To escape the domination of veterans, cải lương actor Võ Minh Lâm has worked hard to demonstrate his own personal style on stage. Photo from the artist’s Facebook page
Actor Võ Minh Lâm of Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre, one of HCM City’s leading art troupes in the traditional operatic art. Lâm’s YouTube channel, which features cải lương, has 40,000 subscribers and has attracted more than 50 million views just one year after its launch. Photo from the artist’s Facebook page
By Thu Anh
HCM CITY “Everything that I have today is due to my love and contribution to cải lương (reformed opera),” said actor Võ Minh Lâm of Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre, one of HCM City’s leading art troupes in the traditional operatic art.
Lâm’s YouTube channel, which features cải lương, has 40,000 subscribers and has attracted more than 50 million views just one year after its launch.
The channel offers more than 100 songs of vọng cổ (nostalgia) and tài tử, both of which are genres of traditional music of the south and used in cải lương.
“I wanted to try a new form by using YouTube and discovered that the traditional arts are being kept alive by viewers," said Lâm, who has 15 years of experience in the theatre.
“Cải lương should be staged with different performing methods: in the threatre, in TV shows, and through YouTube.”
“Although I love singing on stage, I believe YouTube is a good way to province audiences, particularly youngsters, with my art,” he added.
Viewing Lâm performing on stage, many in the audience are deeply moved by the power of his singing.
Since winning first prize at the Golden Bell Contest in 2006, an annual cải lương singing contest at HCM City Television, Lâm said that he had "worked very hard, improving my skills and creativity.”
He entered the contest after hearing that the organiser was looking for young singers.
In his mid-20s, the talented Lâm faced challenges luring audiences back to cải lương which originated in the 1920s in the Cửu Long (Mekong) River Delta region.
Lâm realised that without support from fans, the music would not survive.
In 2008, he won second top prize, Silver Medal for Best Male Actor, at the National Professional Cải Lương Festival 2009 in HCM City.
His Silver Medal prize opened doors for him.
“I moved from my hometown in Cần Thơ to compete in HCM City, the biggest and toughest market for cải lương performers,” said Lâm.
Lâm now works for the prestigious Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre and Đại Việt Cải Lương Troupe. He has performed in many plays and TV shows viewed by millions across the country.
He deeply respects older colleagues like People’s Artist Minh Vương and cải lương star Kim Tử Long, but he does not want to live in their shadow.
To escape the domination of veterans, Lâm has worked to demonstrate his own personal style on stage. "To develop cải lương, young artists need to be innovative on the stage,” he said.
Last year, Lâm performed in a theatre project launched by the Lạc Long Quân Theatre Club which aims to serve secondary school students in the city.
He also played a leading role in Chuyện Tình Khâu Vai (Love Story in Khâu Vai), a production about love staged by the Đại Việt Cải Lương Troupe.
The play debuted in December with the participation of 30 veteran and young actors. It combined traditional and modern performance styles.
He is slated to appear in Tiếng Gọi Non Sông (The Voice of Country), a play by scriptwriter and director Hoàng Song Việt.
“Cải lương will attract younger audiences if it provides a new and modern style,” said Lâm.
Lâm said that he used YouTube to introduce his art because he wanted "to quickly provide new offerings for theatre lovers”. VNS