Vietnamese artists celebrate “cai luong” opera centennial

15:10 | 18/06/2018 Society

(VEN) - Artists from around Vietnam joined recently to celebrate the 100th anniversary of cai luong, a form of modern folk opera that originated in Southern Vietnam in the early 20th century, blending folk songs, classical music, classical theater form based on Chinese opera, and modern drama.

vietnamese artists celebrate cai luong opera centennial

Traditional with modern

The highlight of the anniversary events was the staging of the play “Thay Ba Doi” (Teacher Ba Doi) at the Hanoi Opera House and in Ho Chi Minh City with the participation of nearly 90 artists.

The 150-minute play portrays the career of famous musician Nguyen Quang Dai, a guru of cai luong who helped develop tai tu music, a genre of traditional music, and cai luong.

The play, combining both traditional and modern performance styles, is based on Vietnamese society in 1888, when the French colonialists exiled King Ham Nghi to Africa. The King entrusted musician Nguyen Quang Dai with preserving the royal court music in the dynastic capital Hue, and Dai had to evade the colonialists’ hunt while seeking to further spread the national royal music.

For the first time, “Thay Ba Doi” was performed together by dozens of famous artists from the North, the South and the Center of Vietnam, along with artists from the Vietnam cai luong Theatre and the Tran Huu Trang Cai Luong Theatre playing major roles.

It was also performed for delegates of the fifth session of 14th National Assembly on May 28 at the Hanoi Opera House. Meritorious Artist Trieu Trung Kien, one of the play’s four directors, told media, “We want to satisfy audiences who want to enjoy cai luong with something new. Cai luong will attract younger audiences if it provides a new and modern style.”

Kien and his staff decided to ask Meritorious Artist Doan Bang to participate in the stage and costume design, and the performers practiced singing and dance skills for hours each day to provide theatre fans with a great show, featuring strong and melodic voices and an appealing and powerful stage presence, Kien said.

Preserving cai luong

In addition to staging the play, a scientific seminar was held under the title “A century of establishment and development of Vietnamese cai luong (1918-2018) - issues, orientations and solutions for developments.”

Seminar participants agreed that while it has experienced many vicissitudes during its 100 years of development, cai luong has developed in all three regions of the country, attracting audiences not only in cities but also in remote rural areas. Cai luong helps increase Vietnamese patriotism and encourages people to participate in revolutionary movements, they said.

However, the dominance of modern media, the penetration of foreign cultural and artistic products, young audience tastes and market demand all are causing major challenges for the preservation of this traditional art.

Vo Van Thuong, head of the Party Central Committee’s Communication and Education Commission, said that cai luong arises from people’s life and spiritual activities and is nurtured by the people, and artists play a crucial role in maintaining it as an attractive, quality and successful art. Therefore, training young artists is important, he said. Sectors, localities, authorities at different levels, the Vietnam Stage Artists Association and the media should facilitate cai luong development and preservation, Thuong urged.

Hoa Quynh