Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre in Hue

Ben Xuan Owner’s Biography

Huyen Ton Nu Camille, artist name Camille Huyen, was born in 1957 into the royal family of the Nguyen dynasty which built the monuments, palaces, tombs and all historical sites still conserved and cared for in Hue these days. According to the royal pedigree, Camille belongs to the sixth generation in direct line from the 61th prince of Emperor Minh Mang, Count Nam Sach Quan Cong. The Count was a great artist of his time, well known for his poetry and as a composer of the traditional music songs Ca Hue. Camille left Hue for her study in Paris when she was eighteen. During her studies and even during her professional career as dentist consultant she maintained her interest in artistic activities with musical performances in Paris.

After marriage to the Swiss banker Ngo Truong Dinh, Camille moved to Switzerland where she devoted full-time to the Beaux Arts, in painting and in music. With the OrchesTrio Zurich (Noriko Kawamura, Fumio Shirato, Walther Giger) she represented Switzerland at three following Hue Festivals 2008, 2010, 2012 performing the Cung Tien Art Songs, World Lullabies and then her own music compositions (cowritten with Walther Giger) which set into music the poetry of the famous and most loved Vietnamese poet Han Mac Tu. Camille’s painting was exhibited and collected manyfold in France and in Switzerland. A great part of her Oeuvres is now in permanent exhibition at her Residence Ben Xuan which she began to design herself in 2008 as an artistic architectural monument while mostly re-using old and ancient materials. Camille’s accomplishment (June 2015) of the Residence Ben Xuan has been widely recognized as a “heritage” garden  house on the shore of the Perfume River, situating between the  national heritages Thien Mu pagoda and the Temple of Literature in Hue.

Truong Đinh Ngo was born 1954 into a Catholic farmer family in a rural area of Gio Linh, Quang Tri about 100km northern from Hue. His parents left the war-torn area for Saigon when he was a child.

Ngo(Truong Đinh Ngo) graduated 1972 at the Grammar School Ho Ngoc Can in Saigon. He excelled as the best student of the year 1972 at the entrance examination to the National Center of Technology, and was granted a scholarship to study in the Federal Republic of Germany. After completing his Masters Degree with Excellent Grade in Computer Science at the Technical University of Berlin in 1980 he was called for positions in the Swiss insurance and banking industry in Switzerland. During his professional career Ngo was sent by the Swiss Bank UBS to the most prestigious Swiss Finance Institute (Swiss Banking School) where he graduated as Swiss Executive Banker.

In 1990, Ngo founded the company Financial Information Software Technology (FIST AG) to deliver solutions and consulting services for the Swiss finance industry. In 2002, Ngo handed the FIST AG over to his brother in order to enter into service for the Swiss bank UBS in rank of a Director. While carrying out research for the UBS at this position in the derivative financial instrument area, Ngo graduated at the prestigious Swiss Finance Institute (Swiss Banking School) as Executive Banker. Ngo was then promoted to Executive Director at the UBS for merits of creating the Universal Structured Products Information (USPI), a standard model for constructing and monitoring all derivative structured products. In the financial crisis year 2008, the model USPI gained recognition at all Swiss banks and at the Swiss Stock Exchange, therefore Ngo’s already registered and pending Application for United States Letters Patent was sold to the Swiss Stock Exchange to become the regulating open standard in Switzerland. Ngo then founded the company FISTDerivative AG, and in joint-venture with the Deriva GmbH based at the University of Göttingen (Germany), he established the Deriva International AG in Switzerland. As chairman and head of the independent international consultancy firm, he helped implementing the model standard at the Swiss Stock Exchange and at all international banks having derivative products quoted and listed in Switzerland.

In his spare time Ngo enjoyed assisting his wife, the artist Camille Huyen, in her artistic activities as painter and singer, with translation works Ngo has made Camille’s interpretation and composition of Vietnamese songs understandable for the international audience. He wrote Camille’s album booklets, translated songs of the composer Cung Tien (CD album Cung Tien Art Songs) and poems of the poet Han Mac Tu (CD album Han Mac Tu Moondrunk) into German and into English.

Now retired and resettled in his native country at Ben Xuan Résidence, Ngo is working on new projects: establishing the garden theatre house Ben Xuan on the shore of the Perfume River as an East-West cultural meeting point in Hue; translating Ca Hue Royal Chamber Songs and promoting works toward implementation the musical Moondrunk to be played and sung in the poetry language of the most beloved  poet Han Mac Tu.

Construction Story of Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre

The construction story of Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre began with the invitation of Hue International Festival 2008 to Camille Huyen and OrchesTrio Zurich to represent Switzerland and to perform Cung Tien Art Songs & World Lullabies at the Royal Theatre in the Forbidden City. In the presss conference at the final ceremony of the festival we made two announcements:

Construct the Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre in Hue royal architectural style.  Compose the new Art Songs Cycle Moondrunk, setting the poetry of Han Mac Tu into music using pentatonic scale. The Han Mac Tu  Art Songs Moondrunk should be performed in Hue Festival 2010 and in the Bến Xuân theatre house afterwards.

That was the very reason how the construction of Ben Xuan came about and for which purpose. The property of Bến Xuân today with ca. 4000 m2 has then been bought successively parcel by parcel from 1998 until 2015. With the purpose of the construction of a garden house theatre in mind, from the very beginning ancient materials have been collected for reuse:

– Hundred thousands of bricks aged more than  hundred years collected from pulled down walls in brickwork, from decaying patrician houses and colonial houses

– Many tons of broken porcelains gathered from sunken ships .

– Various kinds of old wood bought from old wood houses which were pulled down to make place for new buildings made of concrete

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Since Hue Festival 2008 the construction of Ben Xuan has taken many years. But Ben Xuan is built on many more years of our longing for Hue and of our searching to understand the l’art à Hue in order to love each single piece of the hundred thousand bricks collected from pulled down walls of houses aged more than a hundred years, and to set together the mosaic of hundreds of thousands of broken porcelains much older than the age of our grandparents.

Based on the artistic design of Camille Huyen, the construction of Ben Xuan shows its traces back to the royal architecture of the Nguyen dynasty at its highest achievement during the reign of Camille’s ancestor, Emperor Minh Mang.The horizontal axis in Ben Xuan runs parallel to the Perfume River, beginning in the Tea Pavilion Nghinh Phong as the oldest part, crossing over the bridge connected to the theatre house and ends in the Reception House and the Poetry Pavilion with its Neo royal style of the Khai Đinh time. The vertical axis runs from back to front of the theatre house, connected through the theatre house itself, and leads to its forefront Half-Moon court, culminating on the shore of the Perfume River at the Lotus Gate. The Lotus Gate, situated on the river shore,  symbolizes a boat floating on the Perfume River and floating in The River of the Universe. The Zen Gate opens its door to the street of the Temple of Literature (Van Thanh), and uses the sculpture language of the artist Điem Phung Thi to shape the symbol of a Buddha sitting on a lotus pond. The Pen Gate looks onto the crossroads of the street named after the learned Zen monk, Van Hanh, and the street of the Temple of Literature. This Pen Gate, with three massive pens in red brick, as in writing to the Heavens, represents the engaging will of the intellectuals in Vietnam for the sake of the society and of the country, as the Zen monk Van Hanh once did in his time.

We understand that to preserve the Heritage is not to worship the past on the altar. For us, Heritage is the stream of cultures flowing continually from history into our life of today, and Heritage can only survive when integrated into the life of people, and only when people are living integrated with Heritage. We have built Ben Xuan with this understanding of Heritage, and inevitably, with traces of our life experience, including half a lifetime spent in Europe.

Now we can say our dream as announced in the year 2008 has come true: You could enjoy the performance of the Cung Tien Art Songs, the Han Mac Tu Moondrunk Songs, World Lullabies, and World Classics Songs as well as Hue’s traditional music in the Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre.

We still have a dream: Ben Xuan might become and remain an East-West cultural meeting and melting point in Hue; and the next generation and all people loving Hue, will help preserve Ben Xuan so that hundred years from now, while traveling on the Perfume River, someone would still know the story about the construction of Ben Xuan shared with you under the moonlight of this night.

Concert Dinner: A Personal and Authentic Experience  of Hue at Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre

Dear Hue Visitor

Welcome to Hue. You certainly ask which leisure one should indulge in the evening after having spent an interesting day visiting the Heritage monuments such as the Citadel, the Royal tombs and many other historical sites in Hue. If you look for a relaxing cultural evening-out with East West chamber music and fine dining to share the impression and experience of the day, Ben Xuan could present itself as a perfect choice.

About Ben Xuan

You will be picked up by car at your hotel or be boarding at the boat station Toa Kham to enjoy a boat ride of around thirty minutes on the Perfume River, passing 300m over the Celestial Thien Mu Pagoda, to arrive at the Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre. Ben Xuan is built in royal architectural style on the most beautiful site on the bank of the Perfume River. Ancient materials – hundred thousands of bricks, aged more than hundred years from decaying patrician houses, tons of broken porcelains from sunken ships, various old woods from pulled down wood houses – had been collected and reused for the new construction of Ben Xuan. Based on the artistic design of Camille Huyen, the construction of Ben Xuan shows traces back to the royal architecture of the Nguyen dynasty at its highest achievement during the reign of Camille’s ancestor, Emperor Minh Mang.

Ben Xuan’s owners, Mrs Camille Huyen (Artist) and Mr Truong Dinh Ngo (retired Swiss Executive Banker), both of them native of Hue and having lived for more than forty years in Germany, France, and Switzerland will welcome you personally. Ben Xuan is conceptually designed as an East West cultural meeting place where you can get individual and authentic experience which brings to life the heritage of Hue in music, architecture, culture, beaux art and culinary art.

Enjoy the Perfume River, architecture, cultural exchange and chamber music at Ben Xuan as the royal and literati used to indulge their leisure time in Hue.

The musical soirée as highlight of the evening will unfold in the ambiance of the Theatre House with the concert  program set up out of the wide ranging repertoire of Camille and her ensemble interpreting Western Classical Songs in Latin, Italian, German, French, English; Ca Hue Royal Chamber Music Songs; World Lullabies; Vietnamese art songs of the composer Cung Tien performed by Camille Huyen with OrchesTrio Zurich at the Hue international music Festival 2008. Especially  only performed at Ben Xuan are Han Mac Tu Moodrunk Art Songs which are composed for and performed at Hue Festival 2010 and 2012 by Camille Huyen and Walther Giger (Swiss composer and guitarist), setting poetry of the famous and most beloved Vietnamese poet Han Mac Tu into music. All songs are interpreted in the original languages of the Oeuvres. In the program notes you’ll find all the performed songs translated and explained in English. We are currently working on the French,  German and Vietnamese version of the notes. Starting October 5th 2017 Ben Xuan Concert Dinner is planned once a month. Open time 17:30, concert begin 18:00 – 19:15, dinner begin 19:30, concert program for October 2017:

  1. Instruments Concert Royal Chamber Music
  2. Ave Maria (Bach, Gounod)
  3. Đi Núi – I’ve been to the mountains (Xuân Dieu, music Cung Tien)
  4. Solo Bamboo Flute, Hoa Thom Buom Luon
  5. Ca Hue Royal Chamber Song Cổ Bản Melody – Song of Gentlemen of Leisure
  6. Folksong of Middle Vietnam: Ly Hoai Nam & Ly Ngua O – Song of the Black Horse
  7. L’hymne à l’Amour – Hymn to Love (Edith Piaf, music Marguerite Monnot)
  8. Anh Đien, Em Đien – Man Crazy, Woman Crazy (Han Mac Tu, music Walther Giger & Camille Huyen)
  9. Solo Moon Lute Vi Mien Nam – For the South
  10. Ca Hue Royal Chamber Song Phu Luc Melody – Watching River Water
  11. Ca Hue Royal Chamber Song Tu Đai Canh Melody – Four seasons
  12. Solo Mono Cord Trong Com – Listen to the drums
  13. Trang Vang Trang Ngoc – Golden Moon, Pearl Moon (Han Mac Tu, music Walther Giger & Camille Huyen)
  14. Santa Lucia (Teodoro Cottrau)

Dinner after Concert (once a month): Optional dinner after concert, either Beauty Menu (two courses and dessert) or Classic Menu (three courses and dessert), will sweeten the musical night.

Other permanent Services are daily available at Ben Xuan:

– Visit Tour public visit of one and a half hour, open time 8:00 – 18:00. Visit and take pictures at Ben Xuan Résidence, Theatre, Painting Exhibition. Refreshment, Cake, Green Tea from garden will be served in the reception house (phone announcement is sufficient).

– Private Lunch, Private Lunch Recital, Private Dinner Recital: exclusive services in private ambiance for groups from 2 persons onward (lunch reservation before 9:00 a.m., dinner reservation before 2:00 p.m.).

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Concert Only : 890.000 VND (Particularly for 05.10.2017 BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE )

Beauty Menu: 890.000 VND

Classic Menu :1.200.000 VND

Source: Vietnam Locals


Reviews on Trip Advisor

Nothing like it on Earth – Dung H

Just got out of the taxi to our hotel and can’t wait to share this experience with the world. Travel the world over and I challenge anyone to come up with a more magical combination of hospitality, culture, music, history and gastronomy. This is NOT a restaurant but an experience, a journey into Ngo and Camille’s world. Money can’t buy this sort of memories! Thank you! thank you! thank you!

Don’t Miss This Hidden Gem in Hue for a Fabulous Show and Dinner – Jerry34134 from Bonita Springs, Florida

I say this right up front – I do not like dinner shows. But this was truly a gem. It is a very small venue. I would say 25-30 is a maximum they can entertain at one time. Out group was 17 and it was perfect. We arrived by boat where the home is right on the river. The owners, Camille and Ben, Vietnamese people who resided in France and Switzerland, did an incredible job creating a wonderful venue/home out of ancient reclaimed materials into a intimate reception hall and dining area. Camille is a multi-talented women, who not only is a wonderful singer, but artist, song writer and cuisine designer. We started off with a 30 minute concert consisting of 3 musicians playing what I would describe as ancient musical instruments (i never seen or heard anything like them) and Camille blessing us with about 5 songs. We them moved into another fabulous room for dinner where we had a 6 course magnificent dinner. All very creative. It is certainly an eventing my wife and I along with our friends will remember a long time.

Special experience at Ben Xuan – R6492YZbarbarah from Adelaide, Úc

My husband and I had dinner and were treated to a music recital in November. The house has been beautifully designed and built by the owners who are rightfully and extremely proud of their beautiful house and gardens. We were encouraged to view the art work in the house before dinner and enjoyed the delicious food which was served to us. However, we would have to say the music was exquisite with Camille singing and a small ensemble of musicians playing traditional instruments including the one string violin. We had a wonderful experience.

Interesting but… – R M

An interesting evening. We booked through a travel agent and frankly had no idea what to expect. We assumed we would be in a public theater and pretty much planned to sneak out early as we were very tired and jet lagged. We were shocked to be the only attendees at the “theater” in a private home. Three musicians and Camille entertained the two of us for about an hour and then we were treated to a delightful dinner. After dinner we had a short visit with the hosts. We left wondering what in the world had just happened. It was actually a nice evening but we were confused and bewildered by the whole affair. I recommend you go, but understand what you are getting in to before you arrive.

Unique experience as wonderful as the hosts – Joysweet5 from Tokyo, Japan

During our trip to Vietnam, we wanted to have a fine dining experience for a special occasion. I was intrigued by the excellent reviews describing very special experience at Ben Xuan and in reality it exceeded my expectations! We loved:
– the beautiful house and garden designed and built by the owners (the story and process behind the construction of the property itself is incredible)
– being transported by the music performance of Camille and her musiciens, discovering vietnamese traditional music and rediscovering occidental songs
– the food which was amazing from both taste and visual point of view, made of bio products only
– and last and most important: our wonderful hosts who made us spend an unforgettable evening. Ngo and Camilly put into a lot of thoughts and efforts to customize the program for us (French song, romantic theme, translation of the lyrics,…) They are very friendly, knowledgeable, shared great conversations and were discreet at the same time for us to savour our romantic diner. 
We felt so lucky to have been to Ben Xuan. It will remain one of the best and most unique experiences for me.

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