The Autumn Melodies Festival 2019 will open at the Saigon Opera House on Saturday, August 17 - PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO


Entitled An Operatic Crime, it is a murder mystery constructed by its two German directors, David Hermann and Anna Weber, and using extracts from famous operas in a kind of musical jig-saw puzzle.

Weber is currently in charge of all the rehearsals, while Hermann will join her for the final week of preparations.

This important event will involve seven HBSO soloists and the chorus, plus the HBSO symphony orchestra conducted by Tran Nhat Minh. German conductor Askan Geisler is also in town to take over
orchestral rehearsals if Tran Nhat Minh is unavailable.

The operatic items to be used range from Mozart and Beethoven to Wagner, Handel, Kurt Weill and more.

The death involved is unexpected, and there are no clues except that in the apartment of the dead man, Mr X, there lies an operatic score.

Inspector M, who is in charge of the investigation, goes to the local opera house and questions possible informants. But the testimonies he hears are contradictory and baffling. He then goes to a jazz bar and
questions a singer who gives him a hint as to the name of the dead man’s mistress (to the music of Weill’s Surabaya Jonny).

Inspector M then goes to the mortuary to view the dead body. But strange things begin to happen, to the music of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio.

There will be costumes and scenery, the latter a wooden wall with different accessories for each scene. There will be spoken dialogue in Vietnamese between the sung items.

This will be an unusual, indeed extraordinary, event for HBSO, and a wonderful opening for the Autumn Melodies Festival.

German director David Hermann is well-known in Saigon for the operas he has directed here, including Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (the magic flute) and Die Fledermaus (the bat) by Johann Strauss II.

The Autumn Melodies Festival runs from August 17 to August 25, with all events taking place at the Saigon Opera House and beginning at 8 p.m. There will be a concert every night during this period, with the exception of Monday, August 19.

Anna Weber is currently completing her master’s degree in directing at the School of Music Hanns Eisler in Berlin. This is her first visit to Asia. “It’s wonderful being in Vietnam to work and not just as a tourist,” she said.

She said she was amazed by the enthusiasm of the Saigon singers, both soloists and chorus members. (The orchestra will only join the rehearsals in the final week).

Things were very different in Germany, Weber said. It was magnificent to be able to rehearse with the chorus every day here – she was able to get to know the chorus members and direct them individually. In Germany the chorus might attend rehearsals just four times in total.

“The production’s aesthetic is that of 1940s film noir,” she added “with the whole progression being like a nightmarish hallucination.”

After lamenting that young people tended not to like opera, she posed a final question. “It’s all very well exporting European music to Asia like this, but why only in the one direction? It would be so wonderful if
we could hear some traditional Vietnamese music in Germany.” SGT

Bradley Winterton