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Vietnam-Korea show in Saigon

by H.N08 June 2016 Last updated at 00:00 AM

VTV.vn - Eight hundred years ago a Vietnamese prince, Ly Long Tuong, sailed north to Korea where he helped fight off invaders and became a national hero.

On June 7 there are over 2,000 families in Korea that can claim descent from the prince, and the show “Promise to 800,” seen in Saigon’s Opera House on Thursday, was a modern-day celebration of this ancient Vietnam-Korea connection.

It was advertised as a performance featuring a Korean dancer, a Vietnamese actor and a European musician. Actually there were ten performers in all, and none of them without their significance in the overall effect.

The basic format was projected images, usually of the words being spoken by the actor, below which we saw one or more musicians (the maximum proved to be four), three dancers (the lead dancer plus two subsidiary ones), and a narrator/actor. Two children, seen at the start and finish, made up the grand total.

The actor, Bui Nhu Lai, provided the continuity. The words he spoke, invariably in Vietnamese and clearly amplified, appeared to be literary extracts, and they were delivered with great rhetorical strength and passion. He was equaled in this commitment by the German musician, Peter Schindler, who alternated between playing a piano and an organ, virtually throughout the show.

Schindler’s music seems to have consisted of his own compositions, but was anyway eminently dramatic and accessible. At first I thought it may have been classical in origin – Liszt or Ravel, perhaps – but it was actually more forceful, and indeed more memorable, than anything either of these composers might have provided. Bach’s influence could also at times be detected, but the main point to be made is that this was music superbly suitable to accompany dance, or indeed any other kind of performance. It was the highlight of a show that boasted many highlights.

Also often in evidence was Le Hoai Phuong playing the dan bau, or zither. His contributions were also forceful and incisive, and, taken together with Schindler’s music, made for an eminently satisfactory musical evening. Two relatively minor contributors were Le Phan Nhu Quynh and Nong Hoang Duy, each playing the cello. They appeared at moments when a climactic ensemble was called for.

These four musicians largely appeared up-stage, while down-stage we had the dancers, not present all the time but nonetheless for a considerable part of the proceedings. Main among these was the Korean artist Yoo-Oh Chun. Her stage presence was very strong, and she danced with vigor and great professionalism. Less often seen were two other dancers, Tran Hoang Yen and Sung A Lung, who added their own variety and vitality to the performance.

The show was directed by Sun-Goo Jung, and the choreographer was the main dancer, Yoo-Oh Chun.

The whole performance lasted some hour and a half, without an interval. There was a large audience present, probably mostly invited as there were no tickets and we could sit wherever we chose. In addition, the event was generally presented with great charm, with semi-dried flowers attached to our printed programs and free CDs handed out to lucky patrons at the end.

This was a very successful evening, essentially because of the commitment of everyone concerned. The music was outstanding, the dancing invariably strong, and the narration vigorous and passionate. All in all then, congratulations all round!

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