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Monday, July 26, 2021

Nutcracker returns for two performances

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HCMC – The HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) is once again reviving its hugely popular Christmas production, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, for two performances on December 11 and 12 (Friday and Saturday) in the Saigon Opera House.

This full-length ballet, complete with orchestra and chorus, has been performed in Saigon every year since 2011. This time it will be conducted by the HBSO’s music director, Meritorious Artist Tran Vuong Thach.

The Nutcracker is the world’s most frequently-performed ballet, and has become a staple of the pre-Christmas season, especially in the United States.

Its suitability for Christmas isn’t hard to understand. It begins with a Christmas party in a large house. When all the guests have left, the young daughter of the house falls asleep under the Christmas tree and dreams of going on a journey to fantastic lands, including a wintry, snowy landscape. All sorts of characters perform dances before the little girl is finally seen still asleep under the Christmas tree.

The “nutcracker” itself is one of the kitchen implements that come to life after the party guests have left. It is really a prince in disguise, and in the first act leads a fight against the evil Mouse King.

Tchaikovsky wrote three ballets – the other two are The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. He didn’t live to see the immense popularity of his Nutcracker ballet as it was, to begin with, a relative failure until after the composer had made an orchestral suite out of some of its music.

This music, as well as including dances representing the countries of origin of tea, coffee, chocolate and orange juice, has a new musical instrument (new in those days anyway), the celesta. The sparkling sound of this instrument, which Tchaikovsky first heard in Paris, makes for a spectacular accompaniment to the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Also very notable is the famous “pas de deux” (dance for two people) which is based on a simple descending scale, something that a friend challenged Tchaikovsky to write.

Saigon’s Nutcracker was originally choreographed by Norway’s Johanne Jakhelln Constant and is now re-rehearsed by the HBSO’s resident choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hung.

That The Nutcracker is this year being given for only two performances (three has been the norm up to now) means that seats will sell out very quickly. Even over three performances full-houses were all-but guaranteed.

Everything about HBSO’s Nutcracker is spectacular – the dancing, the scenery, the lighting, the costumes, the chorus and the orchestra. The fact that this revival will be conducted by HBSO’s music director is an added attraction this year. In addition, it’s amazing that after two temporary closures due to the Covid19 virus, HBSO is able to mount again such a richly complex production as this one. HCMC has so much to be grateful for!

Tickets are priced from VND450,000 up to VND900,000, with a concessionary price of VND150,000 for students on production of a student card. The performances will begin at 8 p.m.

By Bradley Winterton

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