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Saturday,  Oct 21,2017,06:19 (GMT+7)

A fine Carmen Suite from HBSO

Bradley Winterton
Tuesday,  Oct 3,2017,17:34 (GMT+7)
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A fine Carmen Suite from HBSO

Bradley Winterton

A scene from the “Suite Ballet Carmen” ballet - PHOTO: HBSO

I would like to place on record what a fine show HBSO Ballet’s Suite Ballet Carmen actually is.

When I wrote about it last year in The Saigon Times Daily I called it “muted”. This was almost entirely because the 1967 music by the Russian composer Shchedrin was far removed from the flamboyant Bizet original that I’d expected. Seeing it again at the Opera House last Saturday, however, I quickly became awed by the subtlety, masking real passion that this music, and this dance version, presented.

Everything about it fell into place this time, for me at least. The iconic image of a bull’s head that stared down on the proceedings from a red background was potent, if silent. The line of motionless costumed figures that featured several times was always surprising and always effective. And then, of course, there were the soloists.

Nguyen Thu Trang was again a most appropriate Carmen, emphasizing her flirtatiousness with her movements and her charm by her interaction with the male characters. Ho Phi Diep couldn’t have been bettered as Don Jose. The difficult balance between the character’s tentative innocence and his anger – and strength – when jilted by Carmen was brilliantly caught.

Nguyen Luong Hoa as the toreador Escamillo was also outstanding, proudly strutting and treating Carmen as someone who was his almost by right. Also important in this highly polished production was Thach Hieu Lang as Fate, a figure covered entirely in black who intermingles with the human characters without their entirely noticing. The figure could also have been given the name Death.

But it was the ensemble playing that in the last analysis made Suite Ballet Carmen so strong. The atmosphere throughout was tense while remaining tautly lyrical, and the result was mesmerizing. I could have watched this performance time and time again.

As for the first half of the evening, the opening piece, originally called Duo but by the time of the performance given the title Falling Angels, it was so short it was over before I’d had time to decide what to think of it. It involved only two dancers, Do Hoang Khang Ninh and Sung A Lung, and ran straight into the second number without a break.

This second item was a revival of Depaysement, choreographed by Julien Guerin to music by Chopin, Satie, Faure, Beethoven and Albinoni. This was extremely polished, with its eight dancers forming pairs and then dissolving into larger formations. But what struck me most about it was the lighting which was exceptionally professional and presented the dancers to maximum possible effect.

This program will be repeated on Friday January 19, 2018. The Suite Ballet Carmen alone would justify a second visit.

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