HA NOI Traditional art theatres in Ha Noi and HCM City have tried their best to attract tourists, but not all of them have worked effectively enough, according to insiders.
Despite their marketing, the Central Cheo (traditional opera) Theatre, the Ha Noi Cheo Theatre, the Central Cai Luong Theatre and the Central Tuong (Classical Opera) Theatre have still found difficulties in attracting tourists.
According to Hoang Khiem, director of the Viet Nam Tuong Theatre, two weekly shows on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons have run for tourists since early 2008.
The programme, which has been advertised on the theatre s website in both Vietnamese and English, includes classical tuong excerpts like Ong Gia Cong Vo Di Xem Hoi (Old Man Carrying His Young Wife on His Back to Village Festival), Lan Me De Lan Con (Mother Unicorn Giving Birth to Baby), Nha Nhac (Royal Court Music) over an hour-long performance.
"The items are performed mainly using gestures to reduce language barriers," Khiem said, "That s why all of them are easy to understand. Many are delighted by the shows and return again and again."
"Yet the shows don t attract many tourists to begin with," he said. "I think the main reason is that tourism companies have shown little interest."
In contrast, the Ha Noi Cheo Theatre has established fairly close relationships with tourism companies and serves tourists twice a week.
"Each of our two shows on Wednesday and Friday nights gather around 100 tourists," said Trinh Thuy Mui, director of the theatre. "I think our co-operation with tourism companies is effective enough to maintain regular shows."
In the meantime, the Viet Nam Cheo Theatre plans to launch a the programme to serve tourists from middle of this month on weekend s.
"We will stage traditional cheo excerpts alternating with various folk dances and singing like hau dong (spiritual songs and dances), ca tru (ceremonial singing) and hat xam (troubadour singing)," said Ha Quoc Minh, director of the theatre. "A bilingual Vietnamese-English website for the theatre will be ready at the end of this month."
"People are not turning their backs on traditional arts," noted Thao Giang, deputy director of the Viet Nam Music Arts Developing Centre, referring xam performance every Saturday night at Dong Xuan night market.
"Thousands of passers by watch the show, many of them are tourists," he said. "Most of them seem to enjoy the show very much."
However, he said, the centre can only introduce a certain part of Vietnamese folk music as it was a centre comprised of voluntary artists. How to help the artists earn a stable living on the art was the difficult thing.
Since 2005, HCM City s Culture, Sports and Tourism Department has co-operated with the Tran Huu Trang Cai Luong Theatre, the Performing Arts Company, Bong Sen Theatre and HCM City Hat Boi (classical opera) Theatre to stage traditional art programmes to serve foreign tourists.
In 2007, the Rong Vang Water Puppetry Theatre was established aiming to serve tourists in District 1. The Diem Mot Thoi (Once Meeting Place) tea shop run by ao dai (traditional long dress) designer Sy Hoang has also organised regular folk music shows for its customers.
However, one after another, the performances have gradually attracted fewer and fewer guests over the past four years.
According to Phan Quoc Hung, director of the Tran Huu Trang Cai Luong Theatre, the problem has been a result of various factors, including high ticket prices, and inconvenient venue locations.
"There seems not be enough co-ordination between theatres and tourism companies, which has led to many shows without audiences," he said.
Among the theatres, only the Rong Vang Water Puppetry Theatre has thrived due to good management and marketing, he noted.
However, artists in HCM City are still keen on serving the increasing number of foreign tourists.
The recently opened Super Bowl performing stage run by actress Hong Van is aiming to attract these audiences, he said. VNS