Saigon Opera House, officially known as the Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City, is a grand 19th Century building located in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnamese.
Saigon Opera House
Saigon Opera House never was particularly successful as an opera house but it is a fantastic building which has been well maintained and protected by the Communist government of a reunified Vietnam and designated as national cultural monument.
About Saigon Opera House
Construction began on Saigon Opera House in 1897, with the first performance taking place 3 years later on the 17th January 1900. The opera house was designed by French Architect Eugene Ferret, and bears many similarities to the world’s most famous opera house, the Palais Garnier in Paris which had been completed two decades earlier in 1875.
Front entrance to Saigon Opera House
Saigon Opera House never succeeded as a commercial venture. There were too few customers who wanted to attend opera performance to fill the 800 seat auditorium and the cost of bringing opera companies from Europe to Vietnam, along with their costumes and musical instruments ,made the opera house unviable as a business. The first world war brought about a further dip in attendance levels. During the 1920s through to the 1940s the only Western opera performances which held were funded in their entirety from subsidies from the French administered city government. To stop the decline from 1918 onward the opera house was largely used to stage Vietnamese style musical theatre shows (Cai Luong).
Side view of Saigon Opera House
Saigon Opera House stopped operating entirely in 1944 when the building was damaged by Allied bombing in the fight against the Japanese Imperial Army, which had captured control of Vietnam. Between 1944 and 1955 the opera house was left largely unrepaired and unoccupied. The situation changed again in 1955 when the French government withdrew from Vietnam following defeat in battle with the communist Viet Minh forces. The new government of South Vietnam turned the opera into its parliament building, and it continued to be used as the assembly building until the invasion of Saigon by the forces of Ho Chi Minh in 1975. The opera fared better under the new communist government who restarted theatrical performances shortly after taking control of the city. Between 1996 and 1998 the Vietnamese government also funded a massive restoration project on the building to mark the official 300th anniversary of the city. This highly successful restoration project modernised the facilities inside the auditorium and at the same time returned the exterior to its original appearance from when it first opened in 1900.
The facade of the Opera House was restored to its original form in 1998
The Opera House is not open to visitors except during performances. For more information about what’s on and purchasing tickets to performances visit the website of the theatre operator, Lune Production.