Cai Luong (Renovated Opera) appeared in the southern part of Vietnam in the 1920s. This relatively modern form combines drama, modeled after French comedy, and singing.
Scenes are elaborate and are changed frequently throughout the play. Cai luong is similar to the Western operettas and more easily depicts the inner feelings of the characters. Songs of the Cai luong are based on variations of a limited number, perhaps 20, of tunes with different tempos for particular emotions – this convention permits a composer to choose among 20 variations to express anger, and as many to portray joy.
The principal supporting songs in Cai Luong is the Vong Co (literally, nostalgia for the past). Cai luong owes much of its success to the sweet voices of the cast, much appreciated by the audience. Upon hearing the first bars of the well-loved Vong Co, the audience reacts with gasps of recognition and applause.
The Cai luong performance includes dances, songs, and music; the music originally drew its influences from southern folk music. Since then, the music of Cai luong has been enriched with hundreds of new tunes. A Cai luong orchestra consists mainly of guitars with concave frets, and danakim.
Over the years, Cai luong has experienced a number of changes to become a type of stage performance highly appreciated by the Vietnamese people as well as foreign visitors.