Paris museum promotes Vietnam 'cai luong' while it still exists

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Vietnamese noted cai luong actress Ngoc Giau (right) playing a male role

The Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris was filled to the brim March 8 and 9 as curious visitors crowded each other to get a glimpse of cai luong, a modern but semi-traditionally folk opera that originated in southern Vietnam.

Hubert Laot, the museum's art director, said the museum chose cai luong because the art form is slowly dying out.

The museum wants to show the world cai luong "while it still exists," Laot told Voice of Vietnam radio.

He said French audiences were excited about the performances and the museum did not have enough space.

Tickets sold out quickly on both days, the director said, and he said he expected it would likely be so if there's the third day.

French people are highly curious about Asia, Vietnam in particular, he said.

He said cai luong began in Vietnamese villages and reflects the different cultural periods of Vietnam's history.

Laot said the art, formed in the early 20th century, was influenced by French opera, stage decorations and literature during the French occupation of Vietnam, but the art is almost unknown in France.

The performances were joined by award-winning actress Ngoc Giau, 68, who has been performing in a troupe since age 12. She started playing lead roles when she was 13.

Giau was introduced as "Vietnam's national living treasure." She has taken hundreds of roles, both male and female, of all various personalities. The Vietnamese government has recognized her as a People's Artist, the highest honor the Vietnamese government gives artists.

Laot said it is a hard job to preserve and promote traditional arts, and a more active role on the part of the government is required.

He said the government must raise awareness at home, preserve the art at home, and also to bring it abroad, like many South Korean and Indian troupes have actively promoted themselves at Guimet with their governments' support.

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