Choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hung: I am proud to establish a unique aura for the HBSO

Monday, 2018-08-13 10:18:05
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Choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hung (Photo: HBSO)
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NDO - Nguyen Phuc Hung, the leading choreographer at the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO), and his team successfully staged the opera “Der Freischütz – Hunters Pride” in July, as a cooperation project with the Goethe-Institut. He granted an interview to Nhan Dan (People) Monthly Newspaper to talk more about the project as well as his career over the past 20 years.

Question: Can you tell us the reason why the HBSO chose to introduce the opera “Der Freischütz – Hunters Pride” to the Vietnamese audience?

Choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hung: The opera was staged under a cooperation project between the HBSO and the Goethe-Institut. Following the positive effects from our collaboration on the two previous operas, ‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘The Bat’, we were trusted for the production of “Der Freischütz – Hunters Pride”.

All three of the operas are directed by German director David Herman. HBSO’s selected soloists for the opera were sent to Germany for training for one to two months ahead of the show.

When the opera was staged at the Ho Chi Minh Opera House, it was adjusted to adapt it to the Vietnamese cultural background. As a choreographer, was it a challenge for you?

Yes, it was. I had an opportunity to live and work abroad, so I understand the difference in western and traditional Vietnamese culture. While working on the opera, my challenge was how to find out the common point where the two different cultures can meet.

In the original version, the opera tells about a shooting competition among men for love. When it came to Vietnam, the opera was set on a more modern stage design. Instead of following the original outset of 100 years ago, we let the opera play in a contemporary Vietnamese society city, where the characters are surrounded by motorbikes, utilities poles, and a billiards club, in order to make it familiar to Vietnamese audiences.

It is the default thought that opera is an academic form of theatre. How have the audience responded to the opera as well as the previous projects of HBSO?

Two shows of the opera were fully booked. We are delighted to establish loyal audiences, who truly love and appreciate the academic form of theatre. This has a significant role in the strategy for HBSO’s development.

“Der Freischütz – Hunters Pride” is the third opera directed by David Herman. What have you and your colleagues learnt from the German director?

David Herman has succeeded in nailing the three operas. He has shown serious investment and research at work. Each foreign director has his own advantage, but they all have a professional working attitude. That is what I appreciated while working with them, and I always request that my team do the same.

While working with foreign directors, did you observe any gap between the foreign and Vietnamese dancers?

Not at all, I think that Vietnamese dancers have good base techniques, what they need to improve is their mindset at work. Most recently, I worked with director Joost Vrouenraets from the Netherlands and he commented that the Vietnamese dancers are as good as their foreign colleagues. Joost also planned to recruit dancers from the HBSO to work for his upcoming project in the Netherlands.

Is the recognition the fruit of nearly 10 years working as the leading choreographer of the HBSO?

I think that you have to try your best and do the best at any project you work in. I have kept telling my team that my requests to them at the moment might not bring them money or benefit them immediately, but they provide a foundation for them to further develop in their arts career.

For long-term self development, it is necessary for an artist to keep renovating and trying at work. The recognition from foreign directors was not only built by me, it is the joint effort from me and my team.

You had years working abroad before returning to Vietnam ten years ago. Are you satisfied with your work achievements?

I can affirm that my decision to return to Vietnam was made at the right time. It is too soon to conclude whether I am successful or not, but everything is on the right track, and I have goals to move forward.

I am proud to establish a unique aura for the HBSO, distinguished from hundreds of other art troupes. I am satisfied with the orientations I have mapped out for my career, but not with myself. If I have such thinking in my mind, it will probably happen when I am retired.

What do you think about the living of Vietnamese dancers in a context that less audiences show their interest in opera and other forms of theatre?

I am making a good living with this career. I always hope that my children will follow my job. Working as a dancer and then choreographer, I feel I am free minded and free do what I want. I am not going to say that it is a well-paid job, but it helps me earn enough to live my life comfortably.

Thank you so much for your sharing!