Experts rail against updated cheo
HA NOI — Some artists are endeavoring to build the popularity of the traditional art of cheo (northern-style operetta) by updating it for contemporary audiences, but some experts think this is causing cheo to lose its traditional and unique features.
|Show time: A scene in Quan Am Thi Kinh (Goddess of Mercy), a classical cheo in which themes still resonate for modern society. — File Photo
To lure audiences to cheo stages, artists and composers have added new arrangements, combined cheo with contemporary arts, and introduced new storylines into cheo pieces. But the effort has been met with opposition from both researchers and audience who complained that the resulting performance is no longer cheo.
"Cheo mainly reflects the ordinary lives of rural people and recounts old tales with romantic and lyrical melodies, so it's not suitable for serious topics like the conflict between the rich and the poor, cutthroat competition in the market economy, or crime prevention," said Pham Duy Khue, professor of performing arts at the Ha Noi College of Culture.
He suggested that simple moral lessons or tales of humanity and patriotism, praising beauty or lofty ideals, were appropriate for cheo.
"To bring cheo closer to modern life, we can use new stories as a basis for actors to express the emotions and internal lives of characters," Khue said. "But the original framework and melody of traditional cheo should be kept intact."
Ha Noi Institute of Theatre and Cinema deputy director Dinh Quang Trung agreed that many modern cheo pieces were influenced by social issues, but he insisted that it wasn't necessary to build up cheo with modern stories.
"I don't think that only new pieces can reflect modern society," Trung said. "Many older pieces have stories which reflect universal themes. For example, the relationship among villagers and local laws in some regions reflected in the old piece Quan Am Thi Kinh (Goddess of Mercy) are still true for modern society."
Musician Bui Duc Hanh said too much modern cheo combined traditional cheo elements with a modern musical play.
"I know many audiences aren't satisfied with the combination," Hanh said. "We should improve cheo but preserve the old features. Modern subjects are reserved for other arts, such as drama, television and cinema, not cheo." — VNS