A grand example of the Parisian-style architecture for which the quarter is famous is the stately Opera House (now officially known as the Municipal Theatre) situated near the eastern end of Trang Tien. Based on the neo-Baroque Paris Opéra, complete with Ionic columns and grey slate tiles imported from France, the theatre was erected on reclaimed land and finally opened in 1911 after ten years in the building. It was regarded as the jewel in the crown of French Hanoi, the colonial town’s physical and cultural focus, until 1945 when the Viet Minh proclaimed the August Revolution from its balcony. After Independence, audiences were treated to a diet of Socialist Realism and revolutionary theatre, but now the building has been restored to its former glory after a massive face-lift. Crystal chandeliers, Parisian mirrors and sweeping staircases of polished marble have all been beautifully preserved, although, unfortunately, there’s no access to the public unless you go to a performance. Otherwise, feast your eyes on the exterior – particularly stunning under evening floodlights or, better still, the soft glow of a full moon.
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