Journey of an Opera (14) – Cultural Expectations From Both Sides

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

Hanh trinh-14

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính is nothing short of P.Q. Phan’s “baby.” Much as he wishes for its magnificent production and reception, the matters are pretty much out of his hands. Yet a composer and librettist he is, well wishes are what he has to share, here in way of a conclusion to The Creation Series. Continue reading

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Journey of an Opera (13): Pure Joy of a 2-Year Term Pregnancy

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

Hanh trinh-13

As the creation of the The Tale of Lady Thị Kính has come to an end, Phan sat down for a heart-to-heart chat about the whole process. Continue reading

Journey of an Opera (12): Engraving 1001 Pages of Music

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

After all is done, “The Tale of Lady Thị Kính” is a bundle of a thousand plus pages of sweat and joy. They are sized 11×17, and every note is composed and written down by pencil, for a large force. The time-consuming and expensive processes of engraving begin.

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Journey of an Opera (11) – Concept of Music

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

The transcendent concept of the opera The Tale of Lady Thị Kính also translates into its music. Over all, the music starts with something naïve, bright, almost too cheerful, even cheesy, as PQ Phan described it. As the story progresses the music becomes more serious, darker, more sacred and more dramatic. Musically speaking, the tone centers become higher and higher to reflect the transcendent concept. So much so that the ending is completely in contrast to the beginning.
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Journey of an Opera (10) – Concept of the Opera

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

For a short composition based on a spur of the moment there is no need to have a concept. It is absolutely necessary, however, for a work of a large size, 2-hour long for example, to be unified by a concept. Without it, everything in the work will become grains of sand. Continue reading

Journey of an Opera (9) – Logic East and West

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

Digital art work by Hoàng Ngọc Biên

In a work that crosses cultures like The Tale of Lady Thị Kính, it is essential to have people from outside to read and make comments to see where it stands. After finishing the libretto for The Tale of Lady Thị Kính, PQ Phan arranged a reading for it. His colleagues in ethnomusicology, conducting, and voice came to lend a hand. Each chose a role, and started reading aloud. Continue reading

Journey of an Opera (8) – The Marriage of Text and Music

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

The composer and the librettist of an opera are usually two different people and their collaboration is not always a smooth sail. For The Tale of Lady Thị Kính, this journey is much simplified as PQ Phan is both its composer and librettist. Continue reading

Journey of an Opera (7) – The Translation and The Reconstruction

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

The libretto of Quan Âm Thị Kính is a valuable Vietnamese folk work. There is no surprise that its translation and reconstruction into the libretto of The Tale of Lady Thị Kính may raise doubt among many Vietnamese about whether the new libretto will remain a literary work they can recognize. Those people can rest assure that they will like the new libretto by PQ Phan as well, just in a new way. Because it is usually not practical to set music to a literary work this size, what Phan did was not to translate to have a literary work but to create a workable libretto for a Vietnamese opera.

Given the passage of time between the original libretto that is about a thousand years old and the current practice in opera appreciation, there are several literary devices that Phan needs to take heed of. Continue reading

Journey of an Opera (6) – The Tale of Lady Thị Kính, Act II: Grandeur Closing

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

Digital art work by Hoàng Ngọc Biên

The final shape of PQ Phan’s creation is a two-act ten-scene opera.

Act II, Scene 6 – In the Vietnamese version, right after the affair, there is a gathering of the villagers for the trial of Thị Mầu’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Because Thị Kính, or Tiểu Kính Tâm the young monk, has been out of the picture for a while, plus she has not had a chance for reflection, Phan created this new scene simply to introduce Sư Cụ, the Head Monk, and give Thị Kính an opportunity to express her thought about her future. At this point, Thị Kính is not sure what the consequences of Thị Mầu’s flirting would be to her. Neither does she know about the affair between Thị Mầu and Nô, the Servant, but she fears something is going to happen. So at the end of the scene she and Sư Cụ sing about the future in the way of hope but not knowing what the future will be.
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Journey of an Opera (5): The Tale of Lady Thị Kính, Act I – The Wedding and the Conflicts

The Tale of Lady Thị Kính Creation Series

Digital art work by Hoàng Ngọc Biên

Actual work on the libretto of The Tale of Lady Thị Kính is a parallel process between translating and reconstructing the Vietnamese script. PQ Phan already cut the prologue (giáo đầu) and replaced it with the short overture instead. In terms of function, they serve the same purpose of rounding up people and calming them down, making them know that the opera is about to start. Continue reading