Journey of an Opera

Coming soon.


ON LIFE. A Narrative Concert: It’s all about aesthetics


Resounding drumming. ON LIFE begins with the drum.

A universal tool existing in all cultures known to mankind, the drum is used for communication and rituals, among other things. “It is like a communal voice,” VASCAM president P. Q. Phan said. For a meeting, an announcement, a signal for attack or retreat in war time, a rallying sound, and so on. A warm association of the drum that brings sweetness to Vietnamese people’s ears dates back thousands of years. According to K. W. Taylor, author of A History of the Vietnamese, the Âu và Lạc peoples of ancient Vietnam traveled on water. They announced their arrival by beating on bronze drums. Today, archeological artifacts confirmed those drums as belonging to the Đông Sơn culture that dated more than 500 years BC and lasted to the first century. These bronze drums were used for communication and rituals, not musical instruments onstage. Then again in the 18th century, Emperor Quang Trung was known for the battle drum that bolstered his soldiers’ spirit serving as attack signals, and that turned celebratory in tone upon their sweeping victory. At the Quang Trung Museum in Tây Sơn, Bình Định province, one could catch this drum performance at certain times during the week.

Why does ON LIFE begin with the drum? Continue reading

“Requiem” không phải là “nhạc/kinh cầu siêu”  |  “Requiem” is not “nhạc/kinh cầu siêu” in Vietnamese

Photo by Anvi Hoàng

Photo by Anvi Hoàng

I don’t translate requiem into Vietnamese, for the same reason I don’t translate opera into Vietnamese, or hát chèo into English. 

“Requiem” is not “nhạc/kinh cầu siêu”, just as “nhạc/kinh cầu siêu” is not “requiem”.


Lý do tôi không dịch requiem sang tiếng Việt cũng là lý do tôi không dịch opera ra tiếng Việt, cũng là lý do tôi không dịch hát chèo sang tiếng Anh, v.v.

“Requiem” không phải là “nhạc/kinh cầu siêu”, cũng như “nhạc/kinh cầu siêu” không phải là “requiem”.

A Vietnamese Requiem: What and Why

Photo by Anvi Hoàng

Photo by Anvi Hoàng

—– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —–

Requiem is a large scale musical composition typically lasting from about thirty minutes to over an hour. In Western music history requiem is the most important musical genre used to honor, to celebrate or mourn a death or deaths of many people in the public. This genre typically utilizes a certain Christian liturgical text and an instrumental force. A requiem is designed to be performed on stage, meant to be celebratory in tone or preaching about the significance of the Judgment Day, and open to the public in a concert event.

In Vietnam, the musical tradition that deals with death is considered a family affair. Continue reading

Style with 2,000 dollars


 —– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —– 

Suppose I was given 2,000 dollars for a birthday gift, what would I do with it? 2,000 is definitely not little, but not too much, either. With the normal spending habits of the time, the trace of this 2,000 will be in thin air the next month. Worse, I probably have a hard time trying to remember what I bought with the money. I consider this a really sad reality of my memory and state of life. Like this: Continue reading

One-pillar pagoda: Architecture 401

giac mo-3

—– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —– 

Without pride to anchor in life, we are lost.

Most Vietnamese know that chùa Một Cột (One-pillar pagoda) is an iconic architecture of Vietnam. It makes me wonder what reaction they have on hearing tourists say such things as, “I’ve been there. It is so tiny and not worth the time.” Continue reading

‘Mystery’ of Opera Singing Revealed (2) – The Training


Patricia Stiles as ‘Preziosilla’ in “La Forza del Destino” by Verdi – Photo courtesy of Stiles

An in-person interview with Patricia Stiles presents a remarkable experience, especially so for a non-musician as I am, as she talked about the singing techniques with demonstrations. At close-up, an opera singer’s voice is obviously very powerful, not so much in terms of decibels as to pierce your ear drums but with the power, vibration, and warmth that inspire and lift your soul. One finds it difficult not to marvel at how wonderful it is what the human voice can do. Though this kind of demonstration is impossible to get in writing but can be made understandable with articulation the way Patricia Stiles did. Continue reading

‘Mystery’ of Opera Singing Revealed (1) – Personal Reflections


Patricia Stiles as ‘Nancy’ in “Martha” by Flotow – Photo courtesy of Patricia Stiles

With the experience of twenty years singing in Germany and more than ten years teaching at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Patricia Stiles is undoubtedly a deep well of knowledge when it comes to opera singing. She is still performing and has recently released a new album titled “Song Tapestry” in which the Hồ Xuân Hương songs collection called Spring Confession by P.Q. Phan is included.

Is it true that Asian women tend to have soprano voices? Continue reading