A Morning at the OperaMarch 3, 2018 in Argentina ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C
Like all great cities, BA has an opera house. But this one — Teatro Colon — is extraordinarily beautiful, on par with the Paris Opera House, and heads and shoulders over the 1960s monstrosity of the Met. According to National Geographic, it is the third best opera house in the world. What are numbers one and two? Sydney and Copenhagen. However, I suspect that the ranking is due to sound considerations, not the splendor of the building.
The Teatro Colon took 18 years to build and according to our charming guide, the story of the building could be an opera itself. It opened in 1908, and was completely remodeled in 2010. The remodeling took 4 years, in part because the modernization of the building negatively impacted the acoustics, requiring reversion to some earlier materials. For example, the seats were originally filled with horse hair. In the remodeling, they substituted foam. This was horrible for sound, so they had to re-do all 2600 seats, adding a year to the project.
The entrance way, balconies and the public meeting areas are gorgeous. The golden hall is modeled on the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. In the early years, people used to come at least an hour before the opera started, so that they could see and be seen in the hall. But, access to the hall was — and still is — restricted to people in the more expensive seats. If you buy a cheap seat, even today, you cannot visit the golden hall. So, a few times a year, the hall is open for free public concerts in which students at the “Academy” play chamber music.
Inside the theater you find a spectacular, old-school concert hall, built in the traditional U-shape. The drapes are a beautiful red, as are the seats, and the walls are covered in gold leaf. We were told that the price of tickets runs from $10 USD, to $250 USD. The best seat is considered to be a box seat, on the second level, directly across from the stage. We sat in this box during the tour, and the view is amazing. There are boxes on either side of the stage that are reserved for the Mayor and the President. Sadly, the boxes generally sit empty. There are also boxes on the floor that are shielded by black grates. These boxes are no longer in use, but were built as the widows’ boxes — where widows could see the opera (but not be seen) during the mandatory two years of mourning. Apparently, widows often purchased the entire box, which had four seats, and then brought their lover with them to see the opera.
The theater itself had some amazing innovations. From the time that it was built, there was a wooden turn table built into the stage, allowing sets to be moved easily during a production. Above the stunning chandelier, is a huge open area for musicians and people doing sound effects (up to 50 people). This area is still used today. And, below all of the seats on the main floor is a large open chamber, which improves the quality of the sound. Beneath each seat is a small grate, where the sound reverberates around.
Our only regret was that we couldn’t actually see a production. The season doesn’t start until two weeks after we leave. What a bummer, as seeing an opera, or a ballet, would have been quite a treat. But, touring the theater was a strong second.Read more