Cai Luong is folk opera which originated a century ago in South Vietnam. This was still the time when the French were colonial masters and in the 30s, Cai Luong was very popular with the middle classes. Its popularity spread and though now declining it has been appreciated by everyone in recent years. There is a loyal following for Cai Luong and with the increased overseas tourist numbers coming to Vietnam for cultural reasons, there is no reason to think it is a tradition that will die out.
If you opt for a holiday in Vietnam, one of the most likely arrival points will be Ho Chi Minh City Airport where you can collect your Vietnam visa and go into the City to begin your travels. A local travel agent can arrange for you to go to the theatre to see Cai Luong if it is not already part of your Vietnam travel package.
The singing is done to the accompaniment of the dan tranh zither or the Vietnamese guitar, the dang hi-ta. The performers speak and sing dialogue about their thoughts or emotions. Morality plays an important role in the stories whether they are old (tuong co) or new (cai luong xa hoi) stories. There are only about 20 songs in all so each is easily recognisable by a Vietnamese audience.
The new songs are usually love stories with family and social content. There is likely to be an element of tragedy almost but a happy ending. In contrast, tuong co is likely to be comedy though telling ancient stories about life or legend. The scene is set with performers wearing magnificent traditional costumes. In many cases, reference is made to the Chinese legends. Many Chinese came south into what is now Vietnam in the Middle Ages. There were battles in legend but there was relatively peaceful movement of people as well. There is an element of Chinese theatre that has helped the development of Cai Luong.
If you are interested in art and culture, you should ask a local guide about Cai Luong and make every effort to see a performance with the south the most likely place that you will find a performance. While no one wants to spend time in front of a television while on holiday, it is possible to watch a performance on the small screen if you have no other opportunity.
Read more:Vietnamese Music and Instrument