Attending a concert, play, opera, ballet…

This item appears on page 51 of the February 2013 issue.
This is subscriber only post.
Get one year of online-only access — only $15!
Below is a sample of the article.
Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

We asked any of you who attended a concert, a recital or any music or dance performance or stage production outside of the US in the last few years to tell us how you learned about it and how you obtained tickets. The responses this month, comprising part ten in this ongoing series, are about events attended in Spain and Vietnam.

The first place my husband, Michael, and I stop at in any city is the tourist information office. We ask if there are any special cultural events occurring and request theater and concert schedules. We also go online to check for performances the tourist office may not have had any information about.

• In September ’11 in BARCELONA, on the website of the Palau de la Música Catalana (Palau de la Música 4-6, 08003 Barcelona, Spain; for tickets, phone +34 902 442 882), we read of a Spanish guitar concert that would be taking place. We bought our tickets at the Palau — two reserved box seats for €56 (near $73).

Designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner and opened in 1908, this is one of the city’s most impressive modernist buildings. You can take a tour of the building, but attending a concert there is far more satisfying. We heard a fabulous Spanish guitarist, Xavier Coll, in the most spectacularly beautiful building I have ever been in.

It is hard to describe the Palau de la Música Catalana, with its stained-glass-domed ceiling, the ceramic posts, each one different, the ceramic roses on the ceiling and walls and, most stunning of all, the music muses on the stage walls that almost come to life when lighted. (As far as I could tell, the bottoms are painted on the walls, but the muses’ upper torsos are 3-dimensional.)

Coll played four different guitars from different eras and gave explanations as he went along. The second half was just Coll in concert. In encores, he played a tango and sang and played “Granada.” His voice is operatic.

• We also saw a flier for a performance at the Gran Teatre del Liceu (La Rambla, 51-59, 08002 Barcelona, Spain; phone +34 93 485 99 00), which was only a few blocks from our apartment in the Gràcia area.

When we bought our tickets (two seats for €44), the ticket seller looked a bit skeptical and asked if we knew that the entire concert would be in Catalan. We responded that music is an international experience.

The theater is small. There was a tapas bar on the second floor that was nice for a bite before the performance.

The woman singer, who was quite well known by the audience, and the male pianist, who accompanied her and also played solo numbers, were very good. We had never heard Gershwin sung in Catalan before.

Marsha Caplan
Boulder, CO

My wife, Marian, and I attended a performance at the Palau de la Música Catalana (phone +34 902 442 882) in BARCELONA, Spain, on May 5, 2010. It was òpera i flamenc (opera music combined with flamenco dancing).

We had visited this architectural gem some years before during a daytime tour offered at the Palau and thought that it would be ideal to actually attend a concert there. We recommend going to a concert as the best way to experience this building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We got information on the concerts and purchased our tickets using the Palau’s website. I think I telephoned the venue in order to get advice on choices of seats.

The tickets were at the box office when we arrived at the concert. They cost €38 each plus a commission of €1.6 for both. (We saw a youth orchestra there once and it was cheaper but very good.)

Note: the Sala de Concerts is the main room and a more spectacular setting than the Petit Palau, on site but underground.

Neale E. Creamer
Portland, OR

Water puppets parade in front of the stage screen that hides the puppeteers — Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi. Photos: Patten

The puppet shows l’ve seen while on trips to Southeast Asia have been among my most memorable experiences. I’ll never forget the marionette show I saw in Mandalay, Myanmar, or the shadow puppet play in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

The most unique puppet performances I saw were the water puppet shows in HANOI, Vietnam, in December ’09 while on tour with Vantage Deluxe World Travel (Boston, MA; 800/322-6677).

The first show we saw was indoors at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (57B Dinh Tien Hoang St., Hanoi, Vietnam; phone [84 04] 3 8249494 — performances 6:30 & 8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 9:30 a.m. & 6:30 & 8 p.m. Sunday. VND40,000-VND60,000 [$2-$3]).

The performance took place in a tank of water measuring at least 200 by 100 feet. Although thoroughly enjoyable, the show, performed on a stage in a dimly lighted theater, was not conducive to photography and seemed geared primarily to the tourist trade.

I saw the second show by chance when our tour group visited the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (Nguyen Van Huyen Rd., Cau Giay District, Hanoi, Vietnam; phone [+84 4] 37 56 21 93, fax 38 36 03 51. Open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tues.-Sun. Entry, VND25,000).

The puppet performances took place in an outdoor pond, measuring at least 500 by 500 feet, on the museum grounds and were included with the admission price.

With his rod removed, this jolly fellow stands in a puppetry display case in the Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi.

Hidden behind an elaborate stage set at one end of a pond, the puppeteers stood waist deep in water behind a hanging screen and manipulated the puppets attached to long rods hidden beneath the water’s surface. Actually very clever, a series of pulleys and cords helped to give action to many of the carved wooden figures while musicians played and soloists sang traditional songs.

The traditional Vietnamese music rose to crescendos of sound at the most dramatic moments in the stories. Special effects also were used to create fire-breathing dragons, smoke-filled battles and celebrations with fireworks.

At the end of the performances, the puppeteers emerged from behind the screen to receive the applause of the audience. It was primarily the local Vietnamese who ringed the pond, seated on low benches, though there were a few travelers such as myself. Some of the 45-minute performances sell out quickly, so calling in advance is recommended.

Reputedly, the Vietnamese water-puppet-show tradition dates back a thousand years. For me, these shows — often fanciful and humorous — were among the most enjoyable, authentically characteristic and unique aspects of Vietnamese culture that I witnessed on my trip. I even felt compelled to purchase one of the jolly little water puppets, with its large, grinning face, at one of Hanoi’s touristy shops as a souvenir of my trip.

David J. Patten
St. Petersburg, FL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

We asked any of you who attended a concert, a recital or any music or dance performance or stage production outside of the US in the last few years to tell us how you learned about it and how you obtained tickets. The responses this month, comprising part ten in this ongoing series, are about events attended in Spain and Vietnam.

The first place my husband, Michael, and I stop at in any city is the tourist information office. We ask if there are any special cultural events occurring and request theater and concert schedules. We also go online to check for performances the tourist office may not have had any information about.

• In September ’11 in BARCELONA, on the website of the Palau de la Música Catalana (Palau de la Música 4-6, 08003 Barcelona, Spain; for tickets, phone +34 902 442 882), we read of a Spanish guitar concert that would be taking place. We bought our tickets at the Palau — two reserved box seats for €56 (near $73).

Designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner and opened in 1908, this is one of the city’s most impressive modernist buildings. You can take a tour of the building, but attending a concert there is far more satisfying. We heard a fabulous Spanish guitarist, Xavier Coll, in the most spectacularly beautiful building I have ever been in.

It is hard to describe the Palau de la Música Catalana, with its stained-glass-domed ceiling, the ceramic posts, each one different, the ceramic roses on the ceiling and walls and, most stunning of all, the music muses on the stage walls that almost come to life when lighted. (As far as I could tell, the bottoms are painted on the walls, but the muses’ upper torsos are 3-dimensional.)

Coll played four different guitars from different eras and gave explanations as he went along. The second half was just Coll in concert. In encores, he played a tango and sang and played “Granada.” His voice is operatic.

• We also saw a flier for a performance at the Gran Teatre del Liceu (La Rambla, 51-59, 08002 Barcelona, Spain; phone +34 93 485 99 00), which was only a few blocks from our apartment in the Gràcia area.

When we bought our tickets (two seats for €44), the ticket seller looked a bit skeptical and asked if we knew that the entire concert would be in Catalan. We responded that music is an international experience.

The theater is small. There was a tapas bar on the second floor that was nice for a bite before the performance.

The woman singer, who was quite well known by the audience, and the male pianist, who accompanied her and also played solo numbers, were very good. We had never heard Gershwin sung in Catalan before.

Marsha Caplan
Boulder, CO

My wife, Marian, and I attended a performance at the Palau de la Música Catalana (phone +34 902 442 882) in BARCELONA, Spain, on May 5, 2010. It was òpera i flamenc (opera music combined with flamenco dancing).

We had visited this architectural gem some years before during a daytime tour offered at the Palau and thought that it would be ideal to actually attend a concert there. We recommend going to a concert as the best way to experience this building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We got information on the concerts and purchased our tickets using the Palau’s website. I think I telephoned the venue in order to get advice on choices of seats.

The tickets were at the box office when we arrived at the concert. They cost €38 each plus a commission of €1.6 for both. (We saw a youth orchestra there once and it was cheaper but very good.)

Note: the Sala de Concerts is the main room and a more spectacular setting than the Petit Palau, on site but underground.

Neale E. Creamer
Portland, OR

Water puppets parade in front of the stage screen that hides the puppeteers — Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi. Photos: Patten

The puppet shows l’ve seen while on trips to Southeast Asia have been among my most memorable experiences. I’ll never forget the marionette show I saw in Mandalay, Myanmar, or the shadow puppet play in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

The most unique puppet performances I saw were the water puppet shows in HANOI, Vietnam, in December ’09 while on tour with Vantage Deluxe World Travel (Boston, MA; 800/322-6677).

The first show we saw was indoors at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (57B Dinh Tien Hoang St., Hanoi, Vietnam; phone [84 04] 3 8249494 — performances 6:30 & 8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 9:30 a.m. & 6:30 & 8 p.m. Sunday. VND40,000-VND60,000 [$2-$3]).

The performance took place in a tank of water measuring at least 200 by 100 feet. Although thoroughly enjoyable, the show, performed on a stage in a dimly lighted theater, was not conducive to photography and seemed geared primarily to the tourist trade.

I saw the second show by chance when our tour group visited the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (Nguyen Van Huyen Rd., Cau Giay District, Hanoi, Vietnam; phone [+84 4] 37 56 21 93, fax 38 36 03 51. Open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tues.-Sun. Entry, VND25,000).

The puppet performances took place in an outdoor pond, measuring at least 500 by 500 feet, on the museum grounds and were included with the admission price.

With his rod removed, this jolly fellow stands in a puppetry display case in the Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi.

Hidden behind an elaborate stage set at one end of a pond, the puppeteers stood waist deep in water behind a hanging screen and manipulated the puppets attached to long rods hidden beneath the water’s surface. Actually very clever, a series of pulleys and cords helped to give action to many of the carved wooden figures while musicians played and soloists sang traditional songs.

The traditional Vietnamese music rose to crescendos of sound at the most dramatic moments in the stories. Special effects also were used to create fire-breathing dragons, smoke-filled battles and celebrations with fireworks.

At the end of the performances, the puppeteers emerged from behind the screen to receive the applause of the audience. It was primarily the local Vietnamese who ringed the pond, seated on low benches, though there were a few travelers such as myself. Some of the 45-minute performances sell out quickly, so calling in advance is recommended.

Reputedly, the Vietnamese water-puppet-show tradition dates back a thousand years. For me, these shows — often fanciful and humorous — were among the most enjoyable, authentically characteristic and unique aspects of Vietnamese culture that I witnessed on my trip. I even felt compelled to purchase one of the jolly little water puppets, with its large, grinning face, at one of Hanoi’s touristy shops as a souvenir of my trip.

David J. Patten
St. Petersburg, FL