Reformed Artist Minh Hai Proudly Recreates Father and Son Portrayal of Uncle Ho

Minh Hai is filled with joy and emotion when he remembers the audience's thunderous cheers and heartfelt responses during his performance of No Nuoc Non (Tribute to Nation), as he was able to connect with them on a deep level.


As the curtains descended to the sound of rapturous applause, artist Minh Hai breathed a sigh of relief, having successfully portrayed the role of Uncle Ho.

His talents in cai luong have made him an iconic figure in the industry.

Artist Minh Hai has left a lasting impression on the hearts of his audience throughout his impressive 20-year professional creative career at the Vietnam Cai Luong Theater. His immense talents in cai luong have cemented his status as an iconic figure in the industry.

Nguyen Tat Thanh, famously known as Ho Chi Minh, is the character who has left the greatest emotional and psychological impact in the Cai luong (reformed opera) No Nuoc Non (Tribute to the Nation). His son also graced the stage as a young Ho Chi Minh, under his birth name of Nguyen Sinh Cung.

Driving the Promotion of Cai Luong in the Northern Region

The traditional Vietnamese opera genre of Cai Luong is highly beloved by many in the North. To drive more enthusiasm and appreciation for this art form, various initiatives have been launched to promote it in the region. These efforts include organizing performances and workshops, as well as providing educational resources and materials about Cai Luong to the public. Additionally, cultural festivals and competitions are held to encourage and reward local artists who demonstrate skill and dedication to the genre. All of these initiatives have contributed to an increased awareness and appreciation of Cai Luong in the North.

Hai was born in 1981 in the northern Vietnamese province of Thai Binh. When he was five, his family moved to Lam Dong, a province in the Central Highlands. His mother would often take him to watch Cai luong, a traditional Vietnamese art form, and he quickly fell in love with its sweet melodies.

After graduating high school, Hai still wanted to pursue his passion for singing Cai luong — even though his family opposed it, claiming that the art form had passed its heyday. For northerners, it was particularly challenging to take up this art form that 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 in 2005. After graduating, he joined the Cai Luong Theater of Vietnam.

Under the expert guidance of theater directors and artists, Hai has achieved remarkable success, earning medals and awards in national competitions.

With his tall stature, striking appearance, and mesmerising voice, Hai has become a notable figure amongst Cai luong devotees.

“I am passionate about this art form and want to see more youngsters in the North who feel the same way I do about Cai Luong. Additionally, I want to demonstrate that those living in the North can showcase the beauty of Cai Luong just as adeptly as those in the South,” Hai declared.

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That’s why People’s Artist Trieu Trung Kien, director of the Vietnam Cai Luong Theater, had faith in Hai to take on the role of Uncle Ho in No Nuoc Non.

This is the first part of the Nuoc Non Van Dam (The Land) project, which aims to recreate the entire life and career of the iconic leader, Ho Chi Minh. By exploring his upbringing, his struggles, and his accomplishments, this project seeks to provide a comprehensive look at the life of the beloved president. Through this project, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the man who shaped modern Vietnam and left a lasting legacy on the world.

The play “21 Years of President Ho Chi Minh” 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 his departure to find a way to save the country (June 5, 1911 – 2022). It covers the first 21 years of Ho Chi Minh’s life and paints a vivid picture of his journey from a young man to a leader of the nation. The play is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices he made to ensure a better future for the people of Vietnam. It is sure to be an unforgettable experience for all those who witness it.

To this day, Hai still fondly remembers the exhilaration he felt when director Trieu Trung Kien called to inform him that he had won the coveted 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,” said Hai. He recognizes that this theatrical work is not only a cultural product but also carries an important political mission, which is highly anticipated by the leaders of the Party, the State, and the people.

With a sense of duty, in addition to rehearsing, he immersed himself in researching materials to truly comprehend the spirit of the play and understand the national leader’s historical context and mindset. In particular, the artist shed six kilograms in over a month to resemble the physicality of Nguyen Tat Thanh, the prototype of a young man.

Nguyen Tat Thanh is an iconic symbol of tenacity and wisdom. Yet, as an ordinary individual, it is daunting to express and articulate myself on a stage limited to merely ten square meters. Artist Minh Hai aptly captured this sentiment, claiming it to be a double challenge.

When the lead actor for the play was finally chosen, the production crew were relieved, believing that the play could now proceed without any worries. However, the arduous task of finding a child actor to portray the boy Nguyen Sinh Cung (Ho Chi Minh’s childhood name) became much more challenging than selecting someone for the role of Nguyen Tat Thanh.

Director Trieu Trung Kien stated that when the theater has a play with child roles, the actors and actresses of the theater bring their offspring to audition. However, due to the difficulty of the role, many of them are hesitant to do so.

Kien was in desperate need of child actors for his theater production and decided to post casting information on the theater’s fan page. After several days of searching, however, he had yet to find anyone suitable for the role. Fortunately, artist Hai suggested that his son, 9-year-old Nguyen Hoang Anh Duc, audition for the part. Kien was thrilled with the prospect and invited him to come to the theater for a tryout.

 A scene of the play No Nuoc Non. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Cai Luong Theater

At first, artist Hai was filled with apprehension, believing that his son could not succeed due to his lack of acting experience. Nevertheless, everyone was astounded by Duc’s performance at the audition.

“When Duc acted in the scene where Uncle Ho’s mother, Hoang Thi Loan, passed away, many artists were moved by the powerful way he played the role. His rendition of Nguyen Sinh Cung’s lullaby to his younger brother was so emotional that it gave us goosebumps – it was clear that Duc was the actor we were searching 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 instead let him play the role naturally. Duc also stated that the role was not as difficult as he had initially thought.

“I hope to have more opportunities to act for longer periods of time,” Duc exclaimed eagerly.

Just like that, Duc effortlessly embodied the role with sincerity and stirred the audience to tears.

Looking back on the play’s success, director Kien said that No Nuoc Non is distinct from other plays about Uncle Ho.

“Writer Nguyen The Ky’s script depicts a simple yet intimate portrayal of Uncle Ho. The performance of the actors is also very emotionally charged, giving the audience a new and contemporary feeling and helping to overcome the limitations of the Cai Luong stage,” said the director.