|Meritorious Artist Phương Quang and his partner, Meritorious Artist Thanh Vy, in the play Nàng Xê-Đa (Xê-Đa – The Pretty Woman), which helped them become famous cai luong stars. Photo from vnexpress.net|
HCM CITY – Meritorious Artist Phương Quang, a star of cải lương (reformed opera), died Friday (July 13) in HCM City after five years of illness from degenerative brain disease. He was 76.
Tôn Quang Bảo, Quang’s eldest son, said his father pledged to donate his body for medical research to Phạm Ngọc Thạch Medical University after death.
Quang, whose real name is Tô Văn Quang, was born in Sông Bé Province (now Bình Dương Province).
As a child, he admired People’s Artist Út Trà Ôn and studied cải lương singing by listening to Ôn’s performances on local radio programmes.
When he was 18, he moved to Sài Gòn (now HCM City) to study music with composer and musician Văn Còn, who discovered his talent.
Quang later worked for Kim Thành and Kim Chưởng, who were famous cải lương troupes in the South at that time.
With a strong voice and appearance, he gained fame by playing heroic roles.
His favourite plays included Hai chiều ly biệt (Farewell Evening), Mặt trời đêm (Midnight Sun), Người nhạn trắng (White Bird Man), and Sương gió biệt vương cung (Waves at the Palace).
In 1966, he won best actor from Thanh Tâm Awards for his leading role in the play Tình Nào Cho Em (Love for You). Thanh Tâm was the most prestigious cải lương award at the time, given by Tiếng Dội (Echo) newspaper from 1958-1968.
Quang became a bright star in the 1970s. In 1983, he joined Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre, the leading troupe in the South, and played a leading role in Nàng Xê-Đa (Xê-Đa – The Pretty Woman).
The play was staged from 1983 to 1993 with 1,500 performances across the country. It was broadcast many times on television stations in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta region.
He also performed in Tình yêu và lời đáp (Love and Response), winning the Golden Prize for best actor at the National Professional Theatre Festival in 1985.
The artist’s family held a commemoration ceremony at his house in District 7 on July 14 with veteran cải lương artists like People’s Artist Bạch Tuyết, Meritorious Artist Thanh Vy, and Lệ Thủy. – VNS