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Tuesday,  Jan 16, 2018,14:46 (GMT+7)
A kind of high-quality relaxation
Bradley Winterton
Tuesday,  Dec 26, 2017,18:50 (GMT+7)
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A kind of high-quality relaxation

Bradley Winterton

Suddenly I thought the young conductor had hit the nail on the head.

“It has a kind of high-quality relaxation about it,” he said. “It brings the gift of optimism to those lucky enough to be listening to it.”

The speaker was Tran Nhat Minh, Interim Head of Opera for the HCMC Ballet and Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO), and the music he was talking about was the operetta Die Flederaus by Johann Strauss II.

The HBSO production of this work was premiered earlier this year, and now it’s being revived for a single performance in the Saigon Opera House on December 29.

I began by asking Minh why it was being revived at all, and why for just a single performance.

He replied that HBSO was thinking of making it a traditional New Year event. In the same way that Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker had for seven years now been its regular Christmas offering, so too, possibly, Die Fledermaus might become its traditional New Year presentation.

Minh added that they are doing it just the one time this first year to test the waters, to see how it went down. Then they’d decide what arrangements to make for the future.

When Die Fledermaus (‘the bat’) was first produced in August, Tran Nhat Minh conducted the second of its two performances. The first was conducted by the German conductor Askan Geisler. The main soloists were different in the two performances and were known as Cast 1 and Cast 2. For this single performance Cast 1 will be used, and as Tran Nhat Minh previously conducted Cast 2, now he’ll be conducting Cast 1 for the first time.

Cast 1 is as follows. Rosalinde will be sung by soprano Cho Hae Ryong, Eisenstein by Phan Huu Trung Kiet, Alfred by tenor Pham Trang, and Adele by Pham Khanh Ngoc.

In addition, Dr Falke (the bat himself) will be sung by Dao Mac, Frank by Nguyen Hoang Nhat Quang, and Dr Blind by Vu Minh Tri.

I next asked Tran Nhat Minh about HBSO’s plans for 2018.

“The Magic Flute will return in May,” he said, “and there will be a major new opera production in July.” Full details couldn’t be released until the printed half-year program appeared, he said. But then he added, “I can say that early in the year there’ll be an evening devoted to operetta.”

2017 had been a hard year, he said. They’d mounted three operas, two of them new productions [Die Fledermaus and Fredegonde]. It was a year full of challenges, but they were happy because at least they’d done it all to the very best of their ability.

I didn’t press Minh about the mystery new opera production in July. He did add, however, that he was glad Askan Geisler and director David Hermann would be coming back, and that the production would be supported by the Goethe Institut. From this I knew at least that we could expect something German. Wagner, I asked, expecting “no” for an answer. No, not Wagner, Tran Nhat Minh replied. I knew not to ask any more. Suffice it to say that all will be revealed shortly.

Die Fledermaus, then, is on December 29. The current six-month program booklet runs until the end of January 2018, and the two final events listed there are a night of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich on January 9 (Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No:1, with Ho Thi The Van as soloist, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No:5), and a ballet evening on January 19, reprising Falling Angels, Depaysement and Suite Ballet Carmen. The last of these items is especially highly recommended.

Tran Nhat Minh ended with another comment on Die Fledermaus. It had humor, he said, but also precision. What an excellent encapsulation, I thought, with which to end our interview!

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