by Vo Le Hong
|Joyful experience: Norwegian pianist, conductor Magnus Loddgard. — File Photo
Magnus Loddgard is a Norwe-gian pianist and conductor who lives in Berlin, Germany. He has worked with many genres and styles, but now he conducts mostly opera and contemporary music.
Loddgard recently visited Viet Nam to conduct a concert version of Mozart's The Magic Flute, with HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera.
The Magic Flute is a fantastic opera, full of humour and drama. It was the last opera Mozart composed, and contains some of his best music. Its story is like a fairy tale in which young prince Tamino and his quirky sidekick Papageno are sent by the Queen of the Night to save the beautiful Pamina from the evil Sarastro.
It turns out Sarastro is not evil at all, and after Tamino and Pamina have proven themselves worthy of each other, it ends with a celebration of love and wisdom.
"Working with this orchestra and with the singers is one of the most joyful experiences of my professional life," Loddgard said. "There are so many talented musicians, and the will to express something with the music, and the will to improve every day and move forward is incredible. Everybody works with a smile on their face.
"Nowhere have I seen this combination as clear as I see it here in HCM City. The orchestra I already knew, because I was here last November, 2012 and conducted three performances of the ballet Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky)."
"In Nutcracker there is also a small part for the female choir, so I knew that there are many good singers in this city, but the past week I have gotten to know some of them as soloists, and that is a totally different story.
"I am blown away by the voices I have heard, and by what artistry they present when given big roles and great challenges. Opera has a great future in HCM City."
But how did Norwegian find his way to the HCM City Opera House?
This happened because of another Norwegian, Geir Johnson, who runs a programme for musical collaboration between Viet Nam and Norway. The programme started in 2006, and today it has seven partner institutions in Norway and five in Viet Nam.
In HCM City, these are HBSO and the HCM City Conservatory of Music.
In the latest production of The Magic Flute, some Norwegian singers and a few orchestra musicians also took part. Every day after the HBSO finished rehearsals, they went on to teach in the conservatory or coach the singers.
Similar projects happen a few times a year, both in Ha Noi and HCM City. In other projects, Vietnamese musicians travel to Norway. Officials say this kind of collaboration and cultural exchange is of great value to both sides. Besides aiding development of the classical music scene, it also contributes enhances diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Loddgard recalled that the culture shock was immense when he first came here in November 2012, but he also loved it from the first minute.
"So many new smells, new sounds, new sights, and so many motorbikes!" he exclaimed.
After the first shock had passed, Loddgard started to notice the friendliness he was met with when getting in touch with people. "I think the friendliness and hospitality is what has made the biggest impression on me here. I feel very privileged being here working with Vietnamese people, not just being a tourist, because naturally you get in touch with people on a much deeper level.
"I like to believe being here, working with music is better in that respect than working in business, because art transcends cultural differences and speaks to the emotions that all humans share. Even though I can only speak six or seven words in Vietnamese, we can communicate".
Loddgard hopes to come back to work with HBSO later.
"If that does not happen, I believe I will come once a year anyway." — VNS