The Hanoi Opera House, located in the French Quarter, is an attraction in itself. Do try to catch a show here so you can experience the building in all its majesty.
The neo-classically styled Opera House was built over the decade running from 1901, and the official website says 300 workers were on the site daily, using 35,000 bamboo poles and concrete blocks in its construction—we're not sure of the breakdown between the poles and blocks? The steps cascading down to the square in front were designed for ostentatious drop offs and pick ups by the cars of colonial officials; these days you can call a Grab bike or taxi to collect you. It's not quite the same in terms of being salubrious, but it's certainly convenient.
The design is said to have been inspired by ancient Greek architecture and the neo-Baroque style of Charles Garnier, who designed the elaborate Paris Opera (or Palais Garnier), opened in 1875. Once opened, the Hanoi Opera House during the colonial era was used by touring foreign artists, usually performing French and Italian operas for mostly French opera-goers and wealthy Vietnamese, four times a week.
After the ejection of the French, the Opera House became the site of more political activities, with the first National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam held here in 1945. Later, the building returned to its original purpose, with Vietnamese operas and musicals being staged here, some with Soviet assistance.
The building underwent a renovation in 1997; the interior in particular is lavish and characterful. These days Western operas are occasionally mounted, and there are also performances by visiting classical orchestras, and a whole gamut of entertainments, such as puppet shows, ballets and nights of traditional Vietnamese song and drama. The National Ballet is part of the Opera House company, too.
The three-tiered theatre seats about 600 in plush chairs, and feels very intimate. We were lucky to catch a brilliant acrobatic musical show with the rather unexceptional title of Poetic Vietnamese Village Life. The lighting, music and performance itself was world class. We highly recommend trying to see a show here so you can enjoy the building in all its glory.
Unfortunately it's difficult to work out what is being shown via their official website. We'd suggest asking at your hotel what's on, and see if they can assist in arranging tickets. Or drop by yourself in order to see the building anyway. You will probably be able to stick your head in to see the spacious Italianate marble lobby, but you're supposed to have a ticket to get inside to see the interior proper.
Address: 1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi
T: (04) 3933 0131 ; (04) 3933 0113;
Coordinates (for GPS): 105º51'28.44" E, 21º1'26.76" N
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These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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