‘Cheo’ master works to save the vitality of Vietnamese traditional opera

NDO – Born in 1950 in Hung Ha district, Thai Binh province, which is the cradle of Cheo (Vietnamese traditional opera), People’s Artist Ngo Thi Thanh Hoai has fallen into the sweet and charming melodies of ‘Cheo’ since she was a little girl.


Her talent and passion for the traditional art form brought her to the Vietnamese Cheo Theatre when she was 15. Hoai said that she was lucky enough to receive thorough training from Cheo masters at the theatre, equipping herself with standard singing and performing techniques.

With her beautiful voice and her love for singing as well as the hands-on instruction from Cheo masters, Hoai graduated from the theatre three years later with a distinctive decree for her excellent role as character Suy Van in the classical play ‘Kim Nham’.

Since then, Hoai has established her fame through other popular Cheo plays such as ‘Tu Thuc Gap Tien’ (Tu Thuc Meets a Fairy), ‘Kieu O Lau Ngung Bich’ (Kieu at Ngung Bich pavilion), and ‘Quan Am Thi Kinh’ (Goddess of Mercy), among others.

According to Hoai, although Cheo is a folklore art form with similarities to other traditional arts practice such as ‘chau van’ (spiritual singing), and ‘hat xam’ (blind buskers singing), it is important to distinguish out the ‘tone’ and personality of the character.

Throughout her veteran career Hoai has taken many roles in numerous plays, but the most memorable one for her is Giang Huong in the play ‘Tu Thuc Gap Tien’ (Tu Thuc Meets a Fairy), which helped her earn a gold medal at the National Cheo Festival in 1990.

Not only practicing Cheo, Hoai has also kept herself learning other art forms such as ‘ca tru’ (ceremonial singing), ‘chau van’ (spiritual singing), ‘hat xam’ (blind buskers singing), Quan Ho (love duet) singing, and poetry recital, gaining certain appreciation from the public in these genres.

Hoai has won numerous awards and accolades during her career, including six gold and four silver at arts competitions and festivals across the country. She has also shined at international festivals, including taking the grand prize at the International Folk Music Festival in Guangzhou (China), and the Golden Bell award at the International Folk Music Festival in Beijing (China).

In recognition of her contributions to Vietnamese traditional music, Hoai was awarded the Meritorious Artist title in 1992 and People’s Artist title in 2007.

At the age of 70, Hoai continues to work passionately and devotedly to hand down her experience and passion to her younger colleagues. She is currently working as a lecturer at the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema and as a singing instructor at the Voice of Vietnam. She is also an active member of the Dong Kinh Co Nhac (Ancient Music Group of Tonkin), which gathers many celebrated artists of various folk genres.

Throughout her 50 years following Cheo career, Hoai has made significant contributions to preserving and promoting Vietnam’s traditional art forms and encouraging the love and responsibility to safeguard the national culture among younger artists.