Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — An actress from Chile, with a passion for Asian culture and art, Josefina Florin decided to focus on Việt Nam and eventually learn cải lương (the reformed opera), a traditional music genre from Việt Nam.
“I saw some videos featuring cải lương and found that there is a full culture behind it, with a logic, a morality and beliefs expressed in lyrics, in movements, in rhythms and in gesture,” said Florin.
“The rhythm is one of the things I like the most about cải lương. It has a meditation side and is like a pulse that makes you feel that everything in life has its time, its precise moment,” said Florin.
The Chilean woman with an academic background in Theatre and Acting from the University of Chile first came to Việt Nam in February this year, following her teacher’s recommendation. Florin registered to study at HCM City’s University of Cinema and Theatre and became the only foreign student at the traditional opera faculty of the university.
“I always wanted to learn about Asia and their people’s way of thinking to enrich my knowledge about this land, which is opposite from my origins and my point of view,” said Florin.
“I had no idea what I was going to find in Việt Nam before coming here. I just had an image of this country from some movies and TV in general, but they are full of stereotypes. I thought it was going to be an interesting place for a foreigner with a different cultural background like me to come to live in and I was right,” said Florin.
“People in Việt Nam are very welcoming and very tolerant most of the time, at least with foreigners and to me, Sài Gòn is a lovely place to live,” said Florin.
Florin fell for cải lương after watching videos online.
“What I like about it is how it sounds, the instruments in there, the rhythms and the melody. I love everything about it. On the other hand, to sing this type of traditional music genre, there is a new way to breathe that I would not have known if I had not come to Việt Nam. This is really useful to my formation as an actress,” said Florin.
Actors need to train their bodies and voices constantly and find techniques to improve in their art and take care of their instrument, their bodies and their vocals chords, said Florin.
Cải lương is never easy to study and Florin is no exception, not to mention that she is foreigner.
“Everything was difficult, as cliché as it sounds, everything was against me. I didn’t understand the Vietnamese language, so I had problems with pronunciation which I am practicing every day to improve,” said Florin.
But the most difficult is the variety of tones in the Vietnamese language, the loud way to sing, sometimes very high sounds that jump to very low sounds, and of course, to keep the rhythm, said Florin.
“As most teachers and friends cannot speak English, Florin had to record all the lessons.
“To learn cải lương is already very hard yet I start to feel the benefits of it now, that is why I want to keep studying it and understanding it. Cải lương gives me the possibility to explore my own voice and of course with the musical logic I have in my mind. It will also be very useful pedagogy for actors. Step by step I am making the connections,” said Florin.
“Learning this traditional music of Việt Nam is like a very slow research project requiring great patience, yet I feel like I am eating a delicious cake, bite after bite to enjoy the taste of it”
Meanwhile living in HCM City is also an interesting experience for the Chilean actress. “Contrasts coexist in harmony and HCM City is a dialogue between a lot of aspirations, a lot of history, tradition and modernity, rules and foreigners, sports and cars, rise early and smoke cigarettes. This is a lovely place to live, said Florin.
“I am enjoying every single bite of my Vietnamese cake, so nothing is sure in the future.” —VNS