Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Water puppetry is a thousand-year-old Vietnamese performance art with deep roots in the wet rice agriculture of the Red River Delta. Carved from fig wood, then painted and lacquered to a high, distinctive sheen, the madcap puppets careen over a watery stage, enacting skits drawn from Vietnam’s treasury of folklore and history. At Thang Long, Vietnam’s premier venue for the arts, a 45-minute performance skitters through 17 episodes drawn from legends and myths. A traditional orchestra conducts a clamorous soundtrack while cheo (popular opera) singers narrate the dialogue and action.  In nearly every water puppet performance, you’ll meet a poor farmer who brags about his ducks until one is snatched by a fox that runs up a tree. You’re also likely to see boy puppets swimming after frogs and playing flutes from a perch on the back of a water buffalo.

Water puppetry is a thousand-year-old Vietnamese performance art with deep roots in the wet rice agriculture of the Red River Delta. Carved from fig wood, then painted and lacquered to a high, distinctive sheen, the madcap puppets careen over a watery stage, enacting skits drawn from Vietnam’s treasury of folklore and history. At Thang Long, Vietnam’s premier venue for the arts, a 45-minute performance skitters through 17 episodes drawn from legends and myths. A traditional orchestra conducts a clamorous soundtrack while cheo (popular opera) singers narrate the dialogue and action.  In nearly every water puppet performance, you’ll meet a poor farmer who brags about his ducks until one is snatched by a fox that runs up a tree. You’re also likely to see boy puppets swimming after frogs and playing flutes from a perch on the back of a water buffalo.

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