“When wearing ao dai [Vietnam's traditional long gown], I feel as if I am a Vietnamese girl,” opera singer Léa Badillo, a French of Vietnamese descent, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper last week.
Born in Vietnam, Badillo was adopted and grew up in France.
She thought that she was very ‘French’ before she returned to Vietnam for the first time.
After three times of coming back to her homeland, she met her biological mother and felt that she belongs to Vietnam, especially when she dons ao dai.
Her Vietnamese name is Bao Ngoc.
Badillo recounted that she was adopted by a married couple who could not have a child when she was five months old.
The couple traveled to Vietnam to pursue dentistry when they decided to adopt a child.
Her biological mother could not afford to raise her, thereby sending her to a local orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.
“I smiled at my adoptive mother when I first met her, so she was so touched,” she said, adding that her mother told her that story. “I knew that I was an adopted child when I was young. My parents often told me about Vietnam, took me to a Vietnamese restaurant each week, and allowed me to join Vietnamese festivals such as Tet in France.”
“This is the third time I have returned to Vietnam,” she said, adding that she went back to the Southeast Asian country for the first time when she was 12 years old.
Other than looking like a Vietnamese, she realized that she had a little connection with the country, Badillo shared.
“It took me much time to build up my psychological behavior and emotion before I was reunited with my birth mother as I had no memories about my natural mother and Vietnam,” she told Tuoi Tre reporters.
In July this year, she sent a letter to her natural mother based on the address written on a photo provided by her adoptive parents.
This was her second connection with Vietnam.
She received a quick reply from her birth mother and some photos of Badillo when she was young.
In the same month, she came back to Vietnam to visit her biological mother.
“Initially I didn’t call her mother, as I just recognized my adoptive mother as mom,” she said.
“I called her name instead.”
However, after several talks, she realized that the adoption was the best choice for both her and her natural mother.
“Returning to Vietnam and looking for my birth mother were a journey to find my national cultural identity,” she said proudly.
“This is the reason why I sympathize with director Olivier Dhénin Huu, a French of Vietnamese descent, and agreed to join Paysage Dans L’oubli (Landscape of Oblivion)."
In a scene of the play, a phone ringing wakes a character, urging him to look for his origin.
“We feel that something is prompting us to come back to Vietnam to discover ourselves,” Badillo said. “Vietnam makes me belong to this land.”
“It is art that has stimulated me to find ways back,” she said, noting that in the play, she will act as a loving woman, a person on the way to look for her father, and a mother expecting her child to grow and have a happy and peaceful life.
During her performances, she will wear ao dai, which makes her comfortable and touches her deeply every time she puts it on.
“Ao dai suits me a lot,” she said.
She agreed to perform in the play as she realized these roles are linked to her personal experiences.
Notably, the play covers a performance of cai luong, a kind of traditional music popular in the south, by Vietnamese artists.
“I really love cai luong,” Badillo said.
|Opera singer Léa Badillo (L, 2nd) wears a dress bought in Vietnam. Photo: Supplied|
Léa Bao Ngoc Badillo started pursuing her passion for singing after learning how to play viola at the Music College of Aix en Provence.
After securing a degree in music, Badillo continued to earn a bachelor’s degree in classical music at the University of Montreal in Canada.
She returned to Vietnam for the third time to perform Paysage Dans L’oubli, directed by Huu.
Paysage Dans L’oubli, a French opera also written by Huu, will premiere at the Municipal Theater on November 26, and at the Ho Guom (Sword Lake) Opera House on November 28.