Viet Nam News
Millions of young people in HCM City and the Cửu Long (Mekong) River Delta region have been captivated by a new TV programme featuring cải lương (reformed opera), a traditional southern music genre, produced by veteran artists.
By Thu Anh
A programme featuring young actors who perform cải lương (reformed opera) on Vĩnh Long Television’s THLV1 channel, has become one of the station’s hottest entertainment shows since its release last year.
The show, Sao Nối Ngôi (Young Stars), produced by Vĩnh Long Television, offers performances of vọng cổ (nostalgic tunes), cải lương and tuồng or hát bội (classical drama), traditional genres of theatre, in the southern and central regions.
It features a series of vọng cổ songs and extracts from historical plays, such as Thái Hậu Dương Vân Nga (Mother Queen Dương Vân Nga), Huyền Trân Công Chúa (Princess Huyền Trân) and Trần Quốc Toản (Young Hero Trần Quốc Toản).
The show’s young actors Thiêng Ngân, Hồng Nhung and Bình Tinh were trained by their parents, including skilled artists Lê Giang and Vũ Linh, who have worked hard to develop the traditional art and maintain their families’ artistic tradition.
“Performing in Sao Nối Ngôi is a chance for us to learn more about Vietnamese history,” said actress Tinh, daughter of veteran actor Đức Lợi.
“Each performance is a lesson with images, sounds and lights that provides young audiences with useful and fascinating facts about history and why their older generations fought for the country’s independence,” the 26-year-old said.
People’s Artist Bạch Tuyết, 65, a member of the show’s producing staff, said that teaching history with theatre could help youth mature.
“After watching, audiences can improve their knowledge, love and respect for the country and our national heroes,” she said.
Vĩnh Long Television plans to work with radio and TV stations in the region, including Hồ Chí Minh City Television, to offer new shows on historical topics for children and young audiences.
“Many young audiences have sent their letters and comments on our show’s quality. Some students wrote that they enjoyed learning Vietnamese history through cải lương performances on TV rather than reading about it in books,” said theatre director Châu Ngọc Ẩn of Vĩnh Long TV, and the show’s art director.
Cải lương nights
Meritorious Artist Kim Tử Long of HCM City agrees. “Historical plays keep cải lương alive,” he said.
Long, in co-operation with a staff of skilled artists, launched the drama project, Ba Thế Hệ Về Lại Cội Nguồn (Three Generations Perform Reformed Drama), at the Công Nhân Theatre in District 1.
The project offers live shows featuring the country’s events in the contemporary period and extending back to several hundred years ago.
The shows include historical plays in praise of national heroes, first staged in the 1980s and 90s, such as Câu Thơ Yên Ngựa (Poems on the Saddle), Ngọn Lửa Thăng Long (Fire of Thăng Long Citadel) and Tiếng Gọi Non Sông (The Call of the Nation).
“Our project also aims to restage famous plays that have been performed by talanted artists in different generations. We hope to encourage young people to learn more about traditional theatre,” Long said.
Star turn: Actor Võ Thành Phê is popular among youth for singing cải lương in historical plays on TV shows produced by veteran director and producer Kiều Tấn. Photo dongtay.vn
“We have received support from HCM City Television (HTV) and HCM City Theatre Association, as well as many young and veteran performers of the city and southern provinces,” he added.
Long’s shows offer tickets at affordable prices, ranging from VNĐ50,000 (US$2.5) to 100,000 ($4.5) each.
His staff is working to stage a show for three nights in Hải Phòng and Hà Nội next month.
Since its first show in 2006, Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ (Nostalgia Golden Bell), one of HTV most popular music programmes, has supported dozens of young talents to develop their cải lương career.
The programme features extracts from historical plays composed by talented artists. It has also offered new concepts for the theatre.
The man behind the show is renowned theatre researcher, director and producer Kiều Tấn, former head of the HTV’s Theatre and Music Office.
"Theatre is life. I want to write, compose and direct traditional music programmes filled with light, sound and visual effects," said Tấn, who has more than 40 years of experience in the industry.
A HTV producer, Tấn has helped many young artists improve their talent by training through performing.
Thanks to his shows, many students and farmers have developed their careers and become professional actors.
Young actor Phê, winner of the 2008 Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ, said: “I love playing in TV shows produced by Tấn and his staff because they have good quality and help to educate my young fans.”
“Cải lương was only staged live decades ago. So, the art’s expansion has been limited in modern society,” said Trần Quốc Bảo, third-year student at the HCM City University of Law. “TV shows, particularly historical productions, have helped to bring the art to bigger audiences.” VNS