Claude Bourrin first came to Vietnam in the 20th century to work for the French Customs Department. Then, he was an amateur actor.
In 1904, he performed in the comedy “Tourane—Revue” in Danang city.
After that, he was an actor and director of many other plays including: “The recommendation” of Max Maurey, “Victory and conquer” by Courteline, and “A short journey” by Labiche at the Opera Houses in Hanoi and Haiphong.
According to French Professor Corinne Flicker, Claude Bourrin had created many romantic, dramatic and aesthetic plays.
Corinne Flicker said, “Claude Bourrin devoted his whole life to bringing Western dramas to Vietnam. With a great passion for traditional Vietnamese theater, he created a special cultural life linking Vietnamese and French cultures, and contributing to the birth of Vietnamese drama.”
With his talent and great love for drama, Claude Bourin was appointed the Director of the Indochina Opera House and the Hanoi Opera House. He modernized Western dramas to match the taste of the public.
Many world masterpieces as “Turandot princess” by Carlo Gozzi; “The forced marriage” by Moliere; or “The Viceroy’s carriage” by Prosper Marimee were staged in Hanoi and Hai Phong Opera Houses.
Associate Professor Ngo Van Gia, Head of the Literature Writing —Journalism Department of the Hanoi University of Culture said, “Claude Bourrin was the first person to introduce modern drama to the French and Vietnamese people in Vietnam. He also brought drama closer to the Vietnamese, which was earlier only served the aristocracy. He helped many Vietnamese artists to approach Western drama”.
In 1920, Claude Bourrin brought the first Western stage drama to Vietnam. The play “The Misanthrope” was translated into Vietnamese by Nguyen Van Vinh and was introduced to Hanoi audience.
In 1921, Claude Bourrin brought “A cup of Poison” by Vietnamese playwright Vu Dinh Long to Hanoi Opera House.
Stage researcher Nguyen Van Thanh said, “Initially, the Opera Houses in Hanoi, Saigon and Haiphong only staged French and Western dramas to serve the French and French speaking people. But Claude Bourrin decided to let Vietnamese dramas to be staged at the Opera House. A drama of Vu Dinh Long was the first Vietnamese drama to be on the stage. The opening day of that drama was considered the birthday of Vietnamese drama.”
Due to the consequences of the economic crisis in 1930 and the blooming of cinema, stage drama started to shrink. Director Claude Bourrin created new methods using Vietnam’s traditional theatrical art.
Many plays about daily life, culture and ideology of Vietnamese people started to appear on stage.
French Professor Corinne Flicker said, “Before Claude Bourrin brought Western drama to Vietnam, Vietnam’s traditional theater comprised of only singing and dancing. The Hanoi Opera House was built in 1911 to serve the French only. But from 1930, Claude Bourrin allowed Vietnamese drams to go on the stage.”
“Claude Bourrin turned the Opera House, the place was first used to spread the French culture, to become an entertainment place for Vietnamese people,” Corinne Flicker said.
In addition to linking Western and Vietnamese traditional cultures and setting a foundation for Vietnam’s drama, Claude Bourrin also introduced Vietnamese traditional theaters to foreign friends.