Carmen to tell a Vietnamese Story the Swedish Way

A modern version of Carmen will be performed at the Hanoi Opera House on May 26-27.

A new, Vietnamese interpretation of the world renowned opera “Carmen” will be performedon May 26 and 27 at the Hanoi Opera House to celebrate the building’s 100th anniversary.

The modern “Carmen”  will be performed by more than 150 artists, musicians and singers of the Orchestra of Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) and Hanoi International Choir.

Directed by Sweden’s Helena Rohr and conducted by music director Graham Sutcliffe, the opera would be very different from the classic version by Georges Bizet, event organizers said.

Originated from the novel by Prosper Mérimée, the opera Carmen was completed in the autumn of 1874 as the last work of Georges Bizet, who through his music, vivid dramatic melodies with Spanish elements, told a tragic story behind brightness, and depicted the optimistic, straightforward but wild personality of a Gipsy girl, Carmen.

However, according to Helena Rohr and set-designer Annsofi Nyberg, who return to Hanoi for the play’s production, this version of Carmen, which is set inside a Vietnamese cigarette factory, willfocus on the theme of domestic violence in society today – particularly towards women.

“With this Carmen we want to tell the story set in contemporary Hanoi, so that the audience will follow and understand the story, and somehow connect it to their own lives,”Rohr said.

The opera will portray Carmen as a victim rather than someone who is to blame for what happens Рas is seen in more traditional versions . The violence between Jos̩ and Carmen, which in the end leads to her death, is indicative of the cruel reality which many women in society face today, Rohr said.

The director cooperated closely with the NGO CSAGA, which works with survivors of domestic violence in Vietnam, to study the problem in detail.

Vanh Khuyen will give voice to Carmen while Thanh Binh and Nguyen Vu will do so for Don José. Manh Dung lends his voice to the toreador, who in this version is a famous Thai Boxer.

The opera will be performed in French and Vietnamese, and subtitled in English and Vietnamese.

Helena Rohr and Annsofi Nyberg directed and produced Mozart’s Così fan tutte with VNOB in 2006 as part of a cultural exchange program between Sweden and Vietnam. Even though that 5 year project has now ended, Hanoi has become a new hometown and creative base for the two Swedish artists.

Conductor Graham Sutcliffe has lived and worked in Vietnam for nearly 20 years and has conducted many concerts, ballets and operas for orchestras in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi over the years. He is currently resident conductor with the VNOB.

All tickets, ranging from US$7.5-25, can be purchased at the Hanoi, Opera House, 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem Dist., or through the free delivery service below

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