|Complex past: Le Trung Thao (right) plays the role of the famous commander Le Van Duyet in Trung Than (Loyalist), a historical play to be staged during the 2015 National Cai Luong Festival in Bac Lieu. — Photo cailuongvietnam.com
HCM CITY (VNS) — Meritorious Artist Hoa Ha hopes that her creative approach will shift theatre-goers' attention from lightweight comedies to the art of cai luong (reformed opera).
Her new production of the play Trung Than (Loyalist) will be staged during Bac Lieu's National Cai Luong Festival, which opened last Friday and closes on November 23.
Theatre lovers familiar with Ha's innovative take on stage are anxious to see the play, which depicts the controversial life and death of Le Van Duyet, a national hero who contributed to the development of southern Viet Nam in the 19th century.
The 90-minute tragedy is staged by young artists from the Tran Huu Trang Theatre.
"I faced challenges staging the historical play which explores Duyet, the greatest general of the Gia Dinh Citadel, which covered 30,000sq.km in south Viet Nam," said young actor Le Trung Thao, who plays Duyet.
"Because of my love for cai luong, I will try my best to portray the spirit of the famed hero Duyet in a lively way," he said.
Trung Than focuses on the period between 1813 and 1820, when Duyet was the commander of Gia Dinh.
Ha invited skilled musicians and fashion designers to fill the stage with the beauty of music and clothing.
She used more than 30 actors, including young talents Le Tu, Dien Trung and Tu Suong, to perfect the production.
Trung Than is expected to be staged in early December at the HCM City Drama Theatre, 30 Tran Hung Dao Street, District 1, after joining the cai luong festival.
Duyet was born in 1764 in Tien Giang Province's Cu Lao Ho (now Hoa Khanh Village). He began his career by supporting Emperor Gia Long (Nguyen Phuc Anh), founder of the Nguyen dynasty, when he was 17.
In 1812, Duyet was nominated to the post of commander of the Gia Dinh Citadel, which includes Bien Hoa and Sai Gon districts.
He worked to build dike and irrigation systems and was known for his military talent and his fight against corrupt officials and sycophantic courtiers.
Thanks to Duyet's management, the Gia Dinh Citadel developed into a populous and rich area.
After Emperor Gia Long's death in 1820, the young heir Minh Mang (Nguyen Phuc Dan), however, did not trust Duyet.
Duyet's troubles began when he issued a death sentence to the official Huynh Cong Ly, father-in-law of Emperor Minh Mang, who had committed serious crimes including corruption.
To recover the people's belief in the court, Duyet decided to behead Ly before reporting him to the king.
Because of the public's strong support for Duyet's decisions, Emperor Minh Mang feared reprisal and did nothing.
But three years later, after Duyet died in 1832, the emperor handed out nine death sentences to Duyet, which in turn implicated Duyet's family. His grave was then destroyed.
Nine years after Duyet's death, Emperor Thieu Tri officially pardoned him, declaring that the great commander had been innocent.
To memorialise Duyet, people in HCM City worshipped him as a god at a temple called Lang Ong Ba Chieu (Le Van Duyet Temple) in Dinh Tien Hoang Street in Binh Thanh District.
The temple, recognised as a National Historical and Cultural Relic, attracts several thousand local residents each year. — VNS