Theatre of Vietnam

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1800s Tuồng theatre actors.

Theatre of Vietnam comprises many traditional forms of drama which survive and retain their popularity to varying degrees.


Vietnamese theatre is strongly influenced by Chinese opera and other forms, and includes genres like Hát tuồng, Hát chèo and Cải lương.

Tuồng or Hát bội[edit]

Hát tuồng or "hát bội" was imported from China around the 13th century and was used for entertaining royalty for a time before being adapted for traveling troupes of actors. Stories in the opera tend to be ostensibly historical and frequently focus on the rules of social decorum. Like chèo and other forms of opera from around the world, tuồng employs the use of stock characters who are recognizable from their make-up and costumes, which are typically very elaborate and extravagant.

Cải lương (modern folk opera)[edit]

Compared to tuồng and chèo, cải lương is more popular in modern Vietnam. Originating in the early 20th century, cải lương includes historical and contemporary themes. Cải lương has remained adaptable for modern innovations and now includes electric guitar and other new inventions. It is accompanied by nhạc tài tử, which is a complex and partially improvised form of chamber music.

Cải lương singing utilizes a great deal of vibrato; the words are extended when singing and the vibrato follows. A common melody used in cải lương is Vọng cổ.

Although cải lương remained extremely popular as late as the 1970s and the 1980s, nowadays this popularity has dwindled, especially among the younger generation, and the remaining troupes are only able to preserve the art because of government funding.[1][2]

Rối nước[edit]

Water puppetry, or Múa rối nước, is a distinctively Vietnamese art form which arose in the 12th century. In water puppetry, a split-bamboo screen obscures puppeteers, who stand in water manipulating the puppets in front of the screen using long poles hidden beneath the water. Due to strict restrictions on learning the art of water puppetry, the form had nearly died out before the Maison des Cultures du Monde intervened in 1984 and helped reinvigorate the genre.

Today, water puppetry is popular with tourists to Vietnam.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Mekong Delta nostalgic for cai luong’s golden days. 21 July 2007
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 November 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Beyond remedy for Cai luong. VietNamNet Bridge. 21 August 2008

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