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An interview with Ms Choo Mui Eng, the author of the book “Her Opera, Her Life – Joanna”.

"Her Opera, Her Life – Joanna" is a book that celebrates local opera doyenne, Joanna Wong. Written by Ms Choo Mui Eng, it features the photography of Cl A/Prof Chua Ee Kiam, Senior Consultant at NDCS's Prosthodontic Unit. A book launch was held in April 2020, with the NDCS Tooth Fairy Fund as the beneficiary. The event raised more than $16,000.

Pictured from left: Ms Choo Mui Eng, Dr Chua Ee Kiam, Ms Joanna Wong

1. What inspired you to write the book – Her Opera, Her Life, Joanna?

I am most inspired by Joanna's life-long dedication to Chinese opera. She had a successful career as a registrar at the National University of Singapore before her retirement and raised a good family.  She was also bestowed the prestigious Cultural Medallion for her contribution to Chinese opera.  She is a Justice of Peace and also volunteers for causes that advance women.  She is a woman who is ahead of her time!  Hence, I felt that she deserved to have a coffee table book written about her achievements.


2. What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?

Capturing the story behind each image was the most challenging aspect. Luckily, Joanna sat down with me and patiently narrated the significance of each scene.  I could then make sense of the images and write appropriate captions for them.


3. How did your interest in opera start?

While I was editing Flying Sleeves ­– The Grandeur of Chinese Opera for Dr Chua Ee Kiam, I realised that there are many intricacies of Chinese opera that I am not aware of.  That piqued my interest and curiosity about the performance art. So I enrolled in Joanna's opera class and was intrigued by this enigmatic doyenne.


4. What roles have you played before and which is your favourite?

I've only played the role of Princess Chang Ping in Fragrant Sacrifice<香夭> so it has to be my favourite. Although it was an 8-minute performance, it was by no means easy. I had to memorise the Cantonese lyrics and practise all the moves, from hand gestures to eye movement and overall stage presence (even walking is an art!).  It took me 2 to 3 months of hard work to deliver a passable performance! I actually prepared another performance called Parting Song of Love <凤阁恩仇未了情> for the launch of Her Opera, Her Life – Joanna, but unfortunately the event was cancelled due to COVID-19.


5. What inspired you to support NDCS Tooth Fairy Fund* at your book launch?

I did not hesitate when Dr Chua Ee Kiam suggested that we donate the sales proceeds of the book to NDCS Tooth Fairy Fund.  I have always wanted to give back to society and supporting the Tooth Fairy Fund is a meaningful gesture to ensure that the underprivileged are not deprived of good oral care.


*The NDCS Tooth Fairy Fund was set up by NDCS to support needy patients as well as research and education in oral health. Funds raised will be able to help treat needy patients with serious conditions such as head and neck cancer, which require long-term and complex treatment.


If you would like to give to the NDCS Tooth Fairy Fund, please visit bit.ly/givetoNDCS or email development@ndcs.com.sg