Opera Co Sao (Miss Sao) by director Huyen Nga won a special award at the National Song and Dance Competition held in the northern province of Thai Nguyen last month. The opera also won two gold and two silver prizes for four actors.
Miss Sao was the first Vietnamese opera written by late composer Do Nhuan in 1963.
Culture Vulture interviewed director Huyen Nga about her work.
It is rare to see opera at national professional song and dance competitions. Were you surprised at the success of the opera Miss Sao?
First of all it dignifies a decision made by the Viet Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) where I have been working for 18 years. The theatre management board sent the opera Miss Sao and the ballet Khoanh Khac Bat Tu (Immortality Moment) to the National Song and Dance Competition 2015.
The two works won 14 prizes in total. It's great for us because the VNOB is the only theatre in Ha Noi to have opera and ballet performances. We are disadvantaged because we rarely have chances to attend the professional competitions held by the culture ministry.
The prizes encourage all who join the opera. The prizes will help actors qualify for titles awarded later by the State.
The opera is your graduation work. Why did you choose Miss Sao?
I used to be an opera artist. I graduated the Viet Nam National Academy of Music in 1997. Over the past years, I was a performer at the VNOB where I had chances to work as an assistant of foreign directors under culture and art co-operation projects.
When the theatre wants to restage these works, they contact me. Additionally, I have taken advantages of field trips abroad to learn about training, directing and acting.
I studied direction at Ha Noi Cinema and Theatre College. When I prepared for graduation, I wanted to stage a Vietnamese opera. I think Vietnamese opera is rewarding, particularly for people like myself who study Vietnamese history and culture.
Opera Miss Sao charmed me when I studied directing it.
What difficulties do you face when you stage opera Miss Sao?
My teachers and my colleagues suggested I do something that fits my ability, like a drama. I knew staging an opera would cost me, but I really wanted to stage Miss Sao.
The opera was staged by directors Vo Bai and Van Ha in 1965 and 1976, respectively. That was a long time ago. I was born and grew up in peace time. What I feel about life of people in the Northwest region during the war against the French is reflected in the opera.
I began to prepare for the opera in October, 2011, for my graduation. It was performed on March 5, 2012. I daren't invite my colleagues and friends to the performance. But many of them came to see and cheer me up. I was surprised and very happy.
The opera was performed at Ha Noi Opera House and in the northern province of Son La. How did you feel?
I asked the opera composer's son, Do Hong Quan, for the copyright. He happily agreed. His family came to see the graduation performance.
Later, composer Quan, chairman of Viet Nam Musicians Association, invited me to show the opera at Ha Noi Opera House to mark the 90th anniversary of Do Nhuan's birthday in November, 2012.
I adjusted staging and design because of wide participation by the musicians' association, Viet Nam National Orchestra and Symphony, and Viet Nam National Ballet and Opera.
Last year, the opera was taken to Son La. I'm moved because it was respected and given strong attention. Many local people came to see the performance. While the opera is little known, audiences were moved. — VNS