For centuries, the role of Thị Mầu in Vietnam’s most famous cheo opera Quan Âm Thị Kính (Goddess of Mercy) has been as a flirtatious woman.
However, audiences of the traditional art will soon have the chance to see her dynamic, good-natured side through a new cai luong (reformed opera) play expected to debut in the near future.
|Thị Mầu (by Le Thu) and Thị Kính (by Ha Thao) star in the cheo play Quan Âm Thị Kính (Goddess of Mercy) at the Vietnam Cheo Theatre. Photo courtesy of the theatre|
Truân Chuyên Dải Yếm Đào (A Changeable Life) is a new play produced by the Hoa Mai Cai Luong Troupe for Hanoi Cai Luong Theatre.
Penned by scriptwriter Le Chi Trung, the play has been adapted from the cheo classic Quan Âm Thị Kính, which was composed in the 10th century as a statement on the beauty of love, compassion and selflessness.
Unlike the image of a lascivious woman in previous cheo versions who even gives birth to an out-of-wedlock child – a taboo in Vietnamese feudal society – the new play centres on Thi Mau as a pioneer breaking free of feudal ideas around the role of women and love.
According to stage director Hoang Quynh Mai, the play is expected to bring “completely different emotions from the popular opera version known for centuries”.
“We want to portray Thị Mầu as a central character who has an intense desire for freedom in love and gender equality. Our message is that women in any era and society need to be cared for and they have the right to love and be loved,” Mai said.
“Getting out of the shadow of the Thị Kính role in the cheo play was our big challenge. That’s why, all our artists are trying to create a difference with our cai luong on stage.”
In Truân Chuyên Dải Yếm Đào, the role of Thị Màu will be played by actress Thien Huong, who was voted as Best Actress by the jury of the Vietnam Stage Artists Association in 2020.
|The 3D stage design of the upcoming cai luong play 'Truân Chuyên Dải Yếm Đào' (A Changeable Life). – Photo courtesy of the Hoa Mai Cai Luong Troupe|
The play also features other popular cai luong artists, including Quang Thanh, Thanh Van, Minh Vuong, and Van Tuc.
“Although our artists started rehearsing the play at the start of May, with the current lockdown in the city all of us have to stay home. We cannot gather for rehearsal now,” said director Mai.
The Hoa Mai Cai Luong Troupe expects to debut the play after coronavirus restrictions have been eased and theatres allowed to reopen.
Source: Vietnam News
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism plans to hold art programmes that aim to encourage people to surmount the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lack of facilities, good script and workforce are weighing down traditional performance arts like cheo or tuong in Northern Vietnam, along with the seemingly disinterest of modern audiences.