Located in the east of the Quang Minh Palace (Palace of Brightness) in the
Forbidden Citadel, the Royal Theater was built by Emperor Minh Mang in 1826.
It was large, rectangular-shaped with
curved eaves, similar to those of Hue pagodas and communal houses, supported by two rows
of iron-wood, red lacquered columns decorated with intertwined dragon and cloud designs.
On each column hung a painting of Hue scenery in a golden frame, carved with dragon
designs. The sky-blue ceiling above was painted with figures of sun, moon and stars,
symbolizing the universe. The building was connected with the royal living quarters by
snaky roofed galleries.
A square-shaped stage occupied the central part of the floor. No
decoration was used to distinguish the real world from the theatrical one. Behind the
stage were two doors. Actors and actresses made their entrances from the right-side and
exited on the left. Behind the wall was a large room for storing scripts, theatrical
headgear, footwear and props. The highest position of this room was occupied by an altar
dedicated to two founders of the court opera theater.
The room opened onto the court east of the Forbidden Citadel (this
entrance was used by actors and actresses). Across the stage was a high tower of two
levels. The top level, next to the western wall, was reserved to the queen, concubines and
maidservants. On the ground level was a carved chair for the Emperor. These two levels
were kept separated by a bamboo blind which offered the spectators a good view of the
outside, preventing them from being seen. Only the fluttering sounds made by fans, such as
birds wings, or giggles could sometimes be heard. On both sides of the Emperor's
carved chair were other chairs for State guests. There sat the Governor General and the
Superior Resident sometimes during the French occupation.
The Royal Theater was the oldest of
Vietnamese traditional stage that remained. It was closed after the end of the monarchy
(8th, Jan 1945). During the US temporal occupation it was used by the South Government for
the Hue Music College (present-day Hue College of Art).