People’s Artist Phung Ha. Photo: Lao Dong
A legend of “cai luong” (reformed theatre), People’s Artist Phung Ha died on July 5 in HCM City at the age of 99.
Besides devoting her life to performance, she also spent her savings to set up a nursing home for artists in the city’s District 8 and an Artists Pagoda in Go Vap District, aiming to operate it as a charity cemetery for traditional artists.
Beginning her career in 1923, Ha, whose real name is Truong Phung Hao, worked for the Tai Dong Ban, a leading “cai luong” troupe in My Tho province, the cradle of “cai luong”.
With her strong voice and performing ability, Ha quickly became a bright star. In the 1950s, she was known as Miss Bay and was at the peak of her artistry and fame. She performed in Doi Co Luu (Miss Luu’s Life) and To Anh Nguyet, performances dedicated to portraying the sufferings of women under feudalism and recognised as part of the “cai luong” canon.
Ha also worked to train younger colleagues, with her students including the late actress Thanh Nga and younger performers Thanh Thanh Tam and Thoai My, who have won top prizes at national competitions and festivals.
“Our traditional cai luong art should be carried out as a series of processes, from the older generation to a younger one, a process that leads to new heights of creation,” said then 98-year-old Ha at her last birthday party.
“The country’s spirit is based on traditional arts. Our children can’t grow up without love and respect for the arts,” she added. A memorial service for the deceased is at 7am on July 10. Phung Ha will be buried at the Artists Pagoda the same day with HCM City Mayor Le Hoang Quan as head of the Funeral Board.