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Ho Chi Minh City
Saturday, February 4, 2023

Christmas comes to Saigon opera house

By Bradley Winterton

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HCMC – Christmas began as a festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, but now it has expanded to become a full-blown mid-winter festival, with robins, holly and mistletoe, Santa Claus, reindeer, stockings full of presents, turkey for dinner, and much, much more.

It is that the HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) is staging two concerts of Christmas music on Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17, in the Saigon Opera House.

It would be impossible to cover all aspects of Christmas, but HBSO have done their best and are covering a good deal.

It begins with a piece for orchestra called Christmas Festival by Leror Anderson.

Anderson was an American composer of light music who lived from 1908 to 1975.

Next come two classical pieces, Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate featuring Pham Khanh Ngoc, a female vocalist who has won many prizes including First Prize at the Concour Festival in 2019.

This is followed by a chorus from Handel’s Messiah, For Unto Us a Child is Born.

Next comes the German Christmas song Maria Wiegenlied by Max Reger. The soprano soloist here will be Pham Thi Duyen Hugen. She regularly sings Pamina, the female lead, in Mozart’s Magic Flute with the HBSO. She has recently changed her name to Duyen Nguyet.

This is followed by A Christmas Scherzo, arranged by Don Sebesky., an American arranger and keyboard player.

O Holy Night follows, sung by Dao Mac and Khanh Khanh Ngoc.

Dao Mac is a baritone who has sung many roles in HBSO operas, from Papageno in The Magic Flute to Doctor Falk in Die Fledermaus.

Dao Mac will remain on stage to sing It’s beginning to look like Christmas by Michael Buble. a celebrated Canadian composer.

The solo orchestra returns with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, that leads into Variations on Jingle Bells led by the HBSO chorus.

What next? A selection for orchestra called Christmas at the Movies, then comes Santa Claus is Coming to Town arranged for Korean children’s voices.

These young Koreans are the children of Koreans living in HCM city. Thet form a group and will appear live on-stage.

John Williams’s Three holiday songs from Home Alone comes next as the concerts’ penultimate item. Last of all is What a Wonderful World, again with Korean children’s voices.

These two concerts are likely to attract large audiences. Whatever people’s actual faiths, Christmas is a festival whose influence stretches far and wide. Children are especially likely to enjoy them, and as Christmas is in many ways a children’s festival all should be well, and better than well.

The two concerts will be conducted by Tran Nhat Minh. Trained in both Russia and Italy, he is the Head and Chorusmaster of the HBSO opera.

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