Updated  
April, 13 2014 18:03:55

Hue gala to dazzle, expand audience

Imperial majesty: Royal vestiges like forts and palaces provide an attractive setting for the Hue Festival, drawing hundreds of thousands of local and international visitors. — VNA/VNS Photo Nhat Anh

The latest edition of the biennial Hue Festival, starting this weekend, seeks to offer more things to more people, but 16 years on, the landmark event faces several ‘familiar' challenges, reports Phuoc Buu.

All roads lead to Hue this month, as its biennial cultural event - Hue Festival 2014 - readies to light up and rock the former royal capital from April 12 to 20.

The local residents, the Vietnamese people from around the country and foreigners will enjoy unique performances by Vietnamese and international artists as well as take in the festive atmosphere of folklore games and street and community activities.

According to the event's organizer, the Hue Festival Centre, 65 cultural troupes from 38 countries and territories in Asia, Europe, North and South America and Africa will take part in the event.

The international event being hosted by Hue is open to audiences from around the world. "The event is no doubt important for the host city, but it will also impact the nation's cultural profile," Hoang Tuan Anh, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said in a meeting with the organiser in March. Anh said this was an opportunity to enhance solidarity between the ASEAN countries through an ASEAN summit of culture ministers.

Starting with a grand ceremony on April 12 evening, the festival will highlight about 60 performances. During the days, there will be hundreds of royal games, music and art performances and exhibitions at public places. Visitors too would be able to participate in the games.

The two main sites for the performances are the former Imperial City and the An Dinh Palace, which is on the southern bank of the Huong (Perfume) River. Inside the Imperial City, there will be eight stages located around the Thai Hoa Palace, the Can Chanh Palace, the Duyet Thi Duong royal theatre, the Dien Tho Palace, the Co Ha royal garden and the Kien Trung Palace.

Spectacle: Colourful fireworks are always a popular attraction. — VNS Photo Le Huy Hoang Hai

The Imperial City will host various shows by Vietnamese and international troupes. The An Dinh Palace will have different contemporary music shows, including pop, rock and flamenco music, in order to attract young audiences.

"Many audience members feel that the event will focus on traditional culture and old values and will have music like nha nhac (Hue royal court music) or re-enactions of royal ceremonies. So we're making an effort to include the youth by offering them their favourite contemporary music," said Huynh Tien Dat, the Hue Festival Centre's deputy director. Bands from many countries, including Micachu from England, Stoffer and Maskinen from Denmark, Gasandji from Congo, Tararam from Israel, Musbaba from Mali and Deep Blue from Australia will perform at the event.

Flamenco will be performed by the Ha Noi bands Lang Du, Nam Dong Ke and Co La. A rock show named Rock-Heritage will showcase the famous Vietnamese famous bands Buc Tuong, Ngu Cung, Microware and Oringchain.

According to Dat, the key night programme in the Imperial City would be the Royal Palace at Night, which will allow visitors to see the beautiful royal palace at night and offer a grand feast which the kings of yore used to hold for national guests.

"The feast will be a combination of royal meals and music which have been planned carefully to please the guests," he said.

Lithesome dancers in colourful attire. — VNS Photo Le Hoang Hai

The Royal Palace at Night event will be held on two nights, April 15 and 19. Dat admitted that in the previous festivals, the Royal Palace at Night programme had many shortcomings.

"The Royal Palace at Night held during the first Hue Festival in 2000, which was directed by a French artist, was perfect. But the attempts by the Vietnamese people to recreate that in the next few years were not good and disappointed the feast guests."

Dat said the Hue Festival Centre, together with the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre, is working hard for a real music-cum-feast gala, both by improving the organisation and the food quality.

According to Phan Thanh Hai, director of the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre, which manages the Imperial City and the An Dinh Palace, this year's Royal Palace at Night will re-enact the theme of the royal feast and will be managed by a qualified events director. Meanwhile, the food for the feast will be cooked by Ho Thi Hoang Anh, who is the granddaughter of a royal chef.

The other notable shows at the event would highlight ao dai fashion, Hue-style singing and the installation of fire objects on the renowned Truong Tien Bridge.

Glowing tribute: A candle installation. — VNS Photo Le Huy Hoang Hai

The beauty of Vietnamese women in ao dai has attracted the Vietnamese people and their friends from around the world. Thus the fashion shows are always the most attractive event at the festivals.

This year, 600 samples of ao dai will be displayed onstage and illuminated by fireworks by artist Alain Hurbert.

Each collection will feature the culture of a country. Russia will be represented by Matryoshka and the Kremlin Palace. Japan by its old patterns and Thailand with its colourful, unique materials. The Netherlands will showcase its embroidered tulip flowers. About 100 models will perform in ao dai in two shows on April 14 and 17, where the costume will become a symbol of multinational solidarity.

The Hue singing, also known as the Hue tune, is a variation of Hue royal court music. Part of the lyrics derived from folk songs. Many were composed by mandarins who staged performances in their homes. The Hue singing is the most brilliant traditional music of the country's central region. A show honouring this art genre will be held on April 16 at Nghinh Luong Dinh Pavilion.

Mythical creatures: The festival presents a wide variety of performances including kylin and lion dances. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha

The renowned Truong Tien Bridge, which spans the poetic Huong River, is illuminated by colourful lights every night. But during the event, it will be lit up with fire. On some streets, carnival parades by troupes from the East Asian and Latin American countries will be held on April 13, 15, 17 and 19.

On the sidelines, the Festival will have 27 art exhibitions, five conferences, 17 traditional and community festivals and six sports competitions. The city's culture and tourism sector is expected to receive 200,000 visitors during the event, generating more revenue for the sector this year. But many people doubt the economic value of the festival. Nguyen Van Thanh, deputy director of the Hue Festival Centre, said this year's event would continue to promote Hue culture via the international visitors and art troupes participating in the event.

The locals and the people around the country are concerned that the increased cost of tickets for some shows at the event will exclude the domestic audience. The royal feast at the Royal Palace at Night event, for instance, costs US$95 per person. — VNS

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