Vietnamese opera, which is known as hat tuong or hat boi in Vietnamese, is a form of Vietnamese theatre. The art was influenced by Chinese opera but still has its unique characteristics.
There are different theories about the origin of classical Vietnamese opera. However, the majority of researchers believe that it first appeared very soon in history. According to several documentaries, Vietnamese opera was influenced by Chinese opera which was brought to Vietnam by the Nguyen soldiers from China to Vietnam under the Tran dynasty in the 13th century. In the beginning, this kind of art only appeared in the North. Then, soldiers under the Nguyen Dynasty brought it to the South, and it developed further there.
The culmination of Vietnamese opera’s development was in the 17th and 18th century and remained popular under the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. Later, Nha Nhac (Royal Refined Music) was invented which took over this kind of art in the palace. Nevertheless, it is still popular among nobles and civilians.
An artist does the make-up before performing
There were hundreds of old Vietnamese opera plays. However, they were lost during the transitions of generations to generations. Some of the very well-known plays worth mentioning are are Son Hau, Tam nu do vuong, Dao Phi Phung, Trung nu Vuong, etc. (Source)
Vietnamese opera is a highly synthesized form of art. It is a combination of literature, music, dance, painting, and other kinds of folk performings. A Vietnamese opera play is usually based on a literature script in which all of the dialogues are written in a poem. The play scripts often encourage the goods and celebrate the winning of the goods, especially patriotism. Each play sends its message which is a lesson of morality or a folk philosophy.
Different masks used in classical Vietnamese opera
Another important characteristic of this classical Vietnamese opera is the lead of the leader of the audience. The leader is often an official who has a profound knowledge of the art. He plays a role as an examiner of the performance. He shows his comments through drumming. If the performer performs well, he beats on the drum head. If the performer performs terribly, he hits on the edge of the drum. Thanks to this, the audiences are indirectly educated about the art of Vietnamese opera. (Source)
A scene from Son Hau play
Although the position of Vietnamese opera nowadays is taken place by many other forms of art, it still holds a critical status in Vietnamese performing art. If you are curious about it, you can visit the Vietnam Tuong Theatre for showcase schedule and other information.
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© Written by Thuy Tran for itourvn.com