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Chèo artist Nguyễn Thị Thu Huyền (left) stars Thị Mầu in the play 'Quan Âm Thị Kính', Photo
Most Vietnamese traditional opera (or chèo in Vietnamese) enthusiasts are familiar with the character Thị Mầu in the play Quan Âm Thị Kính, recently played by artist Nguyễn Thị Thu Huyền.

With dazzling eyes, a charming smile and a beauty spot on the corner of her lips, Huyền strongly impresses the audience and is considered one of the best-ever performers of Thị Mầu on the stage.

Besides Quan Âm Thị Kính, the 49-year-old has starred in numerous Vietnamese classical chèo plays, bringing it closer to the audience and inspiring interest in the traditional art form.

She has been recently honoured with the People's Artist title given by the State to individuals with outstanding contributions and long-term commitment to culture and the arts.

Huyền was born in 1975 in Hà Nội. None of her family members worked in the arts, but she developed a passion for singing from a very young age.

In 1989, by chance Huyền met a musician from the Hà Nội Chèo Theatre, while participating in a children's singing competition, who encouraged her to audition for the theatre. She got accepted and started to pursue the folk art.

Two years later, she took on the role of Thị Mầu in the Young Stage Talent Competition in Hà Nội. She portrayed the character with great success, showcasing her distinctive features such as the playful dimple, charming smile, and captivating sharp eyes. Her performance captured the essence of Thị Mầu's cunning, flirtatious and liberal nature, left a profound impression on the audience, and earned her the Special Prize from the jury panel that year

The role also brought her first prize in the national Young Stage Talent Competition in 1998. Those prizes made Huyền one of the most successful artists in bringing Thị Mầu to life on the Vietnamese stage.

Besides Thị Mầu, the People's Artist has achieved success in various other roles, such as Thị Phương in the play Trương Viên, Ms Son in Ms Son, Xúy Vân in Xúy Vân Giả Dại, and Hoạn Thư in Kiều.

In each role, Huyền has left a profound impression on the audience. Her natural and graceful acting style, combined with her ability to portray inner emotions and depict the personalities and psychologies of any character, has been widely lauded.

Her performances have the power to captivate, and her ability to convey emotions is intense, whether it be tears or laughter. The actress's exceptional performances have garnered her multiple accolades, awards, and titles.

Renowned as a chèo actress, she has also impressed art lovers with her performances of quan họ (love duet) folk songs like Xe Chỉ Luồn Kim (Cloth Weaving), Vào Chùa (Visiting the Pagoda) or Đi Cấy (Rice Transplanting).

In recognition of her significant contributions to traditional arts, Huyền was awarded the title of Excellent Artist in 2007. She is also one of the youngest female Excellent Artists in Việt Nam, receiving this prestigious title at the age of 32.

She has been working as Deputy Artistic Director at the Hà Nội Chèo Theatre since 2017.

Spreading passion

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Huyền has maintained her passion for chèo in the past 35 years. Photo courtesy of the artist

Huyền says the secret to her success is ensuring the audience's enjoyment.

She has maintained her passion for chèo over the past 35 years. In every performance, whether it's a new or old piece, she approaches it with excitement, anticipation, and the same level of emotional engagement as she did when she first started out.

Huyền believes that if one works diligently, success will follow, and those who are passionate about their work are bound to succeed. Her passion for chèo has not only brought her numerous awards but, most importantly, the love and support of the audience.

According to her, chèo is a comprehensive art form that requires actors to possess a multitude of skills. They need to have singing abilities, master performance techniques, be knowledgeable about dance and choreography, and undergo training in traditional dance. If they take on the lead roles, they must have the appropriate charisma to effectively portray the characters.

"The success I have achieved today is thanks to the dedicated teaching and guidance of my mentors, who were the artists of previous generations," Huyền said.

"The Hà Nội Chèo Theatre always provides opportunities for young actors to freely unleash their creativity, pursue their passions, and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to performing arts."

Today, traditional performing arts such as chèo face various challenges due to the influence of more modern art forms.

To attract audiences to traditional stage performances, the Hà Nội Chèo Theatre has been searching for compelling and contemporary scripts. They regularly change their repertoire and have brought chèo performances to local communities, village festivals, various art events and schools. VNS