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Rural female artist reinvigorates cải lương

Update: August, 20/2018 - 09:00
Meritorious Artist Ngọc Đợi, one of the region’s most talented young artists from the Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Theatre, has played an important part in helping revive the traditional art. — Photo from the artist’s Facebook
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY— An open-air cải lương (reformed opera) show starring one of the region’s most talented young artists will be held at the Lê Thị Riêng Park in Bạc Liêu City this weekend.

The performance by 30-year-old Ngọc Đợi, who has played an important part in helping revive the traditional art today, and her colleagues is part of an event staged by Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Theatre, a leading traditional theatre troupe in the Cửu Long (Mekong) River Delta.  

Before an audience of several thousand people, Đợi will sing dozens of excerpts from historical plays in the style created and developed by cải lương gurus.

Most of the pieces will highlight the inner beauty of Vietnamese women. 

Đợi said she and her friends will try their best to offer a show highlighting veteran artists’ reform that has helped the art flourish today.

Through singing, cải lương artists preserve the country’s spirit. They hope children grow up with love for the traditional arts. — Photo from the artist’s Facebook

“Everything that I have today is due to my love and contribution to cải lương," said Đợi, who won a Golden Medal at the Trần Hữu Trang Awards in 2012, a prestigious contest for young talents in cải lương launched by the HCM City Theatre Association and its partners.  

Viewing Đợi performing on stage, many in the audience are deeply moved by the power of her singing.

Since winning first prize at the Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ (Golden Bell) Contest in 2007, an annual cải lương singing competition held by HCM City Television, Đợi said that she had "worked very hard, improving my skills and creativity.”

Her beauty and sweet voice are her signature attraction.

The talented Đợi has faced challenges luring audiences back to the traditional art. She realises that without fans’ support, the music would not survive.

Early start

Born into a farming family in Bạc Liêu, Đợi loved cải lương at an early age.

She began her professional career when she was 16 after winning a top prize at the Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Voice, a singing contest seeking young talents by Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Theatre. 

She was later hired by the theatre and worked with skilled actors such as Minh Chiến and Trọng Nguyễn, who are some of the most talented cải lương  performers in the country.

With her beauty and strong voice, Đợi quickly improved her performance skills and became a bright star in cải lương.

She played the leading role in famous plays, including Hai Giọt Nước (Tear Drops) and Bên Cầu Dệt Lụa (Weaving on the Bridge)

Đợi entered the Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ contest after just two years working for the theatre to challenge herself in a more professional market, HCM City.

“I moved from my hometown to compete in HCM City with support from my teachers and colleagues, who believed that becoming a cải lương star was my destiny,” said Đợi. 

“My first prize, the Golden Bell, opened doors for me,” she said.

Đợi now performs for prestigious theatres in HCM City, including Trần Hữu Trang Theatre and HCM City Theatre, and in dozens of plays and TV shows viewed by thousands of audiences across the country. 

She has turned down many opportunities in the city to work for Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Theatre.

Meritorious Artist Ngọc Đợi and her colleagues from the Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Theatre often volunteer to perform for people who live in remote areas. — Photo courtesy of Cao Văn Lầu Cải Lương Theatre

“I wanted to develop my career here, my hometown. I will work besides my colleagues to preserve our art,” she said. "A theatre artist can perform well without thinking of money and glory.” 

She has starred in historical plays such as Đêm Hội Long Trì (Festival Night in Thăng Long Citadel) and Đường Gươm Nguyên Bá (Sword of General), which are recognised as canonical cải lương plays.

Like many of her peers, Đợi has devoted all of her energy to the stage, finding new ways to lure audiences, particularly youth. She often volunteers to perform for people who live in remote areas.  

"Through cải lương, I wanted to preserve the country’s spirit. I hope our children grow up with a love for the traditional arts," she said.  

Đợi deeply respected her teachers, but she did not want to live in their shadow. 

“To escape the domination of veterans, I’ve worked hard to demonstrate my own personal style on stage,” said Đợi, adding that to develop cải lương, young artists need to be innovative on stage.

She said cải lương troupes should create an “open environment for their staff to bridge the gap between older and newer ones, giving all artists a chance to show their creativity and skills.”

For her contribution in developing the country’s theatre, Đợi received the Meritorious Artist title from the Government last month. — VNS

 

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