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Class nurtures love for cheo opera

Update: July, 24/2014 - 09:14
Coming back: Cheo lecturer Trinh Thanh Huyen (left) and stage director Le Tuan Cuong (right) instructs a class member how to act in a cheo repertoire. — Photo courtesy of Cheo 48H

HA NOI  (VNS) — Twice a week, a group of more than 20 young people gathers together to learn and practise Ly Truong Me Dop (Village Head and Mrs.Dop) – an excerpt from the famous cheo (Vietnamese traditional opera) repertoire Quan Am Thi Kinh.

This class is the focal point of an art project that aims to get young people excited about cheo – a traditional art form that's at risk of fading.

Initiated by a group of four students in Ha Noi and HCM City, the one-month project has been developed from a concept that won the innovative ideas contest Toi 20 (I'm Twenty) in January. The students used their prize money to evolve their idea.

"Sadly, due to the rapid increasing of global integration, many Vietnamese young people have ignored Vietnamese traditional art forms," Nguyen Ngoc Anh, one of the project's initiators lamented, "as they are absorbedly interested in cultural trends imported from abroad. This causes the traditional art forms, including cheo, to lose their reputations."

According to a student survey Anh and her teammates conducted, 89 per cent said their schools' offerings in traditional culture and art courses were seriously lacking.

Nearly a quarter of the students expressed their wish to learn about cheo, but complained that they can't find any classes or courses.

That survey inspired the group to launch their project last month, inviting young people to join.

"By opening the class on cheo, we just want to kindle the passion for cheo of young people," Anh said. "The class is also to connect people who share the love for this art form."

Since the beginning of July, 24 young people – mainly college and university students, between 14 and 23 years old – have gathered twice a week at the Cinematography University, Ha Noi to take their first cheo lessons.

Cheo lecturer Trinh Thanh Huyen and stage director Le Tuan Cuong were invited to conduct the class, which equips students with singing, dancing and acting skills.

Huyen said she was very surprise when she got the offer to conduct the class because, "all the project's initiators and class members are very young. I'm very moved to see those young people have a special interest in cheo."

"Within the limited time of the course, I don't have ambition to teach them to become professional artists. I just want to equip them with basic knowledge on cheo, thus to develop further their passion with the art form," Huyen added.

Alongside the practice in class, the students recently had an exchange with experienced musicians of the Viet Nam Cheo Theatre, who shared their knowledge of different musical instruments.

The class will also took a trip to Ninh Binh – the cradle of the traditional art form since the 10th century – where the young people will meet local artisans.

To raise fund for this trip, the project's conductors also will organise a music performance tonight entitled Nguon Coi (The Root) at Hi Bar Cafe, 8 Huynh Thuc Khang Street. The night will feature cheo artists Khuong Cuong, Trinh Huyen, and Tien Doan, who will present popular folk tunes. An extract from the traditional opera Thi Mau Len Chua (Miss Mau Visits Pagoda) will also be presented by the class members.

To conclude the course, on July 31, the young members will stage a performance, which is expected to take place at the Kim Lien Communal House in Dong Da District.

"When the project completed," said Dinh Thao, one of the project's initiators and a student of traditional music at the Music Academy, "we expect to establish a cheo club with many practical activities, aiming to bring the art form to as many young people as possible. The club will gather all people who joined in the project as well as other cheo lovers." — VNS

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