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Sunday, January 23, 2022

HBSO finally to return to the concert-hall stage

By Bradley Winterton

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HCMC – What would feature in an ideal symphony concert to welcome in the New Year? At a pinch I would think Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (Pomp and Circumstance march), an overture that’s well-known to all listeners to begin with, a famous operatic love duet, perhaps by Puccini, and a famous operetta piece in the form of a waltz or perhaps a polka.

Who would you have in this ideal concert in the Saigon Opera House? The stars of the HCMC Symphony Orchestra, Chorus and Orchestra of course! These would include singers such as soprano Pham Duyen Huyen, tenor Pham Trang, violinist Tang Thanh Nam, and needless to say the HBSO Choir, not to mention the youthful conductor Tran Nhat Minh.

Well, this is exactly the line-up, or part of it, for HBSO’s delayed New Year Concert, now scheduled for March 5.

All the HBSO’s concert events prior to the Tet holiday have had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this concert on March 5 will be the first the organization has been able to present for some time.

The featured overture will be that to Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus (‘The Bat’), well-known to Saigon audiences because this operetta had been performed in a full-staged version by HBSO many times. The operatic love duet will be ‘O soave fanciulla’ (Oh beautiful woman) from Puccini’s La Boheme (the Bohemian girl), sung by Pham Duyen Huyen and Pham Trang, and the skittish operetta orchestral piece will be Johan Strauss II’s Trisch Trasch Polka.

Elgar’s famous march will appear close to the end of the program, while violinist Tang Thanh Nam will be the soloist in Elgar’s lovely piece Salut d’Amour (greeting of love, or love-letter).

But of course there’s much more. Verdi’s Introduction and Barcarolle from his opera I Due Foscari (the two Foscari family members) comes straight after the overture. A barcarolle is a song for Venetian gondoliers. This is followed by Pham Khanh Ngoc’s first appearance, in an aria from Verdi’s opera I Vespri Sicilliani (the Sicilian vespers). Nguyen Thu Huong and Phan Huu Trung Kiet follow with a duet from Lehar’s Das Land des Lachelns (the land of smiles).

Immediately before her appearance in the La Boheme love duet Pham Duyen Huyen will sing an aria by Leo Delibes, while after the duet Pham Trang will present an aria from Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore (the troubadour)

After the popular number Funiculli, Funiculla the HBSO Choir will return with an item from Verdi’s opera Don Carlo, followed by Johann Strauss II’s Orpheus – Quadrille.

So there it is. It may be a little late for a New Year Concert, but what new year is it celebrating anyway? The Tet new year, the 2022 new year, or even perhaps a belated tribute to Christmas? It doesn’t matter, because what is really being celebrated is surely the return of HBSO to live performances, so that when the strains of Les Brown’s We wish you the merriest bring the evening to a close we’ll all be celebrating this much anticipated event together.

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