Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — As many as 100 cultural experts, producers and directors are taking part in a seminar in HCM City today to seek ways to attract young audiences to cải lương (reformed opera).
The seminar was organised by the Voice of Việt Nam, the Việt Nam Theatre Artists Association and their partners as part of the country’s programme to mark the 100th anniversary of cải lương.
Nguyễn Thị Trúc Bạch, of the Southern Institute of Social Sciences, said: “Today, young people have more interest in pop music, foreign music and action movies than in cải lương.”
A survey on cải lương conducted by the institute in HCM City in 2014 showed that nearly 74 per cent of people liked listening to pop music, but only 6.1 per cent liked cải lương.
More than 50 per cent enjoyed action movies, but only 4.3 per cent chose cải lương.
“Cải lương should be shown in schools to stimulate student’s interest in the art,” Bạch said.
She suggested holding talk shows and performing excerpts from famous cải lương plays in schools to provide basic knowledge about the art to students.
Scriptwriter Vương Huyền Cơ said: “In today’s society, the internet is the best way to approach young people. So cải lương theatres, radio and television stations, and artists should produce and upload cải lương videos on YouTube to attract young audiences.”
Last November, People’s Artist Bạch Tuyết, a cải lương guru, made waves with the video Em Gái Mưa (Rainy Girl), a cải lương version of a 2017 hit single of the same title by young pop star Hương Tràm.
Her video received more than 400,000 views on YouTube.
Cải lương actress Linh Huyền attracted 2,000 viewers on YouTube with her video featuring a performance of the cải lương play Bà Chúa Thơ Nôm (Queen of Nôm Poetry) with English subtitles.
Speaking at the seminar, Huyền said that she created her own YouTube channel called Linh Huyen Vietnamese opera to introduce cải lương to both Vietnamese and foreigners. She said it was the best way to capture new audiences.
Seminar participants, especially producers, emphasised the need for co-operation between TV stations and cải lương theatres to bring good plays and performances to TV.
HCM City Television Station said that its key cải lương shows, including Vầng Trăng Cổ Nhạc (Traditional Music), Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ (Golden Bell) and Ngân Mãi Chuông Vàng (Ringing Bell), are broadcast every week.
The shows have been warmly welcomed from people in southern provinces, and have inspired many young artists.
However, some seminar participants complained that many cải lương plays on TV had poor quality scripts.
“I have approached many scripts and many of them are poor quality. Unfortunately, poor quality scripts are still broadcast on TV,” Cơ said
She said that television stations should broadcast only one play a month, but it must be an excellent one.
“A quality script is one of the most important elements in capturing audiences for TV dramas,” she said.
Meritorious Artist Trần Minh Ngọc agreed with Cơ, saying that cải lương plays are still focusing on historical events and characters. “Cải lương plays need new topics, highlighting contemporary social issues.”
Ngọc added: “The Government should issue a long-term project on developing staff for cải lương, including scriptwriters, directors and performers.”
“Big cities like HCM City and Cần Thơ should also have new and modern cải lương theatres to attract more audiences,” said the 82-year-old director.
Võ Văn Thưởng, head of the Party Central Committee’s Publicity and Education Commission, said at the seminar that cải lương was facing many challenges, including a decrease in the number of performances, theatres and audiences.
“The Government, provincial authorities and cải lương artists need to work together to develop and promote the art,” Thưởng said.
Following the seminar today will be a premiere of Thầy Ba Đợi (Master Ba Đợi), a play portraying the career of famous musician Nguyễn Quang Đại, a guru of cải lương who helped develop tài tử music, a genre of traditional music, and cải lương in the South.
The play, directed by young director Triệu Trung Kiên, features 50 artists of the Việt Nam Cải Lương Theatre from Hà Nội and Trần Hữu Trang Theatre from HCM City.
It will be staged at Bến Thành Theatre in HCM City tonight and on May 1, and in Long An Province on April 29. — VNS