Ho Chi Minh city municipal theatre – Saigon Opera House
Built at the beginning of 1897, under an original architectural design by French architect Ferret Eugene, who won a prize for theatre designing in July 1895, the Municipal Theatre was restored and renewed to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Saigon (1698-1998). Saigon Opera House architectural was following the “flamboyant” style of the French Third Republic. It was set to be two meters higher than the street surface with two door layers, in order to prevent traffic noise.
Standing magnificently at the heart of Ho Chi Minh City is the Saigon Opera House, which is also known as the Municipal Theater. The building stands as one of the impressive sight in Saigon – both night and day.
Built in parallel structure, the Opera House is located on the city’s center axis, connecting the metro station and roundabout in front of Ben Thanh market. From a distance, the Opera House looks like a beautiful gigantic city gate. The architecture boasts stone-carved ornaments and statues at the entrance, crystal chandeliers, and shiny granite floor at the lobby area – all built with materials imported from France. The oval auditorium with 468 seats offers good view from every seat. It is also echo-free and therefore preserves all the sound inside the theatre.
The architectural style and staple material of the Municipal Theatre of the old days are reflected in its stone veranda, a pair of white stone statues of pretty girls at the gate, the colourful granite tiled floors, the chandeliers, the bronze statues in front of the stairs, the audience’s hall with its arch engraved with decorative designs and rows of statues on the two sides of the theatre.
Regaining the power after the Spring 1975 Great Victory, the City authorities allowed a temporary repair of the theatre, returning its function to a central theatre. In 1995, a hundred years after the start of the initial building project, a restoration project was approved by the Municipal People’s Committee. Many experienced historians and architects were invited to participate in this project. The theatre was renewed with new materials and equipped with state-of-the-art electric appliances, light and sound systems and fire and safety equipment. With a rotating stage and a 800 – seat hall, the theatre meets the required standards for various artistic forms such as singing, music, dancing and traditional and modern dramas. It is a good place for artistic performances by domestic and foreign art ensembles and well – known artists, who visit Ho Chi Minh City.
The theatre is now a venue for many high profile events and cultural – entertainment activities of the city. Certified as a national relic in 2012, this magnificent building stays on top of the must-visit of Ho Chi Minh City.
Significant historical events
- January 17th, 1900: The first show of the Opera House was performed by French actors and actresses.
- November 18th, 1918: The first time Vietnamese organized a performance at the Opera House, which is a play mixed with Cai Luong, a theatrical genre from Southern Vietnam, often known as Vietnamese Opera.
- 1945 – 1955: The Opera House was closed during World War II and reopened in 1955 – after the Geneva Convention (1954), and became the Southern Vietnam’s Assembly House.
- May, 1975: it is officially named the city’s opera house.
- 1996: Saigon Opera House is closed for renovation.
- December 18th, 1998: Inauguration ceremony of Saigon Opera House after 2 years renovation. The event marked 300th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh City.
- 2012: The Opera House is certified a National Relic.