One of Ho Chi Minh City’s private theatres is working to introduce young people to tuong or hat boi (classical drama), a Vietnamese traditional theatre genre that originated in the 17th century.
|Actress Binh Tinh, winner of the Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ (Golden Bell) Awards 2016, a national cai luong contest presented annually by HCM City Television. — Photo courtesy of the theatre|
The Huynh Long Tuong Troupe will stage a series of new historical plays featuring national heroes and events in different periods under the Tran, Ngo, Dinh and Ly dynasties this year.
The first show, Ngô Quyền Và Chiến Thắng Bạch Đằng Giang (General Ngo Quyen and the Great Victory on Bach Dang River), will be released on HCM City Television in March.
The play features the battle of Bach Dang River in 938, when the Vietnamese troops led by General Ngo Quyen defeated the invading forces from the Chinese Southern Han Dynasty.
The General at the time had his troops plant iron-tipped wooden stakes into the river bed, invisible during high tides. After he launched a counter-attack at low tide, the enemy's large boats ran aground as they were pierced by the long sharpened stakes.
The victory of Bach Dang ended the 1,000-year Chinese domination of Vietnam, opening a period of Vietnam's independence and sovereignty. Ngo Quyen became the King and ruled the Ngo Dynasty.
|Young and veteran artists from the private Huynh Long Tuong Troupe are helping to preserve and develop tuong, a traditional genre of Vietnamese theatre which began in the 17th century. — Photo courtesy of the theatre|
The play features young talents My Chau, Dang Khoa and Quoc Thanh, graduates of the HCM City University of Theatre & Cinematography.
“We will offer quality shows featuring a unique style of tuong,” said the troupe’s art director and actress Binh Tinh, who has 20 years of experience in the industry.
“We want to bring the art closer to young audiences.”
The Huynh Long Troupe, which opened in 2017, is composed of 30 skilled actors, mostly graduates of leading art schools in the city and neighbouring provinces. The troupe offers performances every Sunday at 144 Dinh Tien Hoang Street in Binh Thanh District.
Managed by actress Binh Tinh and her staff, the troupe offers shows aimed at young people.
“Our veteran artists help young talents improve their vocal and performance skills in the hopes that they’ll develop a professional career and the troupe will become a place for people to enjoy the art in a unique way," she said.
|Actress Binh Tinh (left) performs in Ngô Quyền Và Chiến Thắng Bạch Đằng Giang (Ngo Quyen and the Great Victory on Bach Dang River), a new production staged by Huynh Long Tuong Troupe. The play will air on HCM City Television in March. — Photo courtesy of the theatre|
Born to a traditional family in HCM City, Binh Tinh, whose real name is Huynh Ngoc Trinh, began her love for tuong when she was a child. Her first lessons came from her mother, famous actress, scriptwriter and director Bach Mai, owner of the Huynh Long Troupe.
In 2016, Binh Tinh won first prize at the Chuông Vàng Vọng Cổ (Golden Bell) Awards, a national cai luong (reformed opera) contest presented annually by HCM City Television.
She took part in Sao Nối Ngôi (Young Stars), a TV programme featuring young actors in cai luong, on Vinh Long Television’s THLV1 channel in 2018. She and her colleagues performed vong co (nostalgic tunes), cai luong and tuong.
She has played leading roles in famous historical plays, such as Thái Hậu Dương Vân Nga (Queen Duong Van Nga) and Huyền Trân Công Chúa (Princess Huyen Tran).
Through her art, these plays have been renewed. “I’ve always worked hard to develop the art and maintain my family’s artistic tradition,” said Binh Tinh.
She and her staff at Huynh Long Tuong Troupe have co-operated with traditional art troupes and television stations in the city and southern provinces to produce and perform in shows and programmes featuring tuong.
“We have worked hard to make each show a lesson, with images, sounds and music, that provides young audiences with wonderful insights about their history, traditional culture and theatre,” said the 40-year-old.
Tuong consists of singing and dancing accompanied by music, and is highly stylised and filled with symbolism. Its themes include monarchist loyalty and patriotism which help define the play’s structure, language, music, struggles, and characters' personalities.
Performers wear heavy costumes weighing up to 10 kilos. They use their body, from the fingers to the elbows to all of the muscles, to move on stage. They must have a strong voice to sing and dance at the same time, and express the emotions of the characters. VNS
A new documentary film on tuong or hat boi (classical drama) produced by Vietnam Television will be released in Hanoi, Can Tho and HCM City this month as part of the station’s efforts to introduce Vietnamese culture and theatre to audiences.
Hat Boi Artistic House in Ho Chi Minh City has launched a new wordless show of "Hat Boi”, also known as “Tuong” (classical Vietnamese opera) in a bid to attract tourists and preserve traditional theater.