Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires Opera House) opens the doors sharing its history, facts, stories behind the scenes and many pictures.
Teatro Colon: History and Facts
Teatro Colon (Columbus Theater) in Buenos Aires is one of the best theaters and opera houses in the world. Its roots as a cultural institution can be traced back to mid 19th century when it started operation in the building next to Plaza de Mayo.
But the “golden times” and worldwide fame of Teatro Colon came with the opening of the new theatrical complex facing the Avenida 9 de Julio (not far from the Obelisk).
Each of these three leading architects left permanent “footprints” in this beautiful structure – not surprisingly being a combination of different styles.
The new Teatro Colon was inaugurated in 1908 after long years of misfortunes and more or less usual delays due to the lack of funds.
The initial project was designed by an Italian Architect Francesco Tamburini, who unfortunately died shortly after the cornerstone was placed on May 25, 1890.
His work was continued by his successor Victor Meano, who in turn left this world murdered by another Italian – Juan Passera (his butler, presumably lover of his wife Luisa Meano).
Finally cutting the tragic string of “Italian Connections” the government hired a Belgian architect Jules Dormal Godet to finalize the project and give the final shape to the Teatro Colon. The first two secured the best of Italian style while J. Dormal finished the upper level in a predominantly French style.
Entrance Hall with beautiful sculptures.
Carefully selected building materials imported from Europe – few kinds of Italian marble, French stained glass, Venetian mosaics, Slavonic wood for floors etc …created a full-scale lavishness surprising even today.
Not surprisingly the sumptuous halls and gold-ornamented rooms on the 2nd floor furnished with antic objects, marble statues, marvelous crystal chandeliers and paintings – mostly of French origin form a sort of museum. And sorry – but they are available only for special occasions. To make it clear - buying tickets for one of performances do not allow spectators to visit the upper levels! However the good news is that you can still see what you will miss otherwise by taking guided tour of the Teatro Colon.
Today (after few additions throughout the years) the theater occupies 58,000 square meters (624,300 square feet). The horseshoe–shaped concert hall has the capacity of 2478 sitting places on the main floor and four levels of galleries.
The galleries on two highest levels 5th and 6th (called “Paradiso”) have only standing places for up to additional 1000 spectators.
The central dome of 318 square meters holds a gigantic crystal chandelier encircled by paintings. The dome includes a small hidden gallery designed for chorus. This clever invention allows “heavenly voices” of angels (when required by the play) to come directly from “Up-There” totally surprising unaware public.
The orchestra pit for 120 musicians is designed as a “resonance box” - magnifying and reflecting the sound. This, together with the architectural proportions of the main hall, quality of finishing materials and carefully designed ornaments makes the Teatro Colon a place of an exceptional acoustics (tour guides will proudly make it clear by pointing that there are no microphones in the theater).
On the professional side of the story one may quote Luciano Pavarotti acknowledging that Teatro Colon is the most challenging scene in the world because its perfect acoustics does not allow singers for slightest mistake as it would be noticed immediately….
Below the first level of stalls there is a “camouflaged” gallery originally intended for widows. Although today it may sound strange, during early years of the last century widows’ participation in cultural events was not socially accepted (at least during the 2 years long mourning period). This hidden gallery allowed them to attend performances in the Teatro Colon without being publicly seen. Whatever we think about this “get around approach” one thing is sure in Buenos Aires – Teatro Colon and in general the cultural life was in the past (and is still these days) an important part of everyday life.
What we do not see being in Teatro Colon is its large “underground” world. This is a vast area extending well under the surrounding plazas with workshops and ateliers making everything required to support productions on the stage - from decorations, costumes, makeup, hairdressing, upholstery, special effects, lighting, photography, etc…. to smallest details of theatrical productions. They fully support the operation of the Teatro Colon taking also orders from other theaters (and believe me – there are many out there).
After this introduction by the Free Teatro Colon Tours and Pictures please enjoy the gallery of pictures taken inside of the theater.