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Starry Starry Night
Bradley Winterton
Friday,  Mar 31, 2017,19:22 (GMT+7)

Starry Starry Night

Bradley Winterton

Artists perform at the Underneath The Starry Sky hosted by HBSO on Wednesday night in HCMC’s District 1

Last Wednesday saw a concert in the Opera House in downtown HCMC devoted to vocal items associated with the night. Most of the HSBO soloists were in evidence, singly or in pairs, accompanied only by a pianist. Two foreign guests also took part, and the opening and closing numbers featured the HBSO Choir, augmented by the soloists. These were the only items deemed to require a conductor.

Praise first and foremost must go to whoever put the program together. There was a very wide range, from Mozart to a composer, George Crumb, who at several points required the piano strings to be plucked. But equally deserving of our approval was pianist Le Pham My Dung who accompanied all but two of the items. The range of styles she covered was enormous, and she did it with aplomb.

As for the soloists, they showed what a huge amount of talent there is in Vietnam’s classical music circles. Popular with the audience, and rightly so, was the soprano Pham Duyen Huyen (one of the two Paminas in last year’s revival of Mozart’s The Magic Flute) who gave us a Schubert song and Dvorak’s ‘Song to the Moon’ from his opera Rusalka. Then there was baritone Dao Mac, appropriately soulful in Schubert and Wagner numbers. By contrast we had a vigorous and extrovert Phan Huu Trung Kiet in two well-loved Puccini arias, ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Tosca and ‘Nessun dorma’ from Turandot.

Then there was soprano Cho Hae Ryong in ‘Deh vieni non tardar’ from Le Nozze di Figaro, music I have loved since I was a teenager and that brought my youth flooding back, and a Schumann piece I was unfamiliar with. More than familiar, too, was Mozart’s ‘Deh vieni alla finestra’ from Don Giovanni, with its beautiful plucked accompaniment artfully recreated on the piano, and a Duparc song, both finely given by baritone Nguyen Hoang Nhat Quang.

In addition Vo Nguyen Thanh Tam, recently seen as Bobinet in La vie parisienne, presented a Mendelssohn item, and Pham Khanh Ngoc a number from Verdi’s incomparable opera Falstaff, plus a totally different composition by Debussy.

Lastly, the two guests added variety to the evening with a Richard Strauss item and the experimental one involving the plucked piano strings. In both cases German soprano Katharina Kutsch was accompanied by Finnish pianist Pauliina Tukiainen. Kutch also doubled as conductor in the opening and closing choral numbers.

It was a pity there were not more patrons present for this altogether delightful evening – the Opera House appeared to me to be around half-full. I, too, initially thought singers plus only a pianist wouldn’t be very interesting, but I was agreeably surprised. The format allowed for constant variety, and the simple set-up enabled us to appreciate the singers’ voices without distraction. As I left I thought I could happily have sat through the entire program again, there and then.

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