Can Singaporean culture and Western opera go well together? Yes, according to composer Chen Zhangyi, who has come up with works such as last year’s Laksa Cantata and the recent chamber operatic Window Shopping (inspired by Singaporeans’ love for retail therapy.) Chen’s love for music began at age 10, when he picked up the violin and promptly “fell in love”. At 17, he began composing and earlier this year received the Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence, which funded a four-week stint at leading Parisian conservatories. “Perhaps it is the sheer beauty of music, especially beautiful harmonies, timbres and textures that drew me in,” he says. Chen is now in talks to launch a new work at NUS Arts Festival next year. Other future projects include exploring Chinese instruments such as the zither. “Singapore is actually the perfect place for cross-cultural musical interaction,” he says.