As the curtain slowly came down to the audience's continuous applause, artist Minh Hai breathed a sigh of relief because he had successfully played the role of Uncle Ho.
Artist Minh Hai has left his imprint on the audience's hearts during his nearly 20-year professional creative career at the Vietnam Cai Luong Theater.
Nguyen Tat Thanh, the young Ho Chi Minh in the Cai luong (reformed opera) No Nuoc Non (Tribute to the Nation), is the character who has left the greatest emotion and pressure on him. In particular, his son also appeared in the play as Ho Chi Minh in his childhood with the birth name of Nguyen Sinh Cung.
Desire to promote Cai Luong in the North
Hai was born in the northern province of Thai Binh in 1981. When he was five, his family moved to the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. Here, his mother often took Hai to see Cai luong. Since then, he has fallen in love with the sweet melodies of this art form.
After graduating high school, Hai still wanted to pursue his passion, against his family's wishes, because they said this art had passed its heyday. Especially for northerners, it is not easy to sing Cai luong as it is more popular in the south.
|Artist Minh Hai performs Nguyen Tat Thanh at the play. Photo: Vietnam Cai luong Theater|
Despite opposition from his relatives, Hai enrolled in Cai luong at the Hanoi University of Theatre and Film. He graduated in 2005 and joined the Cai Luong Theater of Vietnam.
Under the troupe's guidance of theater directors and artists, Hai has achieved memorable success with medals and awards in national competitions.
With his ideal height, bright appearance, and inspiring voice, Hai is well-known among Cai luong fans.
"I love this art and want to see more young people in the North who love Cai luong as much as I do. I also want to prove that people in the North can show the beauty of Cai luong just like people in the South," Hai said.
Losing 6 kilos to take on the role of Uncle Ho
That's why People's Artist Trieu Trung Kien, director of the Vietnam Cai Luong Theater, trusted Hai to play Uncle Ho in No Nuoc Non.
This is the first part of the Nuoc Non Van Dam (The Land) project, which recreates the entire life and career of President Ho Chi Minh.
The play covers the first 21 years of President Ho Chi Minh's life. The work was created in 2022 to commemorate the 132nd anniversary of President Ho Chi Minh's birth (May 19, 1890-2022) and the 111th anniversary of Uncle Ho's departure to find a way to save the country (June 5, 1911-2022).
To this day, Hai still remembers the thrill he felt when director Trieu Trung Kien called to tell him that he had won the role of Nguyen Tat Thanh (Ho Chi Minh's name in his youth).
|Anh Duc (9-year-old) performs in the play. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Cai Luong Theater|
"I feel a lot of pressure because many famous actors have successfully played the role of Nguyen Tat Thanh. Moreover, I am aware that this theatrical work is not only a cultural product but also carries an important political mission, which is highly expected by the leaders of the Party, the State, and the people," said Hai.
With such a sense of responsibility, in addition to rehearsal time, he plunged into researching materials to "absorb" the spirit of the play and understand the national leader's historical context and mind. In particular, the artist lost six kilos in more than a month to have a body like the prototype of a young man named Nguyen Tat Thanh.
"Nguyen Tat Thanh is a great monument of will and wisdom... Meanwhile, I am just an ordinary person, and it is challenging to feel and express myself on a stage of only ten square meters. That's the double difficulty," said artist Minh Hai.
When the lead actor for the play was found, the whole crew breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that they could safely stage the play. However, it turned out that finding a child actor to play the boy Nguyen Sinh Cung (Ho Chi Minh's childhood name) was much more difficult than choosing someone to play the role of Nguyen Tat Thanh.
Director Trieu Trung Kien said that when the theater has a play with child roles, the artists in the theater bring their children to audition. But perhaps because it is a difficult role, many are afraid to do so.
Kien had to post casting information on the theater's fan page in search of child actors, but many days passed without finding anyone suitable. Finally, director Kien asked artist Hai to bring his son Nguyen Hoang Anh Duc (9 years old) to audition.
|A scene of the play No Nuoc Non. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Cai Luong Theater|
At first, artist Hai was worried, thinking that his son couldn't do it because he had no acting experience. However, everyone was surprised by Duc's performance at the audition.
"When Duc acted in the scene where Uncle Ho's mother Hoang Thi Loan died, many artists were touched by the emotional way he played the role. When Duc sang the part where Nguyen Sinh Cung lulled his younger brother to sleep, we had goosebumps and realized that this was the actor we were looking for," said director Kien.
Speaking about the training process, Hai said he had Duc read books and stories about Uncle Ho's childhood. He did not teach his son how to act but let him play the role naturally. Duc also said that the role was not as difficult as he thought.
"I hope to have more scenes to play longer," Duc said.
Just like that, Duc played the role with his true feelings without much effort and moved the audience to tears.
Looking back on the play's success, director Kien said that No Nuoc Non is is different from other plays about Uncle Ho.
"Writer Nguyen The Ky's script depicts a simple and intimate Uncle Ho. The performance of the actors is also very emotional. All of them give the audience a new and contemporary feeling, helping to overcome the limitations of the Cai Luong stage," said the director.
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