HBSO opens new season with French music

HCMC - Bizet’s Carmen, Gounod’s Faust and Donizetti’s La fille du regiment are all great French operas, and extracts from them feature in the opening concert of the new season by HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) to be given on March 28 in the Saigon Opera House. 

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Pham Khanh Ngoc will perform at the concert – PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

Carmen takes pride of place with an extensive series of numbers occupying the whole second half of the evening. 

The concert begins, however, with the overture by Gounod to his opera Mireille, followed by the choral item “Farandole” from the same work. 

Written in 1864, the opera concerns the love between Mireille and Vincent. A farandole is a dance performed in a circle and this example opens the opera’s second act where villagers are waiting for a race to begin.  

Next comes a very famous item, “The Swan” from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of Animals. The cello solo in the piece will be performed by the HBSO’s Meritorious Artist Nguyen Tan Anh. 

Charpentier’s most famous stage work is Louise (1900), and the most famous item in it is Louise’s hymn to love, “Depuis le jour” (‘Since the day’). This will be sung by Meritorious Artist Tran Hong Vy.  

Another celebrated item follows, the “Bell song” from Delibes’ opera Lakme (1883). The opera is set in India, and Lakme is the daughter of a Brahmin priest. Her Bell Song covers a wide vocal range in the “coloratura soprano” style. It will be sung by Pham Khanh Ngoc.  

Gounod then returns with an aria from Faust, sung by Dao Mac. The opera was premiered in 1859, and tells of Faust’s pact with the devil. The aria we’ll hear is “Avant de quitter les lieux” (‘Before I leave this town’). It has been recorded by many famous baritones including Hvorostovsky and Fischer Dieskau.  

Donizetti was an Italian composer but he wrote his comic opera La fille du regiment (1840) to a French libretto while living in Paris. Tenor Pham Trang will tackle its most famous aria, “Ah! mes amis” (‘Ah my friends’) which requires the soloist to hit eight high C’s in a row.  

Offenbach’s chorus “Tourne, danse” (‘Turn, dance’) ends his operetta La Vie Parisienne, a complete production of which was seen in Saigon in 2016. It will be sung by the HBSO Chorus and will conclude the concert’s first half.  

Highlights from Bizet’s Carmen (1875) occupy the entire second half of the concert. 

The celebrated “Habanera” comes early on, with Phan Hong Diu and the HBSO Chorus. Then comes the duet between Don Jose and Micaela “Parle moi de ma mere” (‘Speak to me about my mother’) sung by Pham Trang and Phan Duyen Huyen. Soon after comes the bull-fighter, Escamillo (Vo Nguyen Thanh Tam), followed by the Quintet with five soloists.  

Micaela’s aria “Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante” (‘I say nothing that frightens me’) will be sung by Nguyen Thu Huong, and the closing duet between Don Jose and Escamillo will be performed by Tran Thanh Nam and Vo Nguyen Thanh Tam. 

Ticket prices are from VND400,000 to VND750,000, with a special concession of VND80,000 for students. The conductor will be Tran Nhat Minh, and the concert begins at 8 p.m.