When enumerating the world´s most outstanding opera houses – like the Palais Garnier in Paris, the Vienna State Opera, the Covent Garden Theater in London, or the Metropolitan in New York – we shouldn´t fail to mention the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The city of Buenos Aires takes pride in joining this prestigious list and thus representing a cultural icon across the globe.
T he Teatro Colón conjures up mightiness, beauty and art in all its splendor. For decades the theater has seen the most renowned conductors, actors and actresses, dancers and singers, as well as millions of spectators who have been lucky to live such a memorable and unique experience. Because beyond the performances, the stage itself tells its own story.
The original Teatro Colón was opened between 1857 and 1888, and the building, as it is today – including its most recent restoration – was inaugurated back in 1908, 18 years after its construction started.
Besides its facade, the theater features a superb main foyer, where the grand staircase stands out for its splendid marble-clad steps and precious French stained-glass windows. Its Golden Room – decorated in the French style- is used for chamber music concerts, exhibitions and the like. Its Concert Hall – thanks to its acoustic, architecture, among many other features- is considered the most outstanding in the country.
To learn much more about this capital icon, we interviewed Architect Bettina Kropf (Master´s Degree in Monument Restoration from the UNAM, Mexico), who participated in the refurbishing of the Teatro Colón, as well as in other important projects such as the re-functionalization of the former Majestic Hotel, the re-functionalization of the former Italo Argentina power station, the restoration of Edificio, the restoration of Assembly Hall, Pabellón Argentina (University of Córdoba), among others.
Ms. Kropf, a great connoisseur of the subject matter, will take us on a “guided tour” of the Teatro Colón, in which she will explain its historic and cultural value while encouraging locals and tourists to come and see this magnificent creation with their own eyes.
Q: From an emotional and professional viewpoint, what does the Teatro Colón mean to you?
A:/ The Teatro Colón is a dream come true for every architect specialized in heritage conservation. This theater is housed in an exceptional building, with a unique sitting: with the opening of 9 de Julio Avenue in 1937, the view of the building was enlarged and became far more comprehensive, with an extraordinary spatial and artistic wealth that is glorified down to the smallest details From the fences designs, the woodwork carvings, the glossy golden capitals in the foyer, the polychromatic stained glass windows, the marble stucco, the red and Rosso Verona marble, the velvet pieces, the stoneware mosaic or the Slavonian oak wooden floors…It all comes together in the extensive spaces which enable the appreciation of the great height of the foyer with its balconies, and above all the grand Concert Hall, whose volume of air turns it into one of the halls with the best acoustic on the globe.
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Each time I walk into the building, I am overcome with emotion. The aesthetic and special sequence achieved by the authors is simply breathtaking. The lyres, the woodwork and the acroteria with theatrical faces in the façade are enhanced by a palette of colors that range from the golden beige outside to the golden shade with a touch of red in the foyer reception, to finally turn into an explosion of red shades with a golden touch in the Concert Hall. The theatre accompanies the visitors´ sensations as they walk around it. These are the sensations of tragedy and comedy.
Q: How would you describe the stage to those who have not seen it yet?
The Teatro Colón is a stage highly valued by opera, symphony and ballet artists. Like few traditional horse-shoe theaters, this opera house has no lateral spaces in its stage box, which makes the sound emission really powerful. All this along with a kind of flooring that works as the board of a musical instrument. The sounds spread and bounce around, at different speeds, within the myriad of angles in the decoration, or are absorbed by the textiles in the hall. This is exactly what makes this hall so unique. One can almost feel the presence of the tragedies or comedies sung, danced and heard on this stage.
The carefully designed furniture, like the box seats – which are curved for the sake of the spectator´s comfort- seeks to appeal to all senses. The Colón Theater is esteemed not only by music lovers; the experience is rich for everyone climbing up the marble staircase and walking in to discover it.
Q: Finally, how would summarize your participation in the restoration of this significant project?
I joined a team convened by Architect Ms. Silvia Fajre. The team started developing a project and work plan whose aim was the restoration, technological update and refurbishing of different spaces in the building. My specialization contributed to the definition of projects and works such as the restoration of facades, stained glass windows, the hall and its textiles; while my experience in management contributed to the assistance throughout the plan.
MUCH MORE ABOUT THE TEATRO COLÓN
This celebrated venue lies on 628 Cerrito Street, only a few meters from the Obelisco – another landmark in the city – and just around the corner from many other attractions for visitors in the capital city to discover and enjoy. The splendorous outside view of the building is a must see, whether by day or by night.
Some interesting facts
– The central chandelier weighs over 100 kilos.
– All the materials for its construction were brought from Europe.
– Among the singers who have performed in this theater are Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Enrico Caruso, Claudia Muzio, Maria Callas, Regine Crespin and Birgit Nilsson.
– Some of the most outstanding conductors who also appeared on this stage are Ferdinand Leitner, Herbert von Karajan, Hector Panizza and Arturo Toscanini.
May I enter the Teatro Colón?
The Theater offers daily guided visits both in Spanish and in English. During this fifty-minute tour visitors will be shown around the Foyer, the Bustos Gallery, the Golden Hall and the Main Hall. Senior citizens and students are ellegible for special discounts, while children under 7 are admitted for free. For further information please visit the theater´s official web page. The theater has been streaming its productions through its official website www.teatrocolon.org.ar. Below we will provide information about a special space that belongs to the theater and is currently open to the public.
Two secrets about the theater
Recently, the Teatro Colón has opened the Colón Fábrica. Located in the emerging artistic corridor of barrio La Boca (Avenida Pedro de Mendoza 2163), this space offers visitors the chance to come close to the theater´s secrets and diverse stage designs, costumes, shoes and even special effects. This exhibition has become established as one big favorite among those travelers and locals who love art and who seek to learn about the Teatro Colón from different perspectives. It may be visited on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 12 thru 6pm. The ticket costs AR$600 (USD 5 roughly) and the tour is one hour long.
If you are looking to learn more about this fascinating opera house, you may visit its official YouTube Channel, as well as its many digital sites, where you will have access to information about different interviews to musicians, conductors and artists, along with some news and a summary of its main activities. We highly recommend the Hablando del Colón podcast – a series of interviews that make watchers feel more connected with the theater and its protagonists.