(PICTURE: Huyen and I at the opera house.)
Because my friend Veronica was visiting during Valentine's Day, this past weekend I took Huyen out for a belated V-day. We went out to dinner for one of her favorite foods: chicken hot pot with lots of fresh shrimp (okay, it's one of my favorite foods too). After dinner we got some fresh ice cream and then headed to the Hanoi Opera House.
For around $30 I had bought Huyen and I seventh row, center seats. The seats were great, although I'm pretty sure no seats are bad at the opera house. The first half of the performance was the Hanoi orchestra playing a series of Beethoven songs. Accompanying the musicians were five opera singers and a Russian pianist. The music was amazing and Huyen was smiling from ear to ear anytime the opera singers belted out some lines.
After the intermission, the ballet began. The ballet was....well, 75% pretty bad. During the intermission they opened the stage pit and I assumed the orchestra would sit down below and play from there during the ballet. However, they didn't and the pit just remained open. This meant two things:
1. There was no live music. They pumped in the tunes for the dancers.
2. The dancers had to dance on the back half of the stage.
It was a pretty bizzare set up. The dancers were obviously talented but they weren't exactly in synch with one another. That said, the fourth and final dance was spectacular. All of the dancers came out with Chinese lanterns and put on a beautiful performance.
One of my favorite parts of the night was when a fellow foreigner behind me grumbled out loud, "This is a rip off" and got up and left during the middle of a dance. The lady had paid no more than $15 for her seats and had just seen a phenomenal orchestra which alone was worth the money. Huyen turned to me as they left and said, "I think they wanted live music during the ballet."