Vietnamese reformed opera doyen dies in the US

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Meritorious Artist Ngọc Đáng died of cancer on Thursday, February 24 in California, the US. She was 71. She had a rewarding 55-year career as a cải lương artist. Photo courtesy of the artist’s family

HCM CITY — Meritorious Artist Ngọc Đáng who graced the cải lương (reformed opera) theatre for more than five decades, died of cancer on Thursday in California.

She was 71.

Đáng, born to a traditional family in Sài Gòn (now HCM City), began her career at an early age in the 1920s after learning cải lương from her parents, actor Tư Minh and actress Ngọc Xứng – lead performers of the Phụng Hảo Troupe.

Đáng had a 55-year-old career in cải lương, a traditional theatre genre of the southern region which began in the 1920s.

Her voice, singing, looks and performances helped the artist become one of the brightest stars in the cải lương firmament.

During her career, she performed for several leading theatres in the southern provinces of An Giang, Trà Vinh and Vĩnh Long, including the Khánh Hồng Troupe and Hương Lúa Mới Theatre.

She made her debut for the Thanh Bình-Kim Mai Troupe, one of the region’s leading traditional art troupes then, as an established artiste in 1966.

Đáng won several top prizes at theatre festivals and contests, including two gold medals for the Best Actress at the National Professional Theatre Festival in 1982 and 1990.

She performed in several hundred plays, videos and movies.

Many of the plays that Đáng performed as lead actress have been restaged in new versions by leading theatres and traditional art troupes in HCM City and southern provinces today.

Đáng moved to California in 2010 and helped to popularise cải lương among young Việt kiều (overseas Vietnamese).

Theatre director and producer Gia Bảo of HCM City paid rich tributes to her. “Đáng devoted her entire life to cải lương. Her art is unique and invaluable,” he said. — VNS

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