In love with Vietnam

French performance of The Tale of Kieu

Vietnamese poetic masterpiece, The Tale of Kieu, has been staged in Vietnam by French artists in a new, modern way using a unique language. Entitled Kim Van Kieu, the musical performance is directed by Christophe Thiry and features professional actors from Paris-based L’Attrape Théâtre.
Christophe Thiry decided to write the opera Kim Van Kieu after he read Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu). The book was given to him by a Vietnamese friend who is a loyal follower of Parisian theatre. Thiry was very impressed by the profoundness and vividness of the Vietnamese epic poem and strongly believed it could be adapted for performance on the stage.

Although he has never been to Vietnam, Thiry transformed The Tale of Kieu into an opera with acts which feature both the gentleness of poetry and dramatic changes in the original epic to touch the audience’s emotions.

The French director combines different art genres such as drama, dance, opera and singing to express the masterpiece’s takes on life, love, violation, misfortune, hope, ruthlessness and emptiness.

Director Christophe Thiry and French artists meet the press before the performance. Photo: Nguyen Thi Hong

Thuy Kieu and her first love, Kim Trong. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Thuy Kieu and Thuc Sinh. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Thuy Kieu is sold to Tu Ba's brothel by So Khanh. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

 Thuy Kieu is maltreated by Tu Ba at her brothel. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Hero Tu Hai. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

 Kieu meets Kim Trong after he has married Kieu's sister, Thuy Van. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

French artists and two Vietnamese musicians in the last part of the performance. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang.

Nicolas Simeha sings Da Co Hoai Lang (
Night drum beats cause longing for absent husband
in Vietnamese.
He is accompanied by Vietnamese musicians Mai Thanh Son và Mai Thanh Nam. 
Photo: Tran Thanh Giang.

The French director combines different art genres such as drama, dance, opera and singing in the musical performance. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang 

Director Christophe Thiry and the performers thank the audience. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

The life of Kieu is told in chapters like “Foreseen Predestination”, “Three misfortunes of Kieu”, “Revenge and Trial”, “Betrayal” and the finale. The acts were transformed flexibly through the performance of talented opera and pop singers and actors. The musical features western and Vietnamese musicians playing violin, piano, guitar, drums, flute, dan nguyet (moon-shaped lute), and dan bau (monochord zither).

Thiry has recruited experienced artists from different backgrounds who have successfully led the audience to the emotions of the drama. The artists are Nicolas and Simeha and Aini Iften as the narrators. Sarah Bloch plays Kieu while Guillaume Francois plays Tu Hai, Kieu’s husband. Odile Heimburger acts Thuy Van, Kieu’s younger sister, and Pascal Durozier as Tu Ba, the brothel owner.

He has also invited two Vietnamese musicians, Mai Thanh Son and Mai Thanh Nam whose participation helped introduce Vietnamese contemporary life into the old drama and harmonize western and Vietnamese arts.

“When we were invited to join the show, we thought of how to harmoniously combine western and Vietnamese tractional music to make the opera simple and friendly to both Vietnamese and Parisian audience,” Mai Thanh Son said.

The Kim Van Kieu show was successful when it debuted in Paris in 2017. 

Story: Ngan Ha - Photos: Tran Thanh Giang

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