Cải lương

Tuồng cải lương (Vietnamese: [tûəŋ ka᷉ːj lɨəŋ], Hán-Nôm: 從改良) often referred to as Cải lương (Chữ Hán: 改良), roughly "reformed theater") is a form of modern folk opera in Vietnam. It blends southern Vietnamese folk songs, classical music, hát tuồng (a classical theatre form based on Chinese opera), and modern spoken drama.

A noted cải lương singer, Ngọc Huyền
Popular artist Mộng Tuyền performs the leading role in a Cải lương Presentation

History and descriptionEdit

Xử án Bàng Quý Phi, performed by the Phước Cương troupe, c. 1928
The scene of Tự Đức offering the whip in Cải lương

Cải lương originated in Southern Vietnam in the early 20th century and blossomed in the 1930s as a theatre of the middle class during the country's French colonial period. Cải lương is now promoted as a national theatrical form. Unlike the other folk forms, it continued to prove popular with the masses as late as the 1970s and the 1980s, although it is now in decline.[1][2]

Cải lương can be compared to a sort of play with the added aspect of Vọng cổ. This term literally means "nostalgia for the past", it is a special type of singing with the background music often being the đàn tranh zither or the đàn ghi-ta (Vietnamized guitar). In a typical cải lương play, the actresses and actors would use a combination of regular spoken dialogue and vọng cổ to express their thoughts and emotions.

Promotional poster for the play Tây Thi in Cải lương

Cải lương normally highlights/praises Vietnamese moral values. There are mainly two types of cải lương: cải lương tuồng cổ (ancient) and cải lương xã hội (modern).

The Guitar phím lõm" – instrument used for Cải lương

Cải lương xã hội ("society reformed theater" 改良社會) consists of stories about modern Vietnamese society. The plots deal with a romantic love story blended with family or social relationships. The stories also explore cultural norms, social norms, and other aspects of Vietnamese society, e.g. Đời Cô Lựu, Tô Ánh Nguyệt. This type can be somehow described as tragedy, but with a happy ending. However, a few cải lương xã hội such as "Ra Giêng Anh Cưới Em" are comedic and light.

In Cải lương tuồng cổ, The actor/actress dresses in an old fashioned costume. The plot is based on a tale, legend or historical story of the feudal system, where kings and warriors still existed. For example, Bên Cầu Dệt Lụa, Lục Vân Tiên, Tiếng Trống Mê Linh etc. Many plots come from Chinese historic or ancient legends. Lương Sơn Bá-Chúc Anh Đài is based on the Chinese legend of butterfly lovers. In Cải lương tuồng cổ, Hồ Quảng a kind of Chinese opera may be mixed. Hence, some Cải lương tuồng cổ may be called Cải lương Hồ Quảng, which is more like a musical. In addition to regular speech, ca cải lương, and Vọng cổ, several melodies are incorporated into the play. These melodies are reused through different plays, however the words are changed to fit the context of the plays. Cải lương tuồng cổ can be characterized by beautiful, elaborate costumes comprising beautiful and colorful dress pieces; large, beautiful glittery hairpieces; elaborate warrior armor; and elaborate warrior head pieces.

Notable singersEdit

Before 1975Edit

After 1975Edit

  • Phượng Mai (born 1956)
  • Vũ Linh (1958-2023)
  • Tài Linh
  • Châu Thanh
  • Thanh Hằng
  • Phương Hồng Thủy
  • Linh Tâm
  • Thanh Thanh Tâm
  • Phượng Hằng
  • Phượng Loan
  • Cẩm Tiên
  • Kim Tử Long
  • Thoại Mỹ
  • Vũ Luân
  • Chí Linh
  • Vân Hà
  • Tú Sương
  • Trinh Trinh
  • Lê Thanh Thảo
  • Quế Trân
  • Ngọc Huyền
  • Thanh Ngân
  • Trọng Phúc
  • Tấn Giao
  • Kim Tiểu Long
  • Phi Nhung (1970-2021)
  • Mạnh Quỳnh
  • Hương Thủy
  • Linh Tuấn
  • Thanh Huyền

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "VietNamNet – Mekong Delta nostalgic for cai luong's golden days". Archived from the original on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2008. Mekong Delta nostalgic for cai luong’s golden days. 21 July 2007
  2. ^ "VietNamNet – Beyond remedy for Cai luong". Archived from the original on 3 November 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2008. Beyond remedy for Cai luong. VietNamNet Bridge. 21 August 2008

External linksEdit

  Media related to Tuồng cải lương at Wikimedia Commons