Thursday,  Mar 22,2018,03:51 (GMT+7)

Ballet revival to end HBSO’s fall and winter season

Bradley Winterton
Thursday,  Jan 11,2018,18:11 (GMT+7)
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Ballet revival to end HBSO’s fall and winter season

Bradley Winterton

The Suite Ballet Carmen will take place at the Opera House on January 19 - PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

When I last reviewed the HCMC Ballet and Symphony Orchestra’s Suite Ballet Carmen in Saigon Times on October 3, 2017, I said I could have watched it over and over again. Now I have an opportunity to watch it at least one more time. It’s being revived at the Opera House on Friday January 19.

This will be the last performance in the company’s Fall and Winter Season, bringing to an end some remarkable works including two new operas, Johann Stauss II’s Die Fledermaus (‘the bat’) and Camille Saint-Saens’ Fredegonde, not seen anywhere in the world for over 100 years.

Regular readers of these pages will be aware that I have gone through some changes of mind over HBSO’s Suite Ballet Carmen, both this particular production and indeed the music itself. At first I was distinctly underwhelmed. I had expected the fiery Spanish colorfulness of Bizet’s original opera and wasn’t prepared for Rodion Shchedrin’s understated 1967 reworking of elements of the music. As a result I was baffled by the dance spectacle itself, originally created by the Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonzo.

But when I last saw it I was converted. I finally understood the brilliance of Ho Phi Diep’s depiction of Don Jose, tentative and innocent at first, indeed in some ways all along, but quickly possessed by an almost boyish anger at his betrayal by Carmen.

The music, I now understood, was characterized by subtlety and an ironic playfulness, and it was to do it a great injustice to compare it unfavorably with Bizet’s altogether more direct original.

All the main characters will be danced by the same dancers as the last time we saw it. Carmen is the excellent Nguyen Thu Trang, Escamillo, the toreador, seen as an embodiment of proud masculinity, by Nguyen Luong Hoa, and Fate (or Death), a symbolic figure dressed all in black, by Thach Hieu Lang. The staging is by People’s Artist Kim Quy.

But this is a triptych of three dance items, and we must now turn our attention to the other two. The first two are Falling Angels and Depaysement. These have different histories. Depaysement (French for ‘displacement’) was originally the middle item in the HBSO show called Ballet with Tchaikovsky and Ravel. It began with a long performance created by Chloe Glemot to music by Tchaikovsky, and ended with Ravel’s Bolero, danced with great distinction by Sung A Lung as the principal dancer.

Depaysement itself consists of some five dances to music by Chopin, Satie, Faure, Beethoven and Albinoni. There are eight dancers in all, of whom Chloe Glemot is one. The choreographer is Julien Guerin.

As for Falling Angels, this remains something of an enigma. Featuring Sung A Long and Do Hoang Khang Ninh, it’s extremely short and is danced to musical extracts from the work of Eric Whitacre. But you’d be lucky to be able to relish much of this as it’s over in a flash and, when I last saw it, melded without pause into the second item. What it’s about I still have no idea.

This is an identical program to that seen on September 30. Attendance was high then, and the audience response enthusiastic. In other words, here is another opportunity to see something tried and tested, and it’s certainly to be recommended.


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