Festival Commission

Angel Island


Huang Ruo (US) & Brian Gothong Tan (SG)

19 May
Fri, 8pm

20 May
Sat, 3pm & 8pm

Singtel Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade

Programme Partners

Message from Chairman


It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2023. A festival is a space where some people gather to immerse and engage in works of creativity and imagination. It is in this spirit that SIFA 2023 presents a range of works that compel us to contemplate our diversity and uniqueness as people existing in common spaces together.

Wilson Tan



This edition’s title SIFA 2023 The Anatomy of Performance: Some People engages with the idea that the human experience exists on a spectrum. We are the sum of all the narratives that chapter and alter our lives; each trial and transformation, what our ancestors and communities have had to struggle through, our experiences as children and adults, things inherited and circumstances imposed on our lives shape how we move through life and experience the world.
Natalie Hennedige

Message from Huang Ruo

Message from Huang Ruo

No one, not even a film, can truly reenact this painful history authentically through acting, sound, and feelings. As an Asian-American artist and composer of today, my intention was to look back on this history from who I am, where I am, and when I am today. In looking back on the true historical stories, writings, and Chinese characters carved into the wall, I tried to understand their meanings and message, and then to bring them back into a contemporary America to create a musical project and piece that not only informs the history, but also reflects on the present, and (in hope) inspires the future. For the movements (II, IV, VI) involving the Chinese characters, as they are written in old Chinese (⽂⾔⽂) and in poetic form, the Chinese characters are concise, symbolic, and at times abstract, yet full of rich metaphors and meanings. This gave me space to elaborate, imagine, and expand with my own art form and thoughts. As a Chinese immigrant myself, I have also carried the feeling and understanding of leaving my family and everything behind, coming into a new foreign land alone by myself with fear, homesickness, and so much unknown ahead. All these personal feelings are consciously or unconsciously embedded in my writing. The anti-Asian hate and racism towards Asians and Asian-Americans rising in the United States since the pandemic influences my writing as well. Therefore, Angel Island is a work that converges and woven many currents and countercurrents of life, space, and time into one piece of artistic fabric.
Huang Ruo
Composer, Conductor, Co-director
Huang Ruo
Composer, Conductor, Co-director

Message from Gothong Tan

Message from Brian Gothong Tan

In 1970, Alexander Weiss, a Californian state park ranger, discovered some wall carvings in the barracks on Angel Island, which were scheduled for demolition. He reached out to his professor, Dr. George Araki, from San Francisco State University, who recognized the cultural significance of the poetry carvings. This crucial intervention prevented the erasure of these historical artifacts.

During my research, I had the opportunity to meet with Genny Lim, the last surviving author of the influential book, "Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940," at a café in the SF Ferry Building, accompanied by her dog, Rumi. Andrea Fong, a Bay Area activist, and her husband, Young, were also part of this enlightening encounter. I learned firsthand about the challenges they faced in finding publishers for the book, as there was supposedly "no market for Chinese language books”, and about their families' experiences with detention on Angel Island. The older generation, understandably, shied away from discussing these experiences, preferring to forget the shame and trauma they endured.

This collective effort to forget has inadvertently led to a form of cultural amnesia. Many are unaware of Angel Island's existence, a fact that seems particularly unfortunate given the increase in racially motivated crimes against Asians in the US. It's crucial to remember that our current reality is influenced by past events. Surprisingly, most people are oblivious to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the only law enacted that specifically targeted a national group, restricting their immigration to the United States. This law was only repealed 1943, with remnants of it fully reversed as late as 1965.

Composer Huang Ruo structured his works along two parallel tracks: the odd-numbered scenes explore historical events tied to the Chinese Exclusion Act, while the even-numbered ones are inspired by the poems found on Angel Island. In response, I have attempted to recreate the immigrant's journey on a canvas that captures this intricate web of ideas and emotions. The stage design embodies obvious metaphors of water and islands, and less apparent ones, like time. In the rehearsal room, we discovered various representations of time: slow, fast, cyclical, and the sensation of being in limbo, where time seems to halt. This was the reality for many immigrants on Angel Island. In essence, this performance of Angel Island is a meditation on time; its relentlessness, its propensity for forgetting and remembering, and ultimately, its capacity for healing.

I wish to express my gratitude to several people: The Del Sol Quartet, who initiated this project in 2017 after receiving a grant from the Hewlett Foundation for a collaboration with Huang Ruo on the Angel Island Oratorio. The Taipei Chamber Singers, who lent their voices and souls to this piece and bringing it to life. My Singaporean collaborators and team: Max, Allister, Uncle Shah, Gabriel, Ian, Tennie, Nic, Siaw Hui, Alethea, Biyu, Fadhli and Yee Sheng. The exceptionally talented performers Ma Yanling and Jason Carter, our angels on the island. Natalie, Mervyn, and the entire SIFA team, thank you for affording us this chance to create a significant work of art. And finally, to Huang Ruo, for your trust, patience, and invaluable lessons. I extend my deepest gratitude.

Brian Gothong Tan
Co-director, Set Conceptualiser, Multimedia Artist
Brian Gothong Tan
Co-director, Set Conceptualiser, Multimedia Artist

Message from Del Sol Quartet

Message from Del Sol Quartet

We are thrilled by the opportunity to collaborate with the Singapore International Festival of Arts on this new version of Huang Ruo’s musical monument to the Asian immigrant experience in America. It feels especially meaningful to bring this music to Asia for the first time.

For Del Sol Quartet, Angel Island is local - it forms part of our San Francisco landscape and the personal history of our community. Unlike New York’s celebrated Ellis Island, Angel Island has no mythology of welcome - no Statue of Liberty exhorting "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Rather, the poetry of Angel Island was written by its detainees, who carved their graffiti into the walls of the Immigration Station, singing of homesickness, unfulfilled dreams, sorrow and hope.

The story of Angel Island is specific to Asians in the United States, who were uniquely discriminated against by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other racist policies that followed barring them from entering the country. Huang Ruo’s work makes this clear with the xenophobic screeds and newspaper accounts of anti-Chinese riots and lynchings. Now, bringing this work abroad reminds us that the Asian immigrant experience has universal lessons that go beyond the boundaries of the United States and its history. At this moment, every part of the globe is impacted by the forces of displacement, immigration and xenophobia. As artists and citizens, we will keep playing our music and spreading messages that bind us together.

Del Sol Quartet
Del Sol Quartet

Message from Taipei Chamber Singers

Message from Taipei Chamber Singers

The pursuit of freedom and equality has always been a common and unneglectable concern for humanity.

The background of Angel Island began with the issuance of the Page Act of 1875 in the US. In the last century, Chinese immigrants were discriminated in the US, writing poems about their broken dreams in prison. During rehearsals, the singers felt the same sorrows and woes as the immigrants did. The contrast between the declaration of “all men are created equal,” and the reality facing the first-generation immigrants, is not just a historical record, but a continued existence in various forms around us till now.

Coming from an open and egalitarian society, Taipei Chamber Singers (TCS) is honored to perform and co-produce Angel Island, pursuing the ideal of equality with the composer, artist, and musicians through our voice and performance in this production. In the art festival, we also hope to inspire in us and the audience alike, a vision for a better future.

Taipei Chamber Singers
Production Collaborator, Performers
Taipei Chamber Singers
Production Collaborator, Performers


Opera-Theatre for Voices and String Quartet

Scene I:

Chinese Massacre of 1871
Los Angeles, California

Scene II:

⽔景如苔千⾥曲, 陸路無涯路步難。 平⾵到埠⼼如是, 安樂誰知住⽊樓。

The Seascape
The seascape resembles lichen twisting and turning for a thousand li. There is no shore to land and it is difficult to walk. With a gentle breeze I arrived at the city thinking all would be so. At ease, how was one to know he was to live in a wooden building

Scene III:

The Page Act of 1875
Hong Kong, China

Scene IV:

離別故鄉,頻洒窮途之淚。 躬到美域, 徒觀海⽔之汪洋。 船泊碼頭, 轉撥埃崙之孤島。 離埠⼗⾥, 托⾜孤峯。 三層⽊屋, 堅如萬⾥城。 幾座監牢, 扃北⾨管鑰。

同胞數百,難期漏網之⿂, ⿈種半千,恍若密羅之雀。 有時舉頭⽽眺, 胡笳互動,益增惆悵之悲。 或者傾⽿⽽聽, 牧⾺悲鳴,翻惹淒涼之感。

嗟!嗟! 觸景⽣情, 荒涼滿⽬。 愁誰遣此; 命也何如? 尤有慘者,診脉數回,無病宛然有病; 驗⾝數次,裹⾝⼀若裸⾝。 借問昊天,使我奚⾄此極? 哀哉吾輩,然亦無如之何。

雖削南⼭之⾼⽵,寫不盡離騷之詞。 竭東海之波流,洗不淨羞慙之狀。 然或者,狄庭⾏酒,晉愍不辭⾐之羞 漢軍降奴,李陵曾作椎⼼之訴。 古⼈如此, 今⼈獨不忍乎? 夫事窮勢迫,亦復何⾔? 藏器待時,徒空想像。

鳴呼! ⽩種強權, ⿈魂受慘, ⽐喪家之狗,強⼊牢籠; 追⼊笠之豚,嚴加鎖鑰。 魂消雪窖,眞⽝⾺之不如。 淚洒冰天,傷禽⿃之不若也。

良可慨也 尚忍⾔哉?

When We Bade Farewell
When we bade farewell to our village home, we were in tears because of survival's desperation. When we arrived in the American territory, we stared in vain at the vast ocean. Our ship docked and we were transferred to a solitary island. Ten li from the city, my feet stand on this lonely hill. The muk uk is three stories high, built as firmly as the Great Wall. Room after room are but jails, and the North Gate firmly locked.

Here several hundreds of my countrymen are like fish caught in a net; Half a thousand yellow race are like birds trapped in a mesh. As we lift our heads and look afar, the barbarian reed pipes add all the more to our anguish and grief. As we cock our ears and try to listen, the horses' neighing further worsens our solitude and sorrow.

Alas! Heaven! So desolate is this sight; It is disheartening indeed. Sorrow and hardship have led me to this place; What more can I say about life? Worse yet, A healthy person would become ill after repeated medical examinations; A private inspection would render a clothed person naked. Let me ask you, the barbarians: Why are you treating us in such an extreme way? I grieve for my fellow countrymen; There is really nothing we can do!

All the tall bamboo from Zhongnan Mountain cannot bear our words of frustration. All the water in the Eastern Sea will not cleanse our sense of humiliation. Perhaps, we can be. Like Emperor Min of Jin, who didn't reject the shame of wearing blue garb and serving wine. Like Li Ling, who pounded his chest in agony for his Han army surrendering to the Huns. Our ancestors have encountered such misfortune. Why does our present generation endure the same? In a moment of desperation, what more can one say? In waiting with concealed weapons for the right moment to arrive. It is nothing but pure fantasy.

Alas, Such tyranny of the White Race! Such tragedy of the Yellow Souls! Like a homeless dog forced into a confining cage, like a trapped pig held in a bamboo cage, our spirits are lost in this wintry prison; We are worse than horses and cattle. Our tears shed on an icy day, we are less than the birds and fowl.

We are filled with grief. How can we suppress our cries?

Scene V:

“THE CHINESE INVASION! They Are Coming, 900,000 Strong.” August 27, 1873
(INTRODUCTION from The Chinese Invasion: Revealing the Habits, Manners, and Customs of the Chinese by Henry Josiah West, 1873)
San Francisco Bay Area, California

Scene VI:

噩耗傳聞實可哀, 弔君何⽇裹屍回? 無能瞑⽬憑誰訴? 有識應知悔此來。 千古含愁千古恨, 思鄉空對望鄉臺。 未酬壯志埋壞⼟, 知爾雄⼼死不灰。

Buried Beneath Clay and Earth
Shocking news, truly sad, reached my ears. We mourn you. When will they wrap your corpse for return? You cannot close your eyes. On whom are you depending to voice your complaints? If you had foresight, you should have regretted coming here. Now you will be forever sad and forever resentful. Thinking of the village, one can only futilely face the Terrace for Gazing Homeward. Before you could fulfill your lofty goals, you were buried beneath clay and earth. I know that even death could not destroy your ambition.

Scene VII:

The Last Chinaman from the Titanic
North Atlantic Ocean
Ellis Island, New York

"When the Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912, thousands of people fell into the frigid waters. In the darkness, the rescuers found a young Chinese man clinging to a wooden door, shivering but still alive. That man was Fang Lang, one of six Chinese survivors of the Titanic. Within 24 hours of Fang Lang’s arrival at the immigrant inspection station in Ellis Island, New York, he and five other Chinamen were expelled from the country because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a controversial law that barred the immigration of Chinese people into the US."

Scene VIII:


The ocean encircles a long peak
Rough terrain surrounds this prison.
There are few birds flying over the cold hills,
The wild goose messenger cannot find its way.
I have been detained and obstacles have been put in my way for half a year,
Melancholy and hate gather on my face.
Now that I must return to my country,
I have toiled like the Jing-wei bird in vain.

Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese
Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1040,” [Poem Names & Page Numbers] © 2014.
Reprinted with permission of the University of Washington Press



Composer, Conductor, Co-director:
Huang Ruo
Co-director, Set Conceptualiser, Multimedia Artist:
Brian Gothong Tan


Jason Carter
Ma Yanling

Del Sol Quartet
Charlton Lee (Viola)
Benjamin Kreith (Violin)
Hyeyung Sol Yoon (Violin)
Kathryn Bates (Cello)


Cheng Cheng-Che
Cheng I-Lin
Cheng Yu-Hsi
Cheng Yi-Shen
Cherly Susanti
Chuang Hao-Wei

Taipei Chamber Singers

Chung Yi-Hsiu
Chong Wei Min
Fang Su-Jen
Ho Woan-Ning
Hsieh Chu-Ching
Koh Tuan Hoe

Taipei Chamber Singers

Cheng Cheng-Che
Cheng I-Lin
Cheng Yu-Hsi
Cheng Yi-Shen
Cherly Susanti
Chuang Hao-Wei
Chung Yi-Hsiu
Chong Wei Min
Fang Su-Jen
Ho Woan-Ning
Hsieh Chu-Ching
Koh Tuan Hoe
Lee Chun-Ping
Pan Guo-Ching
Tu Wei
Yuan Yih


Lee Chun-Ping
Pan Guo-Ching
Tu Wei
Yuan Yih

Set and Props Designer:
Allister Towndrow
Lighting Designer:
Gabriel Chan
Sound Engineer:
Shah Tahir
Costume Designer:
Max Tan
Ashley Lim
Bobbie Ng
Production Manager:
Tennie Su
Technical Manager:
Ian Tan
Stage Manager:
Ng Siaw Hui
Assistant Stage Managers:
Alethea Koh
Ng Biyu
Multimedia Assistant:
M.Nurfadhli Jasni
Wardrobe Assistant:
Lim Zhiying
Special thanks to:
Joyce Teo for the loan of the Gong
Taipei Chamber Singers is supported by the National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan and the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs.



Huang Ruo
Composer, Conductor, Co-director

Composer Huang Ruo has been lauded by The New York Times for having “a distinctive style.” His vibrant and inventive musical voice draws...

Brian Gothong Tan
Co-director, Set Conceptualiser, Multimedia Artist
Brian Gothong Tan (b. 1980) is one of the leading creatives in Singapore and is best known for his cutting-edge and highly engaging works in theatre...

Del Sol Quartet

Fascinated by the feedback loop between social change, technology, and artistic innovation, the San Francisco-based Del Sol Quartet is a leading...

Jason Carter
Born in Central Queensland, Australia, Jason started dancing when he was 5. He trained under the tutelage of Sandra Pincham in the RAD syllabus...

Ma Yanling
Ma Yanling is a contemporary dancer based in Singapore. She was a dance artist with T.H.E Second Company from 2011 to 2016, performing in most...

Taipei Chamber Singers
Production Collaborator, Performers
Founded in 1992, under the leadership of artistic director and conductor Ms. Yun-Hung Chen, Ms. Serene Liang and Ms. Chia-Fen Weng, Taipei Chamber Singers...


About SIFA

As Singapore's annual pinnacle performing arts festival, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) presents captivating and diverse works across theatre, music, dance, film and visual arts. First launched as the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1977, the festival has gone through several evolutions and inspired generations of arts lovers and practitioners. Today, the highly anticipated festival is a high point on Singapore's arts and cultural calendar. SIFA continues its festival mission to champion the creation and presentation of Singaporean and international works.

About Arts House Limited

Arts House Limited (AHL) is a not-for-profit organisation committed to enriching lives through the arts.

AHL manages six arts spaces that aim to support our arts sector and bring communities together. These include two national monuments - The Arts House, multidisciplinary arts centre, and Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall, a heritage building that is home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

It also runs the performing arts space Drama Centre as well as three enclaves for arts groups and creative businesses - the Goodman Arts Centre, Aliwal Arts Centre and Stamford Arts Centre. It is the cultural place manager of Singapore's Civic District.

AHL organises two national pinnacle festivals – the Singapore International Festival of Arts focused on the performing arts, and the Singapore Writers Festival - a multi-lingual festival presenting the world's leading literary talents. In addition, it manages Our Cultural Medallion Story – the showcase on Singapore's Cultural Medallion recipients at The Arts House.

Arts House Limited is a public company limited by guarantee under the National Arts Council. First set up as The Old Parliament House Limited in 2002, it was renamed Arts House Limited in 2014. For more information, visit

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Wine Sponsor For Opening Reception


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Use this wall to share an experience which made you discover the best in people!




SIFA Advisory Panel
Lynette Pang
Sushma Soma
Magdalene Ew
Nelson Chia
Norhaizad Adam
AHL Programming Committee
Adrian Tan
Zulkifli bin Mohamed Amin
Yasmin Hannah Ramle
Eugene Lim Yingjie
Kenneth Kwok
(Acting) Executive Director
Yeow Ju Li
Festival Director
Natalie Hennedige
Director, Venue Programmes / Covering Director, Programming and Producing  
Sim Wan Hui
Director, Marketing and Communications
Jasmine Gan
Director, Placemaking and Partnership Development
Lee Mun Ping
Director, Human Resource and IT
Isniati Ali
Director, Asset Management and Leasing
Rachel Chu
Director, Finance
Wee Siok Hoong
Director, Corporate Facilities Management
Stephen Oh
Group Facilities Management
Security Manager
Shri Ram
Assistant Manager
Ahmad Adli
Senior Manager
Lim Si Wei
Samantha Chua
Assistant Manager
Amanda Koh
Senior Executive
Jill Lau
Chris Tay
Lyn Yeoh
Nurulhuda Najib
Siti Nur Jazeerah
Programming and Producing
Deputy Director, Festivals
Ye JunMin
Assistant Director
Lisa Marie Lip
Senior Producers
Christie Chua
Mervyn Quek
Fezhah Maznan
Ong Xinchen
Assistant Director
Geraldine Cheang
Production and Technical [SIFA]
Senior Manager, Production [Festival]
Victoria Lim
Festival Production Coordinator
Cristabel Ng
Festival Technical Manager
Festival Senior Production Assistant
Wee Nee
Festival Technical Coordinators
Melvin Lee
Executive, Administration [Technical Production]
Izyan Nooraini Binte Ramlee
Festival Production Managers
Celestine Wong
Melissa Chin
Marketing and Communications
Deputy Director
Elizabeth Wong
Assistant Director
Valerie Koh
Project Manager
Aimee Karman
Senior Executive
Megan Lee
Kimberly Kou
Senior Designer
Mohammad Firdaus Bin Wari
Festival Designer
Mylin Soh
Copywriter and Social Media Specialist
Akanksha Raja
Ticketing Specialist
Jayden Tan
Lia Tan
Video Editor
Amelia Su
Celestine Tay
Yeo Wei Jiang
Event Operations Management
Assistant Director
Emma Tagoe
Front Of House Management
Jess Chiang
Mufidah Sapari
Sandhya Silva
Vaishnavi Pumynathan
Artist Logistics and Hospitality 
Luc Toh
Natalie Wong
Sharon Wang
Secretariat and Manpower Management
Sarina Sahari
Placemaking and Partnership Development
Assistant Director
Emmanuel Paul Ng
Senior Executive
Michelle Choy
Production and Technical [Venue]
Assistant Director, Production and Technical
Mohamad Fazil Bin Sulaiman
Assistant Manager, Production and Technical (System Specialist)
Muhammad Hannan Bin Mohd Khusni
Assistant Managers, Production and Technical
Hisyamnudin Bin Shariffudin
Muhammad Asraf Bin Kadir Sharip
Production Co-ordinators, Production and Technical
Alexandra Chan
Haironissa Karim
Lee Kong Shen
Muhammad Noh Bin Sapari
Nur Hidayah Binte Esa
Riley Tan
Senior Technicians, Production and Technical
Abdul Rashid Bin Abdul Rahman
Anwar Bin Razi
Joanne Ng
Muhammad Nurhaizad Bin Johari
Muhammad Ilyas Bin Anhar
Muhammad Isyaffi Bin Mohd Isah
Mohammad Razali Bin Abdul Rahman
Muhammad Ridzwan Bin Sekimin
Muhammad Sufian Bin Mohamed Ishak
Salim Bin Sairi
Asset Management and Leasing

Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall / The Arts House

Centre Manager
Sophie Sham

Senior Operations Support (Tech)
Asokkumar Kannan
Muhamad Asri Bin Abdul Rahman
Muhammad Zulhilmi Bin Abas
Sharohan Bin Othman
Syafiq Bin Mohamed Yatim

Senior Manager, Facilities Management 
Muhammad Farid Bin Abdul Rahim

Technicians, Facilities Management
Mohamed Adiyat
Mohammad Helmi Bin Sajat

Operations Executive (Tech)
Muhammad Sufri Bin Azman

Stamford Arts Centre

Centre Manager
Rina Chan

Senior Manager, Facilities Management
Cindy Liew

Racel Yee
Assistant Managers
Razak Bin Hussein
Human Resource
Senior Manager
Regina Hong
Senior Executives
Andrea Wong
Jeffrey Yeo
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