Operas attract much interest in Vietnam

Despite being an arts form imported from the West, opera has gradually shown off its charm and affirmed its position among various artistic activities in Vietnam. It might not be long before operas become a fashion in the country.

Poster of first opera named ‘Vien Dan Cho Valentine’ (A Bullet for My Valentine)

Poster of first opera named ‘Vien Dan Cho Valentine’ (A Bullet for My Valentine)

FRAGMENTS – a non-profit independent student-run theater production – performed its first opera named ‘Vien Dan Cho Valentine’ (A Bullet for My Valentine) in Vietnam Youth Theater (in Hanoi) when all members were still high school students.
Explaining the reason to pursue opera even without formal training in the field, founding member of FRAGMENTS Le Minh Ha said that this arts form is so lively, and the transformation of conversations into melodies is so magical to enhance the sentiment of both actors and the audience.
She added that via each rhythm, she and her team could be truly into the emotions existing in a play. What is more, every time the play is performed, participants and the spectators seem to gain new feelings.
Starting from only VND300,000 (approx. US$13) of co-founders Minh Ha and Hoai Thuong as the advertisement fee on social networks, the two hired more people of the same interest from high schools, each bringing long their own strengths and talents. What is exceptional is that no one in the team was formally trained in opera performing. All tried their best day by day to self-teach.
Hoai Thuong, another founding member of FRAGMENTS, recalled that opera is absolutely a new arts form in Vietnam. Even until now, the team still finds it challenging to attract investment or new human resources due to their lack of professional knowledge and practical experience.
However, with their non-stop effort, they did find financial aid from charity and partners for their first operation year.
Thanks to the innovative thinking after getting in touch with diverse cultural environments, FRAGMENTS is able to create musical plays that contain the breath of modern life, very close to the youth. Minh Ha, who is responsible for script-writing, shared that her plays concern Vietnamese cultural values and real stories happening around her. However, the way these plays are performed does be affected by Western styles of drama.
At present, current members of FRAGMENTS have finished their high school and entered university. They plan to introduce a new play this summer. Yet they need more time to adjust their individual agendas for a better FRAGMENT in the future.
In a similar story, the young drama team Buffalo turned to opera to form their particular style after winning the first prize in a gameshow in 2016. All members of the team, who are the 9X generation, seriously and formally train themselves in the arts field, from script writing, music preparation, choreography, stage design, to costume making.
It might take them a whole year just for preparation for an opera performance.
Thanks to their hard-working, they achieved success in many musical plays such as ‘Tam Cam’ (the Story of Tam and Cam) and ‘Son Tinh – Thuy Tinh’ (the Mountain God vs. Lord of the Water) by putting an innovative modern touch in quite familiar Vietnamese tales.
Sadly, at present, Buffalo is facing financial crisis and has to temporarily stop their performance.
“Each member of the team now has to seek his or her outsource in acting to pay for the living expense. Buffalo does have new projects, yet there is not enough money to carry out. Despite the warm welcome of the audience, the team still faced loss. One of the reasons for such financial shortage is because the team is rather picky as to sponsorship in order to avoid too much interference into the play content or insensitive advertisement during each performance”, said Hoang Quan, Buffalo’s Head.
He happily commented that at least his audience still think of ordering an opera from Buffalo when in need. This is a great encouragement for the team.
Buffalo’s Director Nguyen Khac Duy shared that they are not the professional in opera as they are a small-scale self-run group. They still find trouble whenever hiring a theater for performing a play since there is no particular theater in Vietnam for this kind of performing arts.
Adding to the above thought, Hanh Thao, an actress in Buffalo, stated that an opera performer needs to have multiple skills, ranging from acting, singing, to dancing in order to successfully illustrate a character in a play. Therefore, she can only consider herself as an enthusiast, not a professional yet.
Despite unavoidable worry for the future of the team, Director Duy optimistically predicted that opera might become a fashion in Vietnam in the near future. Sharing the same confidence, the Buffalo’s Head said with such a charm in integrating music, acting, and dancing, opera will surely attract a great number of spectators as long as actors always try to display their best performance.

By Kim Loan – Translated by Huong Vuong

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