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A German opera, Vietnam style
By Bradley Winterton
Saturday,  Jul 7, 2018,16:38 (GMT+7)

A German opera, Vietnam style

By Bradley Winterton

Director David Hermann has spectacularly updated the story of the German operaDer Freischutz to Vietnam in modern times - PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ORGANIZER

HCMC - Der Freischutz (‘the marksman’) is a German opera dating from 1821, to be staged in the Saigon Opera House on July 28 and 29. But director David Hermann has spectacularly updated the story to Vietnam in modern times.

In the original, a group of foresters engage in a shooting contest. The hero, Max, has to win this if he wants to marry the heroine, Agathe.

But in Hermann’s version, set in a modern Vietnamese city, what Max has to win is a game of billiards. To enable him to do this, Max agrees to be helped by Kaspar, an unreliable character who is in league with the devil.

Kaspar says he can give Max a magic billiard ball that always wins every game. Seven magic balls will be made in the spooky Wolf’s Glen, some to be used by Max and some by Kaspar. But what Max doesn’t know is that the seventh ball belongs to the devil.

“This opera is a masterpiece of Romantic music,” says Hermann. “It has lots of variety, and the colors in the orchestration influenced the young Wagner, such as in Der Fliegende Hollander (‘the flying Dutchman’).”

This is Hermann’s third opera production in Vietnam. Previously he was responsible for Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (‘the magic flute’) and Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus (‘the bat’).

“The HBSO singers have advanced greatly in recent years,” he said. “They’re better trained, and their performance skills - the ability to act as well as sing – are much improved.”

The costumes for this new production will be by Paris Quynh who was responsible for the striking costumes in both Die Zauberflote and Die Fledermaus.

The opening scene will show a modern Vietnamese street, with an ATM machine, a billiards hall, and motorbikes.

For the scene in the Wolf’s Glen a surrealistic atmosphere will be created by tangled power cables, fog, and the chorus in raincoats.

Full acting rehearsals began at the beginning of July and continue daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. An initial week of musical training took place two months ago.

“We invented the tradition of an important game of billiards before a marriage,” Hermann said. “But superstitions of every sort are part of the culture in this part of the world.” The actor who plays Samiel, the devil, will introduce the audience to this “tradition” in a short speech during the opera’s overture.

Der Freischutz is Carl Maria von Weber’s most famous opera. He wrote others, such as Oberon, based on Shakespeare’s character, but he didn’t live long enough to complete many.

Der Freischutz will be sung in German, but the spoken dialogue will be in Vietnamese. The production is sponsored by the Goethe Institute.

Max will be sung by Pham Trang and Kaspar by Dao Mac. Agathe will be Cho HaeRyong in the first performance and Pham DuyenHuyen in the second. Aenchen will be Pham Khanh Ngoc in the first performance and Nguyen Thu Huong in the second.

The conductor will be AskanGeisler and the choirmaster Tran Nhat Minh. Choreography will be by Nguyen Phuc Hung, and the stage manager will be Nguyen Manh Duy Linh.

This is a major venture for HBSO, and Hermann’s innovative production is eagerly awaited.

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