Located at 7 Dong Khoi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, overlooking Le Loi Street, the Municipal Theatre, also know as Saigon Opera House, a is an opera house in Ho Chi Minh City. This is versatile theater which organizing performance arts and other important events.

History of the theatre

After the invasion of Cochinchina and the establishment of a colony, in order to be able to serve the main legions, French colonists invited a theatre company to Saigon.

At first, the group performed temporarily at the wooden house of the French admiral at the Dong Ho Square (Place de l’Horloge) (at present corner of Nguyen Du – Dong Khoi streets). After that, a temporary theater was set up at the Caravelle Hotel. In 1898, the construction of the new theater was commenced right next to the old one and on January 1, 1900, it was inaugurated.

In 1944, due to the Allied aerial attacks with many damages, the Theater had stopped functioning.

After the French army surrendered to Viet Minh during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The theatre became a temporary shelter for residence of French migrants from the North to the South under the agreement of Geneva Accords. Through 1955, the Theater was restored and converted into the headquarters of the National Assembly. After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, the building was restored to its original function as a theatre. In 1998, on the occasion of 300th anniversary of the founding of Saigon, the municipal government had the theatre façade restored.

Architecture of the Municipal Theatre

The Municipal Theatre is a smaller counterpart of the Hanoi Opera House, designed by a group of French architects, Félix Olivier, Eugène Ferret and Ernest Guichard. The architectural style of the project is characterized by an ingenious combination between architecture and sculpture.The decoration and sculpture are very important, from the outside to the interior that covered with many reliefs and statues.

The front of the theater is clearly influenced by the Petit Palais Museum (which displays many works of art from the Ancient to the late 19th century) built in the same year in Paris, France. The façade is made of a large arch divided by 3 doors to welcome guests, decorated with highlights by 2 columns that touch the shape of women following the style of Greece Caryatids at Erechtheion. Above the forehead of the wall under the façade is a mural with 5 goddesses painted on the facade tiles, surrounded a small pediment with carving a goddess and flowers, and below is The words “City Theater” replace the original “Théatre Municipal” from the French period. Also along the top of the wall is the relief of the human face and the festoon, which is originally the dramatic mask often seen in the theater. The main highlight of the theater is the statue of two angels sitting side by side honoring the Lyre guitar, which is typical of Roman-Greece myth, below is a cartouche that originally carves two words “RF” (short for Republique Francaises) and below is the head of Pan, the god of country music. All of the façade sculptures and decoration of the façade constitute the “flamboyant” trend of art in France at that time.

The interior of the theater is modernly designed with a full range of sound and lighting systems. In addition to the ground floor, there are 2 seating floors above. The capacity of the theater is up to 1,800 seats.

The front of the theatre was decorated with inscription and reliefs but it was criticized as being too ornate. In 1943 some of this decoration such as the goddesses of art, flower ranges, lamps… was removed, but a portion was restored by the city government for the 300th anniversary of Saigon in 1998. Today the capacity of the opera house is 500 seats.

The Municipal Theatre, located in the city center area, is an ideal discovery for visitors. The theater is not only an architectural – cultural work, but it also an associated with the city’s history, contributing to the charm and elegance of Ho Chi Minh city.