A Ballet at the Saigon Opera House

Last night, Ngân and I went to a ballet at the Saigon Opera House. I haven’t been to a ballet in probably more than 10 years, and Ngân had never been to one. In the week leading up to the performance, I played the music of the ballet (The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky) a lot at home so that we were familiar with it. I reviewed the story and had Ngân do the same so that we’d know what was happening on the stage.

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Vietnam is certainly not known for its ballet corps. But we had been impressed with an orchestra concert last month and were excited to see the performance.

Overall, I was impressed with the dancers. They were quite talented and several of them really stood out. It was easy to follow the story and the costumes were pretty good as well. I was impressed to see a group of people who literally put everything they have into a performance. When I perform on the guitar or violin, I use small motor skills and musical knowledge, but these dancers use their whole bodies and all of their strength and focus into producing something beautiful.

My only gripe of the performance is that they didn’t have an orchestra performing the music live. The space in the opera house is very limited, so maybe there just wasn’t enough room. But of course there were errors with using a CD and briefly during “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” the music cut off.

More seriously though, not having an ensemble to play live robbed the performance of its soul. It felt like I was watching a singer lip sync or something. The music of The Nutcracker is what is timeless about the suite. Choreography changes with every performance, but the music stays the same, and musicians can really pour their soul into producing something beautiful.

Overall though, I was satisfied with the performance and would recommend it to others.

After my last post about the attending a performance of the symphony at the Saigon Opera House, I learned from @TylerWatts and @Vietnam720 that pictures from inside are rare. So during the intermission I snapped a few more pictures for your viewing pleasure.

And we will be attending more orchestra performances next month at the Saigon Opera House.

Looking at the interior ceiling.
From ground level near the stage, looking up at the balconies.
A view of the textured ceiling above the stage.
On the lower level under the overhang of the balcony.
The left side of the performance hall.
The main chandelier in the lobby.
Another chandelier in the lobby.
Decoration on the lobby wall.
A cherub decorating the banister.

Who controls the present…

A popular local news source for us expatriates in Vietnam is Tuoi Tre News, which is online and posts several articles a day in English. However, I couldn’t help but notice this trend over the past week or so.

October 30th, 2011: “Foreign criminals are on the rise: police chief,” reads the headline.

Then, as if to support this statement…

November 4th, 2011: “Reverse alchemy as foreigners trick jeweler,” states the headline for this story.

And then, just yesterday…

November 6th, 2011: “Foreigners steal $750 from post office.”

For a news website that only posts a few new local stories (i.e. not wire stories) a day, I find this “coincidence” highly amusing. I wonder what us dangerous, criminal foreigners will be up to this week? Something has to happen; we have to prove the police chief right.

A harsh and jealous mistress

As I am writing this, it has been 29.5 days since I had a cigarette. It seems like I’ve been trying to kick this habit since I started, and I sincerely hope that this is my last attempt to quit. About two years ago, I had basically gone the same amount of time without nicotine, about a month, but just one offered cigarette from an old friend sent me back into the cycle of craving.

My companion for several years in Vietnam.

It seems to be even harder to quit in Vietnam because cigarettes are cheap and there are many places where smoking is not banned. Finally, after an evening where I had a couple cigarettes with some beer, I went for a short run after work and I felt terrible. That seems to have been the last straw. I haven’t had a smoke since then.

About a week ago, I came down with something. One of the symptoms was a rather deep cough, and I attribute this to kicking the habit. Nicotine is a harsh and jealous mistress, and I hope I am done with her forever.