Cải lương plays featuring Vietnamese history restaged

September 21, 2022 - 10:37
A series of cải lương (reformed opera) plays are being restaged in new versions by leading theatres and art troupes in HCM City. 


CẢI LƯƠNG ARTISTRY: Talented artists of the private Đại Việt Cải Lương Stage perform in the historical play called 'Đêm Trước Ngày Hoàng Đạo' (The Night Before Dawn). Photo courtesy of the producer. 

By Thu Anh

HCM CITY —  A series of cải lương (reformed opera) plays are being restaged in new versions by leading theatres and art troupes in HCM City. 

One play, Đêm Trước Ngày Hoàng Đạo (The Night Before Dawn), features talented artists of the private the Đại Việt Cải Lương Stage. 

The work features the unjust death of national hero Nguyễn Trãi, one of Việt Nam’s greatest politicians and poets.

It portrays the circumstances of Trãi’s death, which resulted from a secret involving the death of King Lê Thái Tông in early 1442.  

The play’s director, Meritorious Artist Hoa Hạ, assigned cải lương stars Meritorious Artist Thoại Mỹ and actor Võ Minh Lâm to guarantee her production’s success. 

The debut left a very strong impression on theatregoers in July, a clear indication that people are ready for quality and innovative plays.  

Hạ is working to restage her play in a new version to send it to compete at the Capital City Theatre Festival 2022 in Hà Nội from September 26 to October 5. 

The new version includes scenes when King Lê Thái Tông visited Trãi’s family. 

The king meets Trãi’s young wife, Nguyễn Thị Lộ, a native of Thái Bình Province, who was known for her great learning. He decides to sleep at the manor Lệ Chi, owned by Trãi’s family, and that night, he suddenly becomes ill and dies.

The court later blames Trãi and his wife for the king’s death, accusing them of treason. Trãi, Lộ and members of three generations of both of their families are then executed.

Hoa Hạ’s work also focuses on King Lê Thánh Tông, the fourth son of King Lê Thái Tông, who, 20 years after Trãi’s death, officially pardons him, declaring that the great scholar was innocent in the death of his father. 

“I wanted to perfect the staging of cải lương to attract both older and younger generations,” said director Hoa Hạ, who has more than 40 years in the industry. My new version of Đêm Trước Ngày Hoàng Đạo is targeted to young audiences.”

Hoa Hạ said Đại Việt Cải Lương Stage invested several hundred million đồng on high-tech equipment, including light and sound effects, artificial smoke and visual arts. 

“We have tried our best to portray Vietnamese history on stage as realistically as possible,” she said. 

HISTORICAL DRAMA: Famous reformed opera plays on Vietnamese history in the 1960s and 1980s are restaged through a new drama programme aired by Hồ Chí Minh City Television. Photo courtesy of the producer. 

The state-owned Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre is working with its partner, Hồ Chí Minh City Television, to produce and air a programme called Chuyện Về Những Vở Diễn Một Thời (Vietnamese Theatre in the Past and Now). 

The programme features famous plays consisting of dramas, cải lương and tuồng (classical drama), written and directed by talented artists in the South who played a role in the development of the country’s theatre. 

The plays portray southern history, culture and lifestyles. 

Talks by veteran performers, such as People’s Artist Kim Cương and People’s Artist Bạch Tuyết, are also included. 

The latest show featuring Lá Sầu Riêng (Durian Leaf), a dramatic play about southern women written and directed by People’s Artist Kim Cương, aired last month.

Actress Kim Cương and her staff offered a quality drama in a southern style, a style that requires specific performance skills. 

The next show will be Thái Hậu Dương Vân Nga (Queen Mother Dương Vân Nga), a production on the first queen in Việt Nam who was married to the emperors of the Đinh and Lê dynasties. 

Nga served as Queen Regent of the Đinh dynasty after her husband, Đinh Tiên Hoàng, was assassinated in 979 and when her son was six years old. 

She later decided to cede the Đinh dynasty’s throne to General Lê Hoàn in 980 in order to defend the country before the invasion of the Chinese Song dynasty. Hoàn became the first emperor of the Early Lê dynasty. He married and gave Nga the title of empress Đại Thắng Minh. 

“Our TV programme began last year and has offered quality plays with truly southern dramas,” said the show’s producer and art director Đoàn Duẩn. 

The programme, Chuyện Về Những Vở Diễn Một Thời, is broadcast on channel HTVC Thuần Việt at 10am every Sunday. — VNS