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Culture Vulture ( 27-05-2015) Linh Huyen's songs make people weep

Update: May, 26/2015 - 19:00


Linh Huyen dedicates to preserving the art of cai luong.

Linh Huyen, 44, is a cai luong (reformed theatre) artist known for her efforts to preserve and develop traditional music. Cai luong, a form of modern folk opera, particularly famous in the south. It was recorgnised as the world intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2013. Linh Huyen has also composed several highly acclaimed cai luong performances, including The Soul of Viet Nam — a variety show. She spoke about her passion for cai luong and her plan to set up a museum dedicating to the art.

You studied cai luong with late musician Ut Trong when you were small. Why did you engage in the art at such a young age ?

I grew up with enchanting cai luong melodies. My lifestyle was formed around the music. It showed me beauty and humanity. Teacher Ut Trong agreed to train me when I was 11. I went to his house far away every summer vacation.

My mother didn't want me to become a professional cai luong artist. I had to study at HCM University of Technology and Education. In the first year at the school, I took part in several cai luong singing contests and won awards, including a silver medal at a national contest in 1989 and a gold medal for Mekong artists in 1993.

Why did Ut Trong choose you to pass on his work? Will it be useful for your project of setting up a cai luong museum?

Ut Trong didn't have child. He saw my passion for cai luong and my desire to preserve and develop traditional music. He handed over to me all his research and curriculum, which he compiled himself. He was recognised as one of the Vietnamese masters of cai luong. It would be a regret if his research was not utilised.

Since I have have been given this inheritance I'm waiting to set up a museum. About 54 wax replicas of famed cai luong artists will be displayed. The museum will be designed by an Australian architect. I'm wondering whether to place the museum in HCM City or Long An Province.

The Soul of Viet Nam was voted the best of 80 best cultural destinations in HCM City by TripAdvisor. — Photo

Why do you highlight women's rights in your compositions, such as Ho Xuan Huong and Suong Nguyet Anh ?

I engaged in composing in 2001. First, my composition was commissioned for HCM Television. Later, I was invited to write cai luong scripts by HCM Television for about 10 years. The compositions were highly acclaimed, including Suong Nguyet Anh.

Suong Nguyet Anh was based on the real life of a female journalist in the early 20th century, the first editor-in-chief of Common Woman, a Vietnamese nespaper. The script earned me a gold medal at the National Television Festival in 2008.

Ho Xuan Huong is about a female poet recognised as Queen of Nom (Chinese characters) script poetry. I love Vietnamese women. No other women suffer losses like Vietnamese women. I always support them.

You spent VND900 million (US$40,000) to perform Ho Xuan Huong. What makes you want to continue?

I wrote Ho Xuan Huong script for HCMC Television. However, the performance was cut by one segment because of the time limit. It was my favourite. I decided to make it for the stage and had it presented at HCMC Opera House. However the show failed to lure audiences.

I still remember the last show at the Opera House. There were only 11 guests, including dressed-up foreigners. A theatre representative asked me if we should go ahead, and I said yes. After the show, a Russian guest gave me flowers and said in fluent Vietnamese that she watched the show three times and it made her cry every time.

My money ran out, but I thought I was doing a worthwhile thing. I want traditional music artists to bring joy and happiness with their performances.

How about the variety show The Soul of Viet Nam, which is performed at your house?

The show is proving to be an attraction and draws up to 50 people a time to my home. It was voted the best of 80 best cultural destinations in HCM City by TripAdvisor.

At the beginning, the show was performed twice a month at the city Opera House. I wanted The Soul of Viet Nam to be performed on weekends. However I could not reach an agreement with the theatre managers.

I trimmed the show down and took it to my house in District 2. Before watching the show, guests taste Vietnamese dishes and are given an introduction to cai luong heritage. — VNS

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