The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hat Boi: Traditional Vietnamese Opera in Phan Thiet

Below are photos taken of Hat Boi (or Hat Bo), a traditional form of Vietnamese opera. The performance was hosted in a local whale temple. Van Thuy Tu is the most famous such temple in Phan Thiet, but there are perhaps a dozen such whale temples in Phan Thiet alone. The temples occupy a similar position in the lives of local fishermen as the old Chinese assembly halls have had for Chinese merchants in Vietnam's port towns. Whale temples always have stages for performances, making them an ideal place to perform these operas.

The announcer and story teller wishes wealth and happiness to the elders of the community, calling them out by name, one by one, with melodramatic ceremony.

The first performer comes singing out in a flamboyant costume, with drummers on either side, and a traditional orchestra just out of view.

Notice his elaborate head dress with peacock and pheasant tail feathers.

The central character is joined by his co-star.

Throughout the performance the audience (mostly male elders in the community), throw bunches of sticks at the performers. I'm unfamiliar with the meaning and ceremony behind this but I suspect this character is a villain and throwing sticks is akin to throwing tomatoes. Boys sit on either side of the stage, continuously cleaning up the sticks.

All photos (as always) copyright 2010 Adam Bray. Photos may not be used or republished without written permission. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Interesting post Adam. We are going to be featuring Vietnamese Opera at

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