Hát Bộ or Hát Bội stage art is one of the typical Vietnamese traditional stage arts. When talking about traditional stage art of the North, one immediately thinks of Chèo stage art, the South is Cai Luong stage art and the Central is Hát Bộ stage art.
Basing on the historical fact, we determine relatively the time of the birth of Hát Bộ stage art. In the reign of King Tran Nhan Tong (1279 – 1293), in the second resistance against Nguyen dynasty army, the Vietnamese army captured Ly Nguyen Cat. He was a playwright, so he was not killed by the king, but he was forced to teach Hát Bộ stage art. The person had merit for systematizing Hát Bộ stage art is Dao Duy Tu (1572-1634).
The makeup of the actors is extremely picky. This is clearly defined, such as red for straight character, black for brave character and white for meek character. wearing the costume, jewelry is, too.
In addition, the performance is also very special – the traditional martial arts are used in the play, the gestures follow a rule and weapons such as swords, knives, and lances are used skillfully.
Besides, the sing voice of Hát Bộ stage art is very loud, very tall and clear. The most important Tune in singing is “Nói lối”. That is to say the opening for other tunes. “Nói lối” has two main voices are “Xuân” and “Ai”. “Xuân” voice is a cheerful voice, and “Ai” voice is a sad voice.
About the content of Hát Bộ stage art, the major is Chinese ancient stories, educating people according to Confucianism. About lyrics, there are many Vietnamese-Chinese words, idioms, maxim sentences.
Instruments used in Hát Bộ orchestras include traditional drums, trumpets, flutes and so on. In front of the stage, there is a big drum. During the performance, if any artists are singing well, the person holding a drumstick beats a sound.
In the present, Hát Bộ stage art is not very popular, only performed in god worshipping village temples in yearly festivals. On these occasions, the old come to see very crowdedly. The young also come to see, but they do not understand the story content in opera well.
Through the writing, we find that Hát Bộ is a very special stage art kind, which shows through makeup, costume, gestures, martial arts and using way of weapons. All mix together, bringing a lot of emotions to enjoyers. On the festival occasions of village temples, you should come to watch with your eyes this unique art kind.