Professional and amateur theater companies, dance troupes, opera companies, and musical groups offer a wide variety of not only Asian-focused performances, but Western as well. Many Broadway and West End road shows stop by Singapore along their world tour itineraries, and international stars the likes of Placido Domingo, Yo Yo Ma, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Elvis Costello have come to town. You may be surprised to find lesser-known greats as well, like Allan Holdsworth, Laurie Anderson, and The Flaming Lips. International stars make up only a portion of the performance scene, though. Singapore theater comprises four distinct language groups -- English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil -- and each maintains its own voice and culture through theater, dance, music, and traditional performances.
The Singapore Symphony Orchestra performs at the Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay, with regular special guest appearances by international celebrities. For information about the orchestra, check out www.sso.org.sg, or for performance dates, see www.esplanade.com. Purchase tickets through Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg).
The Singapore Lyric Opera collaborates with renowned opera companies from around the world to stage such Western operas as Turandot and Madame Butterfly at the Esplanade. Check their website at www.singaporeopera.com.sg for what's on. Sistic handles ticket sales.
The Singapore Chinese Orchestra, the only professional Chinese orchestra in Singapore, has won several awards for its classic interpretations. They perform every 2 weeks, mainly at the Singapore Conference Hall, 7 Shenton Way (tel. 65/6440-3839). See performance schedules at www.sco.com.sg, and buy tickets through Sistic.
Most international companies will perform at either the Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Dr., a 10-minute walk from City Hall MRT (tel. 65/6828-8222; www.esplanade.com), or at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Ave., a 5-minute walk from Marina Bay MRT (tel. 65/6688-8868; www.marinabaysands.com). Smaller shows are sometimes staged at the Victoria Concert Hall, 2nd floor, Victoria Memorial Hall, 11 Empress Place (tel. 65/6338-6125). SISTIC (tel. 65/6348-5555; www.sistic.com.sg) handles bookings for all venues.
Singapore's original rock circus, Voyage de la Vie, embodies the spirit of Cirque du Soleil. Voyage features internationally acclaimed circus artists who perform amazing stunts alongside Singapore Idol 2006 runner-up Jonathan Leong. The show is at Resorts World Sentosa on Sentosa Island; performances are Wednesday to Friday at 8:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 5pm and 8:30pm. For information, call tel. 65/6577-8899. Tickets cost S$68 to S$128, and can be purchased from SISTIC (tel. 65/6348-5555; www.sistic.com.sg) or at the Universal Studios ticket counter.
A few local companies are quite noteworthy and manage their own performance spaces. The Necessary Stage, 278 Marine Parade Rd., #B1-02 Marine Parade Community Building (tel. 65/6440-8115; www.necessary.org), blazed trails for the local performing arts scene after staging productions that touched tender nerves for the community, including a startlingly frank monologue by the first Singaporean to publicly declare his struggle with AIDS. The Singapore Repertory Theatre, DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Rd., Robertson Quay (tel. 65/6733-0005; www.srt.com.sg), is another company to watch; in recent years, they've staged local productions of perennial favorites like The Glass Menagerie and Little Shop of Horrors.
A number of venues have nightly programs of performance art pieces, fringe music productions, art talks, demonstrations, readings, and other specialized arts events.
The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane (tel. 65/6332-6900; www.theartshouse.com.sg), is a popular venue located in the former Parliament House, whose government rooms, in grand colonial style, have been converted into intimate spaces for use as an alternative arts venue. The building also hosts an intimate music club and small cafe, plus a theater that screens avant garde films.
Also check out the many events at the Substation, 45 Armenian St. (tel. 65/6337-7535; www.substation.org), which offers its space to smaller theater troupes, cinema groups, fine arts exhibitors, and performance artists.
Once upon a time, Cantonese opera could be seen under tents on street corners throughout the city. These days, local and visiting companies still perform, but very sporadically. For a performance you can count on, the Chinese Theatre Circle, 5 Smith St. (tel. 65/6323-4862; www.ctcopera.com.sg), has a show on Fridays and Saturdays, with excerpts from the most famous and beloved tales, with explanations of the craft. Come at 7pm for the preshow "dinner" (chicken nuggets, really; tickets are S$35), or, better yet, have dinner elsewhere and drop in at 8pm to catch the show with tea and pay only S$20.