Last update: 07:00 | 15/05/2018
Once praised as the leading opera singer in Vietnam, Meritorious Artist Ha Pham Thang Long retired from the stage four years ago and is now working as a lecturer. In an interview with Nhan Dan (People) Weekly, she shared her thoughts on how to develop opera in Vietnam.
Meritorious Artist Ha Pham Thang Long
Working as an opera singer in Vietnam, a country where opera is not very popular or appreciated by a majority of the public, might be a tough and challenging journey. How have you dealt with this?
Everything is not too tough for me so far. I am lucky enough to work with good lecturers and friends, who have greatly supported me in my career. During my study and training, I haven’t thought of the difficulties, but I tried my best for the best result instead.
Before choosing to follow the arts, I had it set in my mind that my job should also contribute to the country. To ensure my living, I also took on extra work and worked overtime but I don’t consider that a hardship.
Fortunately, our generation also received financial support from foreign cultural funds to stage operas, which brought us more opportunities to hone our skills.
You are one of the few artists who have dedicated their entire careers to opera. How have you nurtured your passion for the theatre?
First of all, you have to love your career, and if you want to love it, you have to understand and explore it. The more I research and explore opera, the more I fall into it. Someday your durable work will be rewarded by the appreciation and positive feedback from society.
The young opera singer Ninh Duc Hoang Long won first prize at the 9th International Jozsef Simandy Singing Competition recently held in Hungary and has raised a strong hope for a talented young generation of Vietnamese opera singers. What do you think about this?
I highly appreciate Long for his passion for and serious working manner in opera. In fact, we have a number of students who are well-aware of their job, but they haven’t yet been offered a good opportunity to shine.
There are three major factors in the success of an opera singer: practise, and support from family and society. The third factor is not fully met in Vietnam as the people show less favour for academic arts. Therefore, those who can show off their talent abroad like Ninh Duc Hoang Long are admirable.
What is the main reason for the unexpected development of opera in Vietnam in your opinion?
I think it is mostly because of people’s awareness and liking. In Vietnam, people show more interest in popular music rather than opera and chamber music.
However, we should not compare it with the development of opera in developed countries, which are the cradle of classical music and where artists are provided with more opportunities. However, a career in the arts is a tough journey no matter where it is. The arts environment in foreign countries is even more competitive than in Vietnam, forcing students to perform at their best to win a slot on the stage.
There is a fact that classical music singers are now heading to folk music and other musical genres in order to earn their living. What do you think about this?
It is understandable because the size of the audience and space for classical music is very humble. I think that singing different styles of music doesn’t affect the singer’s voice if they can master the skill well enough to be versatile in other singing genres. However, it is important to maintain a serious working manner while engaging in the arts.
After years of being devoted to opera, what are your reflections on the job?
I hope for a better treatment for opera artists, who have to spend months practising in order to put in a good performance over a two-hour show. We have a lot of talented and passionate young opera artists, but they still seem to be confused about the tough path ahead.
For years we haven’t staged a grand opera, thus students have less opportunity to show off their talents. It costs billions of Vietnamese dongs to stage a grand opera, so we face a severe lack of funding for it. I think it is necessary to make further investment in the academic arts, particularly those from the State.