“This will be boring,” I thought before settling down in my seat to an evening of music led by two visiting vocalists. But in the event it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
By Bradley Winterton in HCMC
Conductor Tran Nhat Minh - Photo: The organizers “This will be boring,” I thought before settling down in my seat to an evening of music led by two visiting vocalists. But in the event it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
The reason for the turn-around in my feelings was the character of the three leading figures. The youthful conductor, Tran Nhat Minh, conjured the music out of the HBSO Symphony Orchestra with a combination of charm and firmness, with one eye invariably on the singers, and ever-attentive to their needs.
As for the Korean visitors, tenor Park Seong Do displayed considerable dramatic energy, throwing himself into his numbers with a keen sense of Italian style (the concert had been dubbed a “Romantic Italian Night”). His soprano counterpart, Cho Hae Ryong, also had an charming stage presence, and her lighter but still attractive voice especially came into its own in the duets she sang with the tenor.
The evening opened with Verdi’s well-known overture to his opera La Forza del Destino, and continued with equally well-known arias from the tenor, then the soprano, then both of them together. The same pattern continued after the interval. The orchestra played Mascagni’s much-loved Intermezzo from his opera Cavalleria Rusticana, and the highlight of the evening came with the long and complex duet that ends Act One of Verdi’s Otello, ‘Gia nella notte densa’ (“Now in the dark night”). It wasn’t Jon Vickers and Mirella Freni, but this is Saigon and we were lucky to get this sensitive and, at appropriate moments, powerful rendition.
The program concluded with Park Seong Do singing ‘Nessum Dorma’ (“None shall sleep”) from Puccini’s Turandot - a strange choice as soprano Cho had to come back on stage to receive her bouquet without having had the chance to take part in a concluding number.
This was a very attractive evening and it was a pity there weren’t more patrons there to enjoy it. It might be said that the Mascagni Intermezzo could have done with more light and shade, but that’s a criticism easily made of almost any performance. And again I did feel that the HBSO Symphony Orchestra still didn’t deliver any genuine crescendos, but that seems to be established now as part of their generally undemonstrative style. If there were occasions when the music really did demand something more soul-stirring than we actually heard, what we did hear was always pleasing. Whoever was responsible for the many trumpet solos deserves particular commendation.