Wednesday, 08 February 2012 14:26

The Sound of Music

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The live music scene isn’t limited to pop cover bands and DJs. At the Saigon Opera House is a symphony of talented musicians waiting to be heard. Words by Jonathan Rebours. Photo by Quinn Ryan Mattingly


It’s hard to escape the growing onslaught of K-Pop, Vietnamese ballads and western tunes in this metropolis. However, the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet and Symphony Orchestra (HBSO) remains a prominent influence in challenging the all conquering influences of Euro-pop. In the process it is bringing more refined musical delights to listeners.


From its grand home at the Saigon Opera House, the HBSO runs two seasons annually, hosting its own shows and visiting artists throughout each. Last year saw impressive eclectic performances ranging from Mozart orchestral symphonies through to Columbian folk songs.


Still unfinalised at the time of print, the programme for 2012 is equally as interesting. Staying true to classics such as Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms on Mar. 9 and featuring a contemporary dance performance on Apr. 9, the HBSO is continuing to push all aspects of academic arts.


In May, a showing of the opera Dido and Aeneas will be held in cooperation with a Norwegian arts group, two very different cultures merging to produce one spectacular show. The culmination of a jam packed spring-summer schedule will be Dialogue 2012, a contemporary performance of dance and music written exclusively by Vietnamese talent.


Mr Thach’s Opus


It is through this beautiful combination of dance and music that they invite audiences “to marvel at the young talents in academic arts,” states Tran Vuong Thach, the director of the HBSO.


A gifted conductor who studied in Belgium for six years honing his technique, he joined the HBSO in 1996, a couple of years after its inception. A welcoming gentleman with a broad smile he oversees the entire company, all 116 members. They have a team of managing staff and a host of dedicated performers who relish the opportunity to partake in this relentless schedule.


Holding, at the very least, two performances every month, with a slight break in January and February, the company has managed to make an impact on Saigon's entertainment and arts scene.


“Our constant presence has enabled us to become a regular fixture on the scene,” he says. Thach believes that without hard work they would not nearly be as successful as they are.


They have even travelled to neighbouring provinces when invited by either private companies, such as their recent invitation to Vung Tau by a petroleum company, or by the local authorities wishing to experience the spectacle of the HBSO. Though the task of moving over a hundred performers is not without its challenges.


On a visit to Dalat, Thach recalls having seven full buses transporting the excitable but nervous company. Traversing those mountain roads is harrowing enough, but with a convoy of huge buses full of equipment and fragile instruments it proved to be a funny yet exhausting experience.
“You must organise all the performers first, which with as many as we have is not an easy task, and then you must pack away all of the equipment and make sure it gets to the destination safely. Not easy,” he asserts, shaking his head and wagging his finger.


An exciting future event is the Melody of Youth programme. Held on the 29th of every month last year from May to December, and looking to resume in 2012, these concerts were established to “introduce and popularise the academic art to young audiences”. Admission was free and the concerts were packed, yet it seems regular paying audiences are still mostly over 30.


With such an important scene established from the hard work of the past 17 years, the HBSO continues to look to the future and is always working to perform exciting and inspiring pieces, showcasing the best of Vietnamese and foreign talent. The 2012 schedule is shaping up to be another huge one for the company and one that would be a shame to miss.


With Thach now semi-reluctantly laying down his baton to make way for the new wave of young talent such as young conductor Nguyen Anh Son, he still finds inspiration all around him.


“Ho Chi Minh City has a vivid socio-economic landscape that always translates into the music, and for that we are incredibly grateful to be here,” he concludes.


HBSO Tentative Spring/Summer 2012 Programme

Jan. 9:
Part I: Chamber Concert
Ludwig van Beethoven Sonata for cello and piano in C Major
Cello: Joo Hye Young
Piano: Joo Eun Young
Cesare Franck Sonata for violin and piano in A Major
Violin: Tang Thanh Nam
Piano: Joo Eun Young
Sergei Prokofiev Sextet Overture on Hebrew Theme, op.34
Clarinet: Nguyen Tuan Loc
Vio lin I: Tang Thanh Nam
Violin II: Le Minh Hien
Viola: Bui Anh Son
Cello: Joo Hye Young
Piano: Joo Eun Young

Part II: Artur Sullivan H.M.S Pinafore
HBSO Opera
Chorusmaster: Ly Giai Hoa


Mar. 9:
Part I: Reinecke Flute Concerto
Flute: Hyun Joo Ro
Giacomo Puccini
Soprano: Cho Hae Ryong
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Soprano: Cho Hae Ryong
Clarinet: Dao Nhat Quang

Part II: Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No.5
HBSO Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Nguyen Anh Son


Apr. 9:
Part I: Chamber Concert
Franz Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodie No.6
Piano: Joo Eun Young
Ludwig van Beethoven Trio in B flat, op.11 for clarinet, cello & piano
Clarinet: Dao Nhat Quang
Cello: NSUT Nguyen Tan Anh
Piano: Joo Eun Young
Johannes Brahms Sonata No.3 for violin & piano (III & IV mov.)
Violin: NSND Ta Bon
Piano: Ly Giai Hoa
George Gershwin An American in Paris (for 2 pianos)
Piano I: Ly Giai Hoa
Piano II: Ly Giai Nien

Part II: Contemporary Dance
Script: Nguyen Phuc Hai, Nguyen Phuc Hung
Music: Vu Viet Anh, Nguyen Manh Duy Linh


May 9:
Henry Purcell Opera Dido and Aeneas (Semi staged)
An artistic cooperation with Transposition — Norway
HBSO Soloists, Choir and Orchestra.
Vocal coach: Siri Terjesen (Norway)
Chorus Master: Ly Giai Hoa


Jun. 9
Part I: Chamber Concert The Aspects Of Love
HBSO Opera & Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Ly Giai Hoa

Part II: Ballet Carmen (Bizet — Shchedrin)
HBSO Ballet


Jul. 7:
Mendelssohn Violin concerto
Conductor: Colin Metters
Violin: Bui Cong Duy


Contemporary Performance DIALOGUE 2012
Script: Nguyen Phuc Hai, Nguyen Phuc Hung
Music: Vu Viet Anh, Nguyen Manh Duy Linh

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