What’s the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?

MORE than ever, composers are busily breaking down walls between stylistic categories. Opera in particular has been a poacher’s paradise. We have had folk opera, jazz opera and rock opera. Bono, who collaborated with the Edge on the music and lyrics of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” called the show “Pop-Art opera.” Whatever that means. But of all such efforts, mixing opera with the Broadway musical might seem by far the most natural combination.

Then why are so many efforts to crisscross that divide so bad? For one thing, composers from outside the field often have a distorted understanding of what opera actually is. They borrow the most superficially grand, inflated and melodramatic elements of the art form, whereas opera is actually a richly varied and often tautly narrative genre of musical drama.

Consider “Séance on a Wet Afternoon,” the first venture into opera by Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist of “Pippin,” “Godspell” and the long-running “Wicked.” “Séance” was presented this spring by the struggling New York City Opera. The promise here was that a leading musical-theater artist might bring fresh energy to opera. But Mr. Schwartz’s tepid, sappy score had little of the spark and originality of “Wicked.”

Another much-discussed production this season, presented by the Lincoln Center Theater, earnestly tried to split the difference between opera and musical theater: “A Minister’s Wife,” with a book by Austin Pendleton, music by Joshua Schmidt and lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen. It was adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play “Candida,” about an officious minister with Socialist convictions, his ebullient wife and a dreamy, dangerous young man who idolizes her. As performed by a chamber ensemble and a small, gifted cast, the musical score was alluring and nuanced, with intricate ensemble numbers and long-lined melodic writing cushioned by lush orchestral harmonies and rippling figurations. But “A Minister’s Wife” seemed a precious piece: either pretentious musical theater or tame quasi-opera; take your pick. And with Mr. Pendleton’s adaptation of Shaw’s brilliant dialogue, the musical numbers sometimes felt superfluous.

In some fields fusing different kinds of music is a potentially creative and liberating endeavor. But creators in musical theater and opera are better off working their native turfs. It’s fine to pull in other styles and influences as long you stay rooted in what you, and your art form, do best.

The reason attempts to combine opera with the musical have been problem prone, I think, is that these genres are too close for comfort. The differences, though slight, are crucial. So what are they, exactly? To begin with, in no way do I see the matter as a lowbrow-highbrow debate. Opera is not by definition the more elevated form. Few operas are as overwrought as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard.” And there is no bigger crowd pleaser than Leoncavallo’s impassioned “Pagliacci.”

The opera Nguoi Tac Tuong (The Sculptor) perfomed by Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) in 2019
The opera Nguoi Tac Tuong (The Sculptor) perfomed by Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) in 2019
Musical Maria de Buenos Aires performed in 2018 bay VNOB
Musical Maria de Buenos Aires performed in 2018 bay VNOB

Nor is the distinction dependent on musical complexity. Frank Loesser’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” currently enjoying a vibrant revival on Broadway starring a disarming Daniel Radcliffe, is a more musically sophisticated piece than Carlisle Floyd’s affecting opera “Susannah,” the story of a sensual young woman in rural Tennessee who is unfairly branded a temptress by her community. And you cannot argue that operas tell stories only through music, whereas musicals rely heavily on spoken dialogue. Lots of operas, and not just comic works, have spoken dialogue, including “Carmen” and “Fidelio.”

Here’s the difference: Both genres seek to combine words and music in dynamic, felicitous and, to invoke that all-purpose term, artistic ways. But in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.

This explains why for centuries opera-goers have revered works written in languages they do not speak. Though supertitles have revolutionized the art form, many buffs grew up without this innovation and loved opera anyway. As long as you basically know what is going on and what is more or less being said, you can be swept away by a great opera, not just by music, but by visceral drama.

In contrast, imagine if the exhilarating production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” now on Broadway, starring the amazing triple threat Sutton Foster, were to play in Japan without any kind of titling technology. The wit of the musical is embedded in its lyrics like:

Good authors too who once knew better words

Now only use four-letter words,

Writing prose,

Anything goes.

(And this point leaves aside the whole issue that musicals like this one are also about dance.)

If you accept the distinction that words have the upper hand in musical theater but music does in opera, then lots of matters fall right into place: the nature of lyrics, singing styles, subject matter, orchestration, musical complexity. Theatergoing audiences may not care much whether a show is a musical or an opera. But the best achievements in each genre, and the occasional standout hybrid work (I’m thinking of Bernstein’s “Candide” and Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza”) have been from composers and writers who grounded themselves in a tradition, even while reaching across the divide.

To underscore this point, let me compare, of all things, Bernstein’s opera “A Quiet Place,” which had a revelatory production at the City Opera last fall, and the audacious hit musical “The Book of Mormon,” with book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone.

“Mormon” is a show that proudly hails from the words-first heritage of Broadway musicals. For all the outrageousness of the blasphemous story and the foul-mouthed satire, at its core, as Ben Brantley argued in his review in The New York Times, “Mormon” is an “old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical.” The opening song, “Hello,” an ensemble piece in which the fresh-faced Mormon missionaries introduce themselves, both mocks and embraces a lineage of similar numbers. Think of “So Long, Farewell,” the treacly goodnight greeting of the Von Trapp children in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Sound of Music.” Or even Stephen Sondheim’s bracing title song of “Company,” with its insistent refrains of “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby baby” over a rhythmic riff that evokes a telephone busy signal.

“A Quiet Place” is a special case. Here was Bernstein, who in earlier life was Mr. Broadway (“Wonderful Town” and “West Side Story”), striving to write a stylistically eclectic yet full-fledged opera, an epic family drama about a prosperous, unhappily married suburban couple and what happens to them and their two troubled children over 30 years.

That in Christopher Alden’s inspired production “A Quiet Place” came across as Bernstein’s most ambitious, personal and moving work was a surprise. For more than 20 years the piece had been considered a hodgepodge that folded a jazzy one-act opera from 1951 (“Trouble in Tahiti”) into an elaborate three-act structure, composed and revised in the early 1980s. Bernstein draws upon myriad styles here: atonal angst, contemplative Coplandesque harmonies, kinetic musical theater dance music, a trio of jazz vocalists. The libretto by Stephen Wadsworth (and by Bernstein in the “Trouble in Tahiti” scenes) is of course crucially important. Yet when Bernstein evokes diverse styles, even jazz, he does so for the musical and emotional resonances of the sources. He is not just switching on his musical-theater voice. Though “A Quiet Place” has design flaws, it is a music-driven opera in the grand tradition.

You would have thought that Stephen Schwartz had a good opera in him. The main problem with “Séance on a Wet Afternoon,” a psychological drama about an unstable middle-aged medium and her mousy husband who kidnap a little girl as a publicity stunt, is that Mr. Schwartz did not stay true to his own voice. He was approached by Opera Santa Barbara to write the piece, and my guess is that some well-meaning colleague sat him down and explained that the problem with contemporary opera is that those grating scores do not sing; they lack soaring melody, the supposed hallmark of great opera.

“Séance” sings all right. And sings and sings and sings, cloying aria after cloying aria. Mr. Schwartz would have been wiser to give us something closer to “Wicked” but more subdued and menacing and structured as a continuous musical piece.

Now, I am not suggesting that staying true to a words-first tradition of musical theater means a composer cannot stretch musically. The genre can carry a lot of musical complexity, as long as words do most of the heavy lifting.

Tom Kitt, for example, is a standout among the new generation of Broadway composers, and I admired his pop-infused music for “Next to Normal.” But I felt he was being cautious, letting his music animate the drama without getting in the way. I got a stronger sense of his capacity for invention from the multistyled, haunting incidental music he wrote for two productions at Shakespeare in the Park: “The Winter’s Tale” last summer, and now “All’s Well That Ends Well,” currently in a terrific production directed by Daniel Sullivan.

Mr. Sondheim has long offered exhilarating proof that you can be true to the musical-theater tradition and musically sophisticated at the same time. He is completely at home in the words-driven world. Consequently he can draw upon his ingenious compositional imagination, knowing that he will by instinct taper his voice to the demands of his lyrics and the needs of the story. “Sweeney Todd” is often considered his most operatic work. I might pick “Passion,” which, inspired by an Italian film about an unlikely and eerie love story, evokes somewhat the lush lyricism of opera. The songs are woven into an almost continuous musical fabric. Mr. Sondheim has described this flowing score as having “arioso passages that sometimes take song form.”

There was a time when musical-theater composers, impressed by the mega-success of Mr. Lloyd Webber, strove for pumped-up operatic grandeur. This was the era of the schlock-opera. But the success of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” in the 1990s helped puncture the Lloyd Webber bubble and inspired a burst of pop-driven musical-theater scores.

Overall I am not so happy that pop-driven musicals have come to dominate Broadway. Many of those in Larson’s wake miss something about the achievement of “Rent.” Here was a work specifically inspired by Puccini’s “Bohème,” also a tale of young artists struggling with love affairs, poverty and disease. But Larson thought the best way to pay homage to “Bohème” was not to mimic opera but to write an up-to-date, pop-infused, sophisticated musical-theater score. Yes, Larson was attempting to bring rock and pop styles into the musical-theater heritage. But “Rent” is a words-driven musical in the honored tradition.

Attempts to draw from and blur the two traditions continue. This summer the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y., is presenting the premiere production of “A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck,” a one-act collaboration between the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner and the Tony Award-winning musical-theater composer Jeanine Tesori, part of a double-bill with “Later That Same Evening” by the composer John Musto and the librettist Mark Campbell.

Mr. Kushner and Ms. Tesori’s acclaimed work “Caroline, or Change” was definitely a musical. “Blizzard” is billed as an opera. What is the difference between the genres in the minds of the creators? This new piece will surely affect the debate.

Drawing from different genres and styles can, of course, produce dynamic results. In contemporary classical music, some of the most interesting young composers are those who unabashedly steal from the diverse musical styles that excite them — atonal modernism, punk, whatever — to fashion a quirky and personal voice. More power to them.

But opera and especially musical theater are art forms with specific needs and challenges. Composers with populist aspirations who merge traditions into some mushy middle ground are asking for trouble. Traditions, even those supposedly confining categories, have their value.


Concert held in Hanoi to pay tribute to late opera singer Vu Manh Dung

A concert was held at Saturday Coffee House in Hanoi recently to pay tribute to late opera singer Vu Manh Dung.

The concert featured famous opera artists including soprano Dao To Loan, mezzo soprano Quynh Huong, baritone Van Giap, and pianist Thuong Ha. They are Dung’s colleagues at the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

The audience was treated to masterpieces by world-renowned composers Frank Liszt and Beethoven and Vietnamese musicians Van Cao, Duong Thieu Tuoc and Pham Duy.

All proceeds from the concert have been donated to the late opera singer’s family.

Born in 1978, Dung was one of the leading opera singers in Vietnam. He served as deputy director of Opera Group of the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet before he was killed last month by his brother-in-law. He left behind his wife and four children.

Dung also taught at the Vietnam National Academy of Music and Military University of Culture and Arts.

He won domestic and international prizes during his career. In 2019, Dung was awarded the title of Emeritus Artist.

Baton Rouge’s Lisette Oropesa is at the top of the opera world

Lisette Oropesa has had the kind of year where, if she wasn’t ready for it, it would have been impossible to keep up.

It’s her first day off in more than a week, and when the Baton Rouge-raised, New Orleans-born opera singer and her husband realize the latest Parisian metro strike means they might miss an intercontinental phone call, they know they have but one option to get to their apartment in time: Run.

“We’re cold because we’re sweaty. We’re in our running clothes, and we’d already run seven and a half miles, so, you know, what’s another mile?” Oropesa laughs.

It’s hard not to think that sense of adventure has helped Oropesa get where she is now, which at that particular moment meant preparing to star in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Opéra National de Paris. But in the past year, she’s also earned both the Richard Tucker Award and the Beverly Sills Award, two of opera’s top prizes. Her return to the Metropolitan Opera to star in Massenet’s Manon was applauded by The New York Timescritic Joshua Barone said Oropesa “slips into the title role as if it were custom couture.”

Somehow, she also managed to get home to LSU to host master classes and perform at her alma mater.

“Her roots in Louisiana are very precious to her, as is her family,” says Robert Grayson, the LSU professor of voice who still serves as Oropesa’s vocal teacher, occasionally flying out to her performances and rehearsals to offer advice. “She really understands the struggle and working at all times to do your best, and that continued outlook is what has really helped her achieve the gift of her talents, which is just amazing.”

Oropesa’s path has never been linear. Her parents fled from Cuba to New Orleans, landing later in Baton Rouge, where Oropesa’s mother, Rebecca, also a soprano, is a music teacher. Despite Rebecca’s insistence that Lisette would make a talented vocalist, a teenage Lisette didn’t yet put her focus there.


2019 was a banner year for Lisette Oropesa, shown here in the starring role in “Manon” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

Hue Festival 2020 to be rescheduled due to COVID-19

On the afternoon of February 18, the Organizing Board of Hue Festival 2020 said that the Provincial Party Committee had agreed on the policy of delaying the organization of Hue Festival 2020 in the complicated context of COVID-19 epidemic.

In its rescheduling proposal, the organising board said it would be inappropriate for the 11th edition of the Hue Festival to take place amid the COVID-19  epidemic, highlighting the need to protect local people and visitors’ health.

About the expected time of the 11th Hue Festival, there will be two options. If COVID-19 situation is soon controlled, Hue Festival will be held on the occasion of National Day on September 2, 2020. In case of complicated epidemics, the 11 th Hue Festival may be moved to 2021 in combination with the Hue Traditional Craft Festival.

The Organizing Board of Hue Festival 2020 said that in the next few days, they will hold a meeting to discuss the official time and widely announce it to visitors, to the public, the partners and sponsors.

Previously, Hue Festival 2020 is scheduled to be held from April 1 to 6, coinciding with the occasion of the Death Anniversary of the Hung Kings (March 10 of the lunar calendar) with the theme “Cultural heritage with integration and development – Hue is always new ”.


VNOB performed at program of Founding anniversary of Communist Party

A special art program called “Spring for the Party” was opened Sunday evening at Hanoi Opera House by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to mark the 90th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of Vietnam on February 3. Performing at the program were artists of many theatres, including Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) with the choreographer, Emeritus Artist Tran Ly Ly.

The event was attended by Politburo members: Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong, Politburo members and the permanent member of the Secretariat, Mr. Pham Minh Chinh, Member of the Politburo, Secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party Central Committee, Chairman of the VCP Central Organization Commission, Mr.Vo Van Thuong, Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee and Head of the PCC’s Commission for Communication and Education, Head of the CPV Central Committee’s Economic Commission Nguyen Van Binh, Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, Secretary of Party Central Committee (PCC), General To Lam, Member of the Politburo and Minister of Public Security…. and others key figures within the Politburo and the CPV.

The art program with the theme of “Spring rising to the Party” takes place in 90 minutes, including 3 main parts: “Spring of the Party”, “The country with four seasons of flowers”, “Spring love song”. All featured everlasting songs in praise of the glorious Communist Party, great President Ho Chi Minh, and a new spring. Performers included renowned artists of Vietnam, including VNOB as Emeritus Artist Manh Dung, To Loan, Tran Trang, Bui Trang (singers), Emeritus Artist Phan Luong, Emeritus Artist Quynh Nga, Emeritus Artist Nguyen Thi Can, Thu Hue, Thu Hang (dancers)…

During the program, The Party flag has been seen throughout the country. The music and song lyrics about the Party are very poetic, concise, and imbued with the ideology of the Communists. Artists always long for performing songs about the Party and President Ho Chi Minh.

Tuyet Hoa

VNOB’s Swan Lake named at TOP 10 culture, sports and tourism events of Vietnam in 2019

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has announced the TOP 10 culture, sports and tourism events of Vietnam in 2019, in which the master piece of Swan Lake from Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) was announced.

The performance of the world-famous classical ballet Swan Lake by artists from the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) made a great success. The 8 shows were a record for the VNOB, selling out a month before the opening night.

The world-famous classical ballet Swan Lake show was a record for the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet, selling out a month before the opening night

The events were selected from 39 nominations by agencies and units under the ministry and the provincial departments of culture, sports and tourism, including 21 cultural, 11 sporting and seven tourism events.

The nominations were shortlisted through an online poll from January 2 to 6 and then through direct votes by culture, sport and tourism journalists at the ministry’s head office on January 3.

Other events in culture were the “then” practice of the Tay, Nung, and Thai ethnic groups in Vietnam was recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Outstanding events in sport included Vietnam finishing second out of 11 countries at the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

The competition was a huge success for Vietnam, with men’s and women’s national football teams winning gold medals and athletes performing well in Olympic sports such as swimming and track and field.

In the field of tourism, Vietnam welcomed over 18 million international tourists for the first time, up 16.2 percent year-on-year, as well as 85 million domestic visitors, up 6 percent. Total tourism revenue was estimated at over 726 trillion VND (31.1 billion USD), a yearly rise of 17.1 percent.

Vietnam was also ranked among the world’s 10 fastest growing travel destinations by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)

The top 10 events are:

– Law on Library, a motivation to develop libraries and promote reading culture

– The return of classical ballet Swan Lake to the Vietnamese stage after 35 years

– Then practice of Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic minority groups was recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

– Celebration of 100 years of cai luong (southern opera)

– Vietnam came second in the 30th Southeast Asian Games

– Impressive achievements of the national football teams

– Vietnam is the 22nd country in the world to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix

– Vietnam attracted over 18 million tourists last year

– Vietnam’s attractions won prestigious international and regional tourism prizes

– Vietnam successfully hosted the ASEAN Travel Forum 2019

Tuyet Hoa

Swan Lake a challenge for ballerina Huệ

Ballerina Nguyễn Thu Huệ will perform as the white and black swans in Swan Lake on October 7. She will make one of ballet’s most iconic moments not only in her career but also for Vietnamese ballet to be the first Vietnamese dancer acting two main character in the ballet. The ballet is choreographed by Lê Ngọc Văn, from the English National Ballet on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Việt Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB). Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Thúy Bình talks with Huệ about her roles in Swan Lake.

You are the first Vietnamese dancer to perform the two swans in Swan Lake. How do you feel?

When I found out I would perform the leading roles in the ballet, I was very worried. I have performed as the white swan but never as the black swan. I know that the black swan is one of the most difficult roles to perform.

What difficulties did you encounter during rehearsals?

I perform as the two swans, which requires not only technique but also good health. I think this is an opportunity for all ballet dancers who haven’t had many chances to perform in a big ballet like Swan Lake. It is a big challenge for me. I joke that I need to have an ambulance waiting outside the theatre. I want to reach a milestone in my career, so I have something to be proud of later. I am supported by many people, including veteran dancer Bùi Ngọc Quang. He used to perform in dance troupes in Russia such as The Mariinsky Ballet and St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. He helps me to get acquainted with the movement of the black swan. Then choreographer Lê Ngọc Văn comes back to Việt Nam to join the project. He has to research movements to suit my body. The bodies of Vietnamese dancers differ from western dancers, so it is difficult for the choreographer to select movements. I thought a lot before the rehearsal and I watched many versions of the ballet. The more I watched, the more confused I got. The most difficult part is featuring two opposite characters in one body.

Thu Hue and Dam Han Giang are soloists of the Swan Lake by VNOB

How do you perform the differences between the two roles? 

The black swan takes me and the choreographer a lot of time. The white and the black are two sides of life. It represents good and evil within each and every person. I have performed good and gentle characters in ballets like Giselle and Nutcracker, but have never acted a role like the black swan. It is symbolic of emotion, creating conflict and difficulty in reaching perfection. It challenges me a lot. I’m the white swan for 20 minutes and then quickly change to be the black swan. The roles require a huge amount of physical stamina. It is really hard to get through because I’m breathing so hard and my muscles are burning. Beyond technique, I also want to bring to life the deep and complicated character. I want to use the steps to express something about the white swan. That is what elevates ballet from being athletic to being artistic.

Thu Hue as Black Swan

What is more difficult, technique or expressing emotion?

I can’t choose. Ballet is special in that when a dancer feels tired, they still have to perform. I don’t think about the difficulty because it will discourage me. In Swan Lake, I have to do onstage what I have never done before. I have to make it look effortless. I hope the audience will see the two characters in the story not only on the stage.

You have three months to rehearse. What do you hope for?

Good health and no pain. After the first rehearsal with the choreographer, my ankle swelled up like an apple. This is the first time I danced in a four-act ballet. I have to work six days a week. I wish I had more time to rehearse.

Why did you choose to study ballet?

I like singing and dancing when I was young. And I was confident to perform on stage. One day, I learned that Việt Nam Dance Academy was recruiting in Thanh Hóa Province and I asked my parents to try. I was 12 years old. I was too young to live and study in Hà Nội, far from home. My parents did not want me to go. I told them that I would go on hunger-strike if they did not agree. It was funny because I didn’t even know what ballet was.  I struggled to become a ballerina because of my long toes. I was discouraged many times but my teacher Nguyễn Quỳnh Lan inspired me with a love for ballet. I also got support from VNOB leaders and veteran dancers. After working at the theatre for just three months, I became a soloist in The Nutcracker.

I need to try different stages. As a ballerina, I need to learn much more because at school I just learn the background. I have to get performing experience from veteran dancers.

(Vietnam News)

Classic ballet “Swan Lake ” is opened for sale on VinID

After more than a hundred years of premier, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is always the fascination of those who love the art created from the footsteps. It isn’t only just a play about a fairy love but shows the human philosophy and the depth of one’s soul.

The Swan Lake ballet of Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) is an alternation highlights to create a unique feature. Hundreds of artists, actors, musicians of the

VNOB and Vietnam National Academy of Dance contribute their passion and artistic love to this dance.

Sharing beats of Swan Lake, Tonkin Media is now becoming a partner unit for the Swan Lake play. All wishes to bring the audience a party that every moment touches the hearts of art lovers.

Once, Come and enjoy this classic play tickets available on the VinID app: https://id.vin/Wec

⭐VIP 1: 1,800,000 VND / ticket
⭐VIP 2: 1,500,000 VND / ticket
⭐VIP 3: 1,000,000 VND / ticket

After successful ticket purchasing, the ticket will be delivered to the registered address within 5-7 working days.

Delivery fee is VND 33,000 and it is included in the ticket price when buying tickets on VinID. There is no additional charge to you when you receive your ticket.

Download the VinID app and buy tickets at: https://id.vin/Wec

VinID the official ticket distributor of Swan Lake

*Note: * After successful payment, you will receive the ticket code in the “My Tickets” section to redeem your hard ticket – please keep your ticket code secure.

* Tickets purchased are not refundable / canceled or exchanged to another ticket type.

?Time: 20:00 on 04 & 05/12/2019
?Venue: Hanoi Opera House
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Classic opera & ballet restaged to celebrate VNOB’s anniversary

The Việt Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) will perform a Vietnamese classical opera and a Russian ballet between October 5 and 7 at the Ha Noi Opera House to celebrate the 60th anniversary.

The opera titled Người Tạc Tượng (Sculptor) by late composer Đỗ Nhuận (1922-1991) will be performed on October 5 and ballet Swan Lake will take place on October 7.

This is the first time since 1975 the opera has been restaged by the theatre. Composer Đỗ Hồng Quân, Đỗ Nhuận’s son and also the music director for the show, said the performance is a great effort of the theatre to restage an opera, which is considered a musical heritage of the country.

Panorama of the press conference

This time, a team of experienced artists will include Emeritus Artist Trần Ly Ly, acting director of the VNOB, who acts as the show’s art director; composer Đỗ Hồng Quân, chairman of Việt Nam Musicians’ Association, as music director; Emeritus Artist Trần Lực, as the director; painter Hoàng Hà Tùng as fine art designer; and People’s Artist Hồng Phong, as dancing director.

The opera will gather other famed performing artists like Mạnh Dũng, Tố Loan and Bùi Thị Trang.

Composer Quân said though the content features love in a fierce war, the opera will focus on love, loyalty and patriotism rather than the war itself.

Artists rehearse for the opera

Composer Nhuận was the first General Secretary of the Việt Nam Musicians’ Association between 1958 and 1983. He is among leading composers of revolutionary music. He was also the only composer of Vietnamese contemporary music’s first generation to be trained professionally at Tchaikovsky Music Conservatory in 1960-62.

Nhuận was among the first composers, who laid the foundations for Western opera in Việt Nam.

His first operas were composed in late 1950s.

He then composed opera Cô Sao (Miss Sao), Người Tạc Tượng (Sculptor) and Nguyễn Trãi in the 1980s.

He was the author of various historical songs of Vietnamese contemporary music like Du kích sông Thao (Guerillas by Thao River), Việt Nam Quê Hương Tôi (Việt Nam – My Homeland), and Tôi Thích Thể Thao (I Like Sports).

Beside opera Người Tạc Tượng, the world famous Swan Lake ballet will be performed on this special occasion.

This is the first time ever the full ballet will be performed instead of excerpts by Vietnamese dancers over the last 30 years.

Swan Lake is ready

Hundreds of artists, including Meritorious Artists Dam Han Giang and Nhu Quynh, Thu Hue, Thu Hang, dancers of the Vietnam Academy of Dance, artists of VNOB, the instrumental ensemble of 60 musicians will join the performance under the baton of conductor Dong Quang Vinh.

They took 6 months of practice to prepare for the concert, said Emeritus Artist Tran Ly Ly, director of the VNOB.

Emeritus Artist Trần Ly Ly initiated the idea of restaging the full Swan Lake by only Vietnamese dancers.

“This is a brave decision by the theatre’s managing board and the artists,” she said. “As the task does not only require financial investment but also high concentration of the whole team with 60 musicians and 60 dancers.”

It took the artists six months to rehearse for the show.

This version of the Swan Lake will be basically in Russian style but will be mingled with some special highlights to create significant features of the Vietnamese version,” she said.

Costumes for the show have been made by Ellie Vu’s team with Russian royal designs decorated with Vietnamese lotus patterns.

This is the first time a Vietnamese full version of Swan Lake will be staged.

The most loved and mesmerizing of classical ballets, “Swan Lake” was Tchaikovsky’s first. It was composed in 1875 and over 100 years later it remains a favorite with ballet companies regularly performing it throughout the world. “Swan Lake” debuted in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, but it was not well-received at the time.

In 1895, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov reworked the choreography for their St Petersburg performance and this has remained the most popular version. “Swan Lake” made its American debut with a 1940 performance by the San Francisco Ballet.

“Swan Lake” is a timeless love story that mixes magic, tragedy and romance. It has mesmerized audiences for over a century, is based on a German fairy tale. Tchaikovsky’s score tells the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and Swan Princess, Odette, who is cursed to be a swan by day but a young woman at night.

Tuyet Hoa

Outstanding artists of VNOB honored with State’s titles

7 artists of Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) including in a total of 391 outstanding artists were honored with the State titles of People’s Artist and Meritorious Artist at a ceremony held at the Hanoi Opera House on August 29, with the attendance of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and other senior leaders of the State.

These titles are the State’s most noble awards for artists in recognition of their talents as well as dedication and contributions to the country’s arts sector.

Speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Phuc said over the past years, writers and artists have contributed to the struggle for national independence, freedom and reunification, as well as national construction and defence. He lauded the efforts, talents and dedication of the artists, and described them as pioneers in preserving, developing and spreading the nation’s cultural and artistic values both at home and abroad. The leader pointed out limitations and challenges currently facing the cultural and artistic sector, including cultural degradation.

Choreographer Nguyen Hong Phong received the Title of People Artist by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Given this, the most urgent task is to perfect the standards and values of the Vietnamese culture and people, making culture a foundation for economic development, and the nation’s internal strength, he said.
Promoting cultural and human values has been defined as one of strategic breakthroughs in strategic documents on socio-economic development for 2021-2030, as well as socio-economic orientations and tasks for 2021-2025 which are being prepared for the 13th National Party Congress, he noted.

The Prime Minister expressed his hope that the artists will work harder to develop the Vietnamese arts sector and promote Vietnamese culture abroad

Mr. Truong Huu Van (Clarinet – VNOB)

In the year of 2019, 60 years of VNOB celebration, it’s very honor for VNOB to have 7 individuals to receive State’s title, including 1 People Artist and 6 Emeritus Artists.  The artist honored as People Artist is choreographer Nguyen Hong Phong. 6 other Emeritus Artists are Mr.Truong Huu Van (Clarinet), Mr. Le Tuan Anh (Concert Master and Violin), Mr. Vu Manh Dung (Opera Singer), Ms. Bui Viet An, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Hang and Ms. Mai Thi Nhu Quynh (Ballet Dancers).

Tuyet Hoa

Opera Singer Vu Manh Dung (VNOB)
Ballet Dancer Bui Viet An (VNOB)
3 Emeritus Artists are Ballet Dancers of VNOB: Nguyen Thi Thuy Hang, Bui Viet An and Mai Thi Nhu Quynh (from left to right)