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Friday,  Nov 24,2017,04:56 (GMT+7)

High jinks and new wealth

Bradley Winterton
Wednesday,  Aug 9,2017,23:01 (GMT+7)
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High jinks and new wealth

Bradley Winterton

(From L-R) Young conductor Askan Geisler and three soloists including Pham Khanh Ngoc, Cho Hae Ryong and Pham Duyen are seen in the rehearsal of Die Fledermaus - PHOTO: THAM TRAN

“She has a husband, but she also has a boyfriend!” So said someone at a rehearsal of Die Fledermaus earlier this week, and the same could be said, with the words appropriately adjusted, for several of the characters in this frivolous, bourgeois romp due to be performed at the Opera House on August 19 and 20.

Die Fledermaus is an operetta, in other words a light-hearted opera not meant to be taken too seriously. The characters are for the most part well-off, affairs are commonplace if not always spoken about, and the champagne flows freely. But rather than Vienna in the 1860s, this new production will set the comic cavortings in modern-day Vietnam.

“There are plenty of parallels,” said director David Hermann. “Vienna at the time was experiencing economic growth, with the newly rich anxious to display their wealth. Something similar could be said of a city like Saigon on August 9. There was also a Viennese coffeehouse culture, and people nowadays can be seen spending hours in Saigon’s coffee-shops playing games on their cell phones.”

The production, moreover, is being designed by the celebrated fashion designer Quynh Paris. She was also responsible for the costumes in Die Zauberflote, last revived at the end of June, but seeing her at work on a modern-day setting should produce even more sensational results.

Four soloists were on stage in the rehearsal, Cho Hae Ryong as the female lead, Rosalinde, a bored housewife, Pham Khanh Ngoc as her maid, Adele, who desperately wants to attend a large party, Phan Huu Trung Kiet as the male lead, Eisenstein, who is due to serve a short prison sentence but also plans to get to where the champagne will be plentiful, and Vu Minh Tri as Dr Blind, a fussy lawyer who stands for all the perceived absurdities of his profession. The fun and games of Act One, which they were rehearsing, are only an introduction to the more complex interactions that follow.

Most of the rehearsal’s work involved the acting, with Dr Blind’s legal papers getting tossed in the air in disarray, and Adele dusting a table and chairs in what David Harmann said should be the frivolous manner appropriate to operetta.

Other stars of the HBSO opera due to appear are Pham Trang as Alfred, a former lover of Rosalinde, Nguyen Hoang Nhat Quang as Frank, the prison governor, and Dao Mac as Dr Falke, the fledermaus (or ‘bat’) of the title. He has earned the name by coming home from a previous party so drunk that he walked through the city’s streets still wearing his fancy-dress costume, that of a bat.

The young conductor, Askan Geisler, said the work had been chosen as something that could be cast entirely with Vietnamese singers, and thus easily revived. There will be ballet dancers onstage in Act Three, and the work as a whole should be attractive to a wide range of patrons. The second performance (August 20) will be conducted by Vietnam’s Tran Nhat Minh.

The rehearsal’s piano accompaniment was beautifully provided by Le Pham My Dung, and the day’s work concluded with a discussion as to how best to render “I need a drink” in Vietnamese.

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