Cai Luong - the combination of western opera and classical drama

Nga Do
Cải lương (Renovated theater or Reformed theater) originated in Southern Vietnam in the 1920s, is great combinations of folk songs, traditional theatrical drama, classical music, and Western drama. This kind of art with its meaningful lyrics and special performances has become one of national art forms.

Types of cai luong

There are two major types of cai luong: cải lương tuồng cổ (ancient renovated theater) and cải lương xã hội (society renovated theater).

Cai Luong - the combination of western opera and classical drama 1

Stories about modern Vietnamese society often become theme of a typical society renovated theater play. It may be a story about social or family relationships that expresses cultural, social norms, and many other aspects in Vietnamese society. A performance of cai luong often is a tragedy at the beginning but has a happy ending. Some typical plays are Doi co luu, To Anh Nguyet, etc.

Tales, historical stories, or ancient legends are subjects of ancient renovated theaters.

In a cai luong performance, actors use both spoken language and nostalgic singing voice in background music to express the character’s thoughts and emotions.


Actors in cải lương dress in a proper way depending on circumstances and position of character to imitate the subject of the play.

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In a cải lương tuồng cổ play, actors can dress colorful and elaborate costumes with glittery hairpieces, warrior armor, and head pieces. Those dresses are carefully chosen to be suitable for the plot and characters.


Stage in cai luong depicts real scenes, therefore, it should be decorated following principles of realistic theater. There should be a window, bed, desk, etc to imitate a room, or the moon, the stars to describe the moonlight night sky.

The stories, customs and talented ability to sing many words in one breath of actors have made cải lương a popular type of art.

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