|Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By An Phương
HCM CITY – As many locals may already know, HCM City has unveiled a plan to build a new performing arts centre in District 2 on the Thủ Thiêm Peninsula.
The new theatre for symphonic, operatic and ballet performances is expected to cost a whopping VNĐ1.5 trillion (US$64.75 million).
It will have a large auditorium with 1,200 seats and a small one with 500 seats. The theatre, with a total of 1,700 seats, will certainly be the biggest of its kind in the country.
I’ve heard so many comments, both positive and negative, about this massive theatre project.
Many people, including my parents, are concerned that the fund to build this theatre should go toward other projects in need for the public.
Upgrading traffic infrastructure and fighting the consequences of floods are some of the major issues that HCM City needs to focus on, according to my parents.
“I live in District 2, and flooding from heavy rains and tides has caused my family so much trouble,” said Minh Ngọc, 31, whose friends in other districts have experienced the same problems.
I am also a resident of District 2, and I agree with Ngọc. Sometimes I wonder when Lương Định Của Street will ever be free from flooding!
“A trillion đồng is a huge sum of money, so it should be spent wisely," said Thanh Tân, 28. "It would be even more wasteful if a small number of people go to the opera house after it is completed.”
Tân’s opinion got me thinking that, even though I’ve never been a true fan of classical artistic performances, I’ve always adored artists’ dedication to this beautiful form of art.
Though people are worried about flooded streets during the rainy season, city authorities have already started a massive VNĐ10 trillion on improving city’s water drainage system.
As far as the city’s need for hospital facilities are concerned, another VNĐ6 trillion is earmarked for a 1,000-bed cancer hospital.
I discussed public concerns with some of my close friends who are in their mid-twenties.
“Since I did not grow up with classical music or dance, it’s quite difficult to digest this news about a new large theatre just for these kinds of performances,” Thuý Võ, 26, said.
In addition to the mass audience’s lack of interest in such performances, my friends are concerned that many locals might not have enough money to visit the theatre.
“Art performance tickets cost more than a movie ticket,” Thuý said, adding that she prefers going to movies during her off days.
My parents are also concerned about land compensation and how Thủ Thiêm Peninsula’s roads will be maintained during the massive construction of the theatre.
I have to agree, as I have heard that the theatre project will be carried out between 2018 and 2022.
That’s a short period of time. It will require significant effort from city authorities to ensure that the neighbourhood remains clean and the theatre opens on time.
That being said, HCM City, as the largest cultural hub in the south, needs a new theatre as an iconic landmark.
“The Sài Gòn Opera House and some other theatres are also significant landmarks. However, they lack the wow factor that could help elevate HCM City’s image among international friends,” Minh Ngọc said.
“I was amazed when I saw Singapore’s Durian Theatre and Australia’s Sydney Opera House. To be honest, I’m excited what my hometown, HCM City, has to offer!”
Sooner or later, HCM City will have to build something like this new theatre, considering the ever-growing entertainment demand of the city of 10 million people, and the deteriorating state of current art houses.
“If you give it a second thought, it’s quite late now for HCM City to think of a new cultural landmark. The city should have had done something like this at least 10 years ago,” Minh Trương, a friend of Ngọc, said.
Minh Trương said that he had heard the theatre would regularly organise free concerts so that everyone can enjoy performances they cannot see anywhere else.
Based on what Minh Trương said, I would have to agree that it is necessary to educate younger generations about the performing arts.
This would perhaps inspire more people to pursue a career in music, ballet or opera and other performing arts fields.
My parents also suggested organising a theatre design competition among potential designers.
“As this theatre will become an iconic landmark not only in HCM City but also in Việt Nam, a theatre design competition should be held to ensure the best outlook,” my mom, 65, said.
“I expect the worst but hope for the best!” she added.
Despite all the controversies, considering this will be a significant construction, Thủ Thiêm Peninsula is the place to build the theatre, which reportedly will also feature folk art and contemporary artistic performances.
However, it is important for agencies to firstly settle land compensation and ensure quality road infrastructure and traffic connectivity to the theatre.
More should be done, of course, but I believe authorities’ efforts will create a synergy that together will lift up HCM City, making it the “Pearl of the Far East!” once again! – VNS