Cheo (popular opera):
Cheo is an original synthesis of folk songs, dance, and narration. There is a close interchange between the performers and the spectators. The words of the play are imbued with the lyricism of folk songs, proverbs and popular sayings.
A cheo play could be put on stage in a large theatre, but it also could be performed successfully on one or two bed mast spread in the middle of a communal house with a cast of only three: a hero, a heroine and a clown.
The sound of the cheo drum has a magical power and upon hearing, villagers cannot resist coming to see the play. The clown in a cheo play seems to be a supporting role, but actually he or she is very important to the performance. The clowns present a comic portrayal of social life, with ridiculous and satirical words and gestures they reduce the audience to tears of laughter.
The national cheo repertoire includes among others Truong Vien, Kim Nhan , Luu Binh – Duong Le, and Quan Am Thi Kinh, which are considered treasures of the traditional stage.
Ha Noi has Grand Cheo Theatre located in Kim Ma street, Ba Dinh District. It also has the Cheo Club in Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District.
Tuong (classical opera):
The tuong theatre was formed in the 12th century, and in the 17th century it was very much in vogue. The tuong play consists of dances, songs, and music which are all highly stylised, conventional and imbued with symbolism. Space and time are presented through the words of the songs, dancing gestures and simple stage instrument. Thanks to the stylised, symbolism gestures used by the actors, and a good deal of imagination on behalf of the spectators, the scenery is very simple. Mountains, hills, rivers, dawn, twilight, horse riding and battle fields, are all presented on stage by using a minimum of accessories and technical equipment.
There are about 500 classical tuong plays. The most popular ones include Son Hau, Dao Phi Phung, Tam Nu Do Vuong, Trung Nu Vuong and Ngheu So Oc Hen.
Cai Luong (renovated opera):
In comparison with cheo and tuong, cai luong is a new type of theatre. It is sometimes said that if tuong is characterised by royal court, and cheo is popular in the countryside, the cai luong has urban feature. Cai luong originated in the Mekong River delta.
The principle supporting song in cai luong is the vong co (literally, nostalgia for the part). The play owes much of its success to the sweet voices of the cast, much appreciated by the audience.
Puppetry is common throughout the would, but Vietnam’s puppet theatre on water is unique. The art of water puppetry appeared in the Ly dynasty (1010-1225). Vestiges of evidence have been found in several places such as the pavilion on water by the Long Tri lake in the Thay Pagoda, Ha Tay province.
Water puppetry was developed in lake and pond-rich areas in the Red River Delta. The surface of water serves as the stage while spectators sit at the water’s edge. The puppeteers both male and female stand waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets making them move about and even dance on the surface of the water. The water serves not only to hide the puppeteers and the puppets’ strings but also to create a trembling stage full of reflection, while providing natural amplification for singing puppeteers accompanied by percussion music and fire crackers.
In the old days, puppeteers grouped together into guilds. Nowadays, they are brought together in the Nation Water Puppetry Theatre and various provincial and private troupes.
Every puppet is a piece of real folk sculpture. It is made of wood, painted with water-proof lacquer. The prominent character is buffoon Teu with a plump body and a humorous smile. When the curtain is raised, the merry, arch Teu enters into stage and introduces the play.
A considerable repertoire of traditional water puppet plays still get a big hand from the audience. They include the Teu Dance, Buffalo Fighting, Duck Tender Chasing Fox and Chess Playing.
Quan Ho singing:
The birth place of quan ho folk songs in Ha Bac province. During village festivals which are held every year, particularly in spring, young, men and women gather in the yard of a communal house or pagoda, on a hill or in a rowing boat and sing quan ho. This is a style of singing where songs alternate from group to group, going and forth from one to the other.
Quan ho singing is a folk art of highly collective nature. Those who sing are not entertainers,, but all are part of the performance, and everyone is welcome to join.
Ca Tru, an original art performance of academic character, has been preserved for the past 10 centuries. The tunes of ca tru originate in the villages of Ha Tay, Ha Bac, Vinh Phu and other provinces in the Red River Delta. The entire population of Ho Khe village, Dong Anh district, on the outskirts of Hanoi often engage in ca tru performances.
To appreciated ca tru is to appreciated poetry and music. In ca tru singing the audience participates along with the singers and music player