing of the guards.

....of course I joined in the crowd.

Honestly, the changing of the guards was not spectacular for that day.  I was informed that in September, the grand changing of the guards take place only on Wednesdays and Sundays.

I never got to enter the Royal Palace in this trip as there was a state visit on the following day. Well, as someone said, one must have some regrets when visiting a place so that he or she would want to return again.

I literally dashed to the City Hall so as to make it for the noon guided tour.  The City Hall is known for the dinner reception venue for the Nobel prize ceremony.

We were brought around the City Hall, which has three beautiful banquet halls.   This is the main one where the Nobel Price dinner reception would be held:

The second function hall on the second level

And further up, my favourite function room:

There was also a display of the cutlery used for the Nobel Prize dinner reception.  Apparently, quite a number of invited guests kept them as souvenir after the dinner.

The City Hall is also the place where the Parliament meets. Currently, there are more women Member of Parliaments than men.  Parliament meets once in three weeks on a Monday, from 4 to 10 pm.  While we were told that we could attend the sitting, I could not find the entrance to the gallery seats on that night. A pity.

You could also ascend the clock tower to have the bird's eye view of the city (extra charges).  I however was not keen on climbing stairs and the weather was not great either.  Overall the City Hall is a highly recommended place to visit in Stockholm - the guide provided good commentary of the place.

Had a quick sandwich lunch and proceeded to the newly opened ABBA Museum.  ABBA Museum is meant more for fans and those who like the movie Mama Mia.  Besides the usual exhibits on Abba and the members, visitors could participate in interactive activities such as mixing a song, do a song recording, be the 5th member of ABBA.  All the activities participated could be downloaded for your own keep. There is also a Sweden Hall of Music exhibition, which will be more suited for the Swedes.  Is ABBA Museum worth a visit?  Yes, if you are a fan and if you are game enough to perform the activities. See More on ABBA Museum

It was past 4 pm when I entered the Vasa Museum, one of the top attractions in Stockholm.  Decided to do a quick visit as it was in the same vicinity as the ABBA Museum and also it was a distance away from the hostel.

It was definitely one of the memorable visits in Stockholm. The museum houses a 17th century vessel that was recovered from the ocean bed.  The vessel itself was about 7 storey high.


End of Day 2.

Monogram by Robert Rauschenberg
Did not have an early start on the third day.  As there was a state visit to the Royal Palace where the main rooms would not be available for viewing, I decided to spend time at the Moderna Muset.  It turned out to be a fruitful trip as the exhibits were interesting.

Works of Niki de Saint Phalle

I was excited that a special exhibition on Marcel Duchamp was on.  I learnt about him when I took up a Coursera module on visual arts.  I like the way he used everyday object and turned it into something unique.

I also had my first proper meal at a restaurant located within the Museum.  The pork was good and the side dishes were filling.  Views from the restaurant was beautiful.

In the evening, I caught a dance performance Plateau Effect by one of the top Swedish dance companies Culberg Ballet.  The venue Hus was just next door to the backpackers' hostel.  It was a good performance and the audience was appreciative. Read more on the performance.

Basically that was the end of my Stockholm trip.

A brief introduction to Sweden.  Will I be back?  Yes, Stockholm is a pleasant city which makes it great to walk around.  And of course, there is the Royal Palace.....

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Plateau Effect by Cullberg Ballet: First encounter with choreographer Jefta van Dinther

It was a mix of young and young-at-heart audience on the Tuesday evening of Culberg Ballet's Plateau Effect.  It would be my second encounter wiht the Cullberg Ballet - the first being former Artistic Director Mats Ek's Giselle at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1999 (year to be confirmed).  So what a good way to end my journey in Stockholm by catching this company's performance at the Dansens Hus, a major dance venue in Sweden.

ABBA Museum - Thank you for the Music...and the Memory

ABBA Museum

It was a windy and cold afternoon that I arrived at the ABBA Museum in Stockholm.  The museum building is definitely not purpose-built.

The first floor of the museum is the ticket office and the souvenir shop, where we could get various ABBA memorabilia.  The exhibition was located at the basement where we watched a video of the band, followed by the vehicles owned by the band members.

What better way to introduce ABBA than showcasing their triumph at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.    Picture shows costume worn by Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid.

At its peak, the Polar Music record company was the centre of ABBA's activities.  The museum recreated the office of that era.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Toy Factory: The Penis Society

This production should be left at the drawing board. While the notion of using a topical issue and expanding it to a stand-up/ theatre piece was interesting, much more thought should be put into it.  This script was just like a dinner conversation with friends on the sex scandals happening here...just that.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Mulan engages, Wanderer-seekers wander at Chinese Theatre Festival

The second edition of Chinese Theatre Festival happened at School of The Arts venues.  The Theatre Practice held its inaugural festival at Joyden Hall at Bugis+ in 2011.

This year's focus was on the themes of traditions and classics, based on the message by artistic director Kuo Jian Hong.  The two productions that I caught reflected this theme.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

T.H.E Dance Company incorporates technology in New Vision (Dance Review)

On its fifth anniversary, T.H.E Dance Company started a new performance series New Vision to explore integrating technology with dance.  The performance featured 3 items.

Kuik Swee Boon's On Top of White was a multimedia projection of a person's journey to various parts of Singapore.  The videography held our attention and the movement by Jessica Christina was simple but effective, aided by the music of Bani Haykal.  While the multimedia elements were interesting, there was not much happening on the actual stage.

In Command Pattern, Jeffrey Tan explored the relationship between man and technology.  The merging of dance with computer generated texts was well executed and the projection of texts onto dancers' bodies, and the dispersion of them, did convey the message of men's love-hate relationship with technology.

Zhuo Zihao's 'Felt' Sense was the most ambitious of the 3 pieces, with a heavy dose of technology and the use of 3D glasses. While I admired his adventurous, the cumbersome 3D glasses became a liability and I lost focus on the dance itself. Having said that, this was the piece that really explored  in depth the issue of technology and dance.

Looking forward to the second edition.

Tony Bennettt charms Singapore Audience

It takes a veteran crooner to show us how to phrase a song and sing it beautifully.  The 87-year Tony Bennett held the attention of the mostly matured audience at the acoustic perfect Star Performing Arts Centre on Wednesday evening (11 Sep 2013).

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Barbie comes a-Live! at Marina Bay Sands!

The new Barbie Live! Musical had its world premiere at the Marina Bay Sands Singapore yesterday.  It was a good turnout with most audience, young and old, dressed in pink.

I had some reservations initially whether this production would be too saccharine for an adult chap.  I have to say that this musical has good songs and choreography to keep the adults entertained.

Tony Bennett performing in Singapore tonight!

American music veteran Tony Bennett would be playing a concert here this evening (11 Sep) at the The Star Performing Arts Centre. Audience tonight will have a chance to savour hits from his more than 50-year career.  I am looking forward to hearing "I left my heart in San Francisco", "Because of you" and "Rags to Riches".

Tony Bennett has received seventeen Grammy Awards, including a 1995 Grammy for Record of the Year for his “MTV Unplugged” CD and the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Award.  He has managed to reach out to younger audience through the years.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Tale of the Frog Prince

This is a well executed production by Singapore Repertory Theatre's Little Company.  Compared to the company's last production Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, the energy level of the actors was higher and the interaction with the children was better.  The cast was strong: Caleb Goh (Frog), Mina Ellen Kaye (Rosalie), Marc Valentine (Spree), Candice de Rozario (Queen), Marcus Lim (King), Anette Sestol Andersen (Penelope) and Erwin Shah Ismail (Bertram).  The pace is right for the children and the set design is commendable.

All in all, director Daniel Jenkins did a good job with this production.

See reviews for Three Little Pigs  and Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

Singapore Lyric Opera celebrates Verdi's bientennial with La Traviata

Singapore Lyric Opera staged a familiar opera La Traviata at the Esplanade Theatre recently (September).  Director Stephen Barlow has chosen a contemporary treatment to this opera to good effect. The set design is clean and did not cause "congestion" to the cast and chorus experienced in the recent "Madama Butterfly".

Act I seemed to be warm-up act for the cast.  Nancy Yuen, as Violetta, was not audible initially.  Things got better as the scenes went on and overall Nancy Yuen did a good job. I also like Kota Murakami as Alfredo and Song Kee Chang as Alfredo's father Giorgio.  To me, Song Kee Chang sang the best last Friday evening.

It was a good evening out at the opera, and let's hope that SLO would put on more challenging works in the coming year.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Barbie LIVE! Musical world premieres at Marina Bay Sands

Not satisfied with just owning the Barbie dolls?  There is a new musical for you. The all-new musical, Barbie LIVE!  will have its world premiere in Singapore for one week only from 10 to 14 September at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. The musical will then travel throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States.
 Barbie LIVE! will be featuring contemporary music with empowering lyrics, energetic choreography and a modern storyline that will appeal to fans of all ages. The show will feature a cast of 19 singers and dancers, dazzling costumes, spectacular lighting and set designs and popular songs. 

Set on a Hollywood sound stage the show follows Barbie and her best friend / co-star Teresa on the set of their new movie.  When Teresa starts to doubt herself and her theatrical abilities, Barbie leverages lessons from her past to teach Teresa (and the audience) to be confident, believe in yourself and embrace the power of friendship. 

BY PHONE: +65 6688 8826
BOOK IN PERSON AT:   Marina Bay Sands Box Offices (Museum, Theatres, SkyPark, Retail Mall and Hotel Tower 1 and 3 Lobby). For more information please log onto -
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