Municipal Theatre of São Paulo, Brazil

Municipal Theatre of São Paulo (Portuguese: Theatro Municipal de São Paulo) is a theatre in São Paulo, Brazil, one of the most important theaters in Brazil and one of the postcards of the city of São Paulo. Located in the center of the city, in Ramos de Azevedo Square, it was inaugurated in 1911 to meet the desire of the São Paulo elite of the time, who wanted the city to live up to the great cultural centers.

Its architectural style is similar to that of the most important theaters in the world and was inspired by the Paris Opera. The building has been part of the State Historic Patrimony since 1981 when it was topped by the Condephaat. Besides its architectonic importance, the theater also has historical notability, since it was the stage of the Week of Modern Art, the initial mark of Modernism in Brazil.

Municipal Theatre having been the venue for the Week of Modern Art in 1922, which revolutionised the arts in Brazil. The building now houses the São Paulo Municipal Symphonic Orchestra, the Coral Lírico (Lyric Choir) and the City Ballet of São Paulo. It is considered one of the most respected stages in Brazil and presents one of the biggest and best lyrical productions in the country. Important artists have already stepped on their stage .

The Theatro Municipal São Paulo Foundation was built in the city following the great cosmopolitan aspirations of the early 20th century. On May 27, 2011, the Theatro was transferred from the City’s Secretary of Culture to become a public Foundation, who runs the famous artistic groups. Since 2012, the theater has an annex: the Praça das Artes, an architectural ensemble that houses their artistic bodies and functions as an extension of their activities, and is also home to the Conservatory Room, the São Paulo Dance School and the Municipal School of Music of São Paulo.

The restoration works completed in 2011 modernized the theater building and the stage was equipped with modern scenic mechanisms. The problem of lack of rehearsal rooms, structure and physical space behind the scenes was partially solved in 2012 with the inauguration of Praça das Artes, a cultural complex that started to function as an annex of the theater and stage for various cultural events.

At the inauguration of the first module, Praça das Artes started to house the Municipal School of Music of São Paulo and the School of Dance of São Paulo. In addition, the String Quartet of the City of São Paulo occupied the Conservatory Room that is located on the upper floor of the former Conservatory of Drama and Music of São Paulo and the Experimental Repertory Orchestra started to use the premises of the music school for its rehearsals .

The second phase of the architectural complex, currently under construction, contemplates the completion of the building of artistic bodies. After completion, the Municipal Symphony Orchestra of São Paulo, the Municipal Lyric Choir of São Paulo, the Balé of the City of São Paulo and the Paulistano Mário de Andrade Choir will be housed in this building and will have the best infrastructure for their rehearsals. In this phase will also be inaugurated an internal square with opening for the street Formosa, a garden and an external bar. Although the Arts Square is not physically connected to the Municipal Theater, it functions as its annex and is located on the block behind the theater. There is also a project of expansion of the architectural set, increasing the area destined to the school of dance and construction of an auditorium and discotheque.

The physical structure of the theater has capacity to attend 1523 people, but not all its seats have full vision for the stage. September 28, 2014 was published by Folha de S.Paulo the result of an evaluation made by the newspaper’s team when visiting the sixty largest theaters in the city of São Paulo. The Municipal Theater was awarded three stars, a “regular” note, with the consensus: “Positive points: online purchase, services and facilities. However, the number of toilets is not enough, and there are places with very poor vision ( on the site, they are indicated.) In one of the visits, many people from the side counters had to attend the presentation standing to see what was happening on the stage.The spacing between the rows and the comfort of the seats are regular. ” The following year, the theater received the same note.

The idea of building a representative theatre for the city of São Paulo was inspired by its increasing importance on the international stage. From the beginning of 20th century it was inhabited by the Brazilian bourgeoisie, of which a great part was involved in the business of coffee farming. The city had also quite a large Italian population. So far, the city could only rely on the Teatro São José, actually there was some others quite big, even modest theatres in the city how, the Polythéama, or the Minerva, and the Apolo, but the São José it was the bigger of them, which after a fire was no longer suitable for large foreign productions. That is why the paulistana aristocracy demanded a creation of a new theatre, with a structure similar to some of the best theatres in the world and suitable for staging large opera productions.

The taste for erudite music had already been formed by the influence of the Court, with great impetus during the reign of Emperor Dom Pedro II and Empress Teresa Cristina. Several theaters were built along the Brazilian and inland Brazilian coast. In the city of São Paulo, small theaters fulfilled the task of receiving international companies that performed in theaters such as the National Provisional Theater, Teatro Politeama, Teatro Minerva and Teatro Apolo, as well as the best of them, Theatro São José.

It began in the year of 1895 the discussions on the construction of a theater specifically for opera with a project sent to the Town Hall that processed without success. In 1898, after the Theatro São José was destroyed by a fire, the City Council launched an incentive for the construction of a new theater, through tax exemption. The undertaking would be made when the concession for tax exemption is established in 50 years. The Technical Office of Ramos de Azevedo presents the construction proposal. Another proposal had already been presented by Cláudio Rossi to the first mayor Antônio Prado who made the approach between the office of Ramos de Azevedo.

With the project of Cláudio Rossi, drawings of Domiziano Rossi and construction by the Technical Office of Ramos de Azevedo, the works were started on June 26, 1903 and completed in 1911. The architectural style of the work is eclectic, in vogue in Europe since the second half of the nineteenth century. The Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles are combined, the latter being the style of the time. The theater is structured in four bodies: the facade, composed of the vestibule, the entrance hall and the noble staircase; the central one, in which the show room is located; The stage; and, finally, the environment where the dressing rooms are located.

The place which was chosen for the construction was Morro do Cha’, or Tea Hill, which had been the site of the new Teatro São José. Ramos de Azevedo was the engineer assigned to the construction. He was also helped by two Italian architects Cláudio Rossi and Domiziano Rossi. In 1903, construction began, and São Paulo gained one of the best venues in the world for the presentation of theatre productions, mainly operas. As it was customary in those days, the majority of the materials was imported from Europe, and the architectural reference was Palais Garnier of Paris. The construction lasted about 8 years. The first staged production was the opera Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas. The initial idea was to present an opera Il Guarany, but the company, directed by an Italian Titta Ruffo, a celebrated baritone voice of the time, did not want to count on putting works by Brazilian composers in its repertoire. Also other problems had happened before the opening night. The stage decorations had not arrived in Brazil in time which caused the postponement of the opening date. When the new date arrived on 12 September 1911, the result surpassed all the expectations of the public and the city’s dominant class.

The inauguration was scheduled for September 11, but due to the delay in the arrival of the scenarios of the company Titta Ruffo in São Paulo, since they were touring Argentina, was postponed to September 12. There was a large conglomeration of people around the building. Around 20 thousand citizens came to admire the lighting with electric energy coming from the interior and surroundings of the Municipal Theater, something that was atypical at the time.

Besides the inauguration, the night of September 12, 1911 was the scene of the first traffic of the city of São Paulo. The show was started with the abettura of the opera Il Guarany, by Carlos Gomes, due to the pressure of the São Paulo criticism. Then followed the staging of Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet opera, with the baritone Titta Ruffo in the lead role. The company presented other operas during the first season.

The first years:
Between 1912 and 1926, the theatre presented 88 operas of 41 composers (Italian, French, Brazilian and German), in 270 performances. But perhaps the most important event in the history of the theatre in that period and in all of its existence was not an opera, but something that would infuriate many paulistanos at the time: the Week of Modern Art in 1922.

The Week of Modern Art:
Between 11 February and 18 February the Municipal Theatre hosted a Modernist event that has become known as “Semana de Arte Moderna” of 1922. During the seven days of events there was an exposition of the art of Brazilian Modernismo—a movement that sought to break away with strictly set patterns of European-influenced realistic paintings, drama, poetry, and music. In the evenings of 13, 15 and 17 February there were presentations of music, poetry and lectures on modernity in Brazil and the rest of the world. Modernism defied all the existing aesthetic and artistic values dominating painting, literature, poetry and other arts until that time. The “week” presented artists who were to become some of the most celebrated names in the Brazilian Modernist Movement, such as: Mário de Andrade—a writer, musician and folklorist–, Oswald de Andrade—a writer–, Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Malfatti and Menotti Del Picchia—all three painters. These artists formed the famous “Group of Five”. Victor Brecheret—sculptor—Heitor Villa-Lobos—composer—and Di Cavalcanti—painter—were other celebrities who took part in the Week.

Modernism preached the rupture of every artistic value that had existed so far, proposing a totally new approach to painting, literature, poetry and other types of art. The Modern Art Week had already established names, such as Graça Aranha and others, who would become future great exponents of Brazilian modernism. Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Anita Malfatti, Guilherme de Almeida, Menotti Del Picchia, Di Cavalcanti, Victor Brecheret, Heitor Villa-Lobos and others participated in the movement. Tarsila do Amaral did not participate in the Week, since she was in Europe at the time and learned about the event through letters, especially from Anita Malfatti, a friend who would present her in mid-1922 to Menotti, Mário and Oswald. These five personalities began to attend and meet thereafter, calling themselves the Group of Five, where information about modern art was exchanged, experienced and practiced.

Middle of 20th century:
As the years went by, the theatre, which had been made almost exclusively for opera presentations, hosted also other artistic events, for example performances of dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Isadora Duncan. In the 1960s, under Mayor José Vicente Faria Lima, the building went through its first refurbishment because its walls had been repainted and the original project was deprived of its characteristics.

In the following decades, there was a fall of public and the opulence of the theater was disappearing due to other constructions in the surroundings that followed the growth of São Paulo, like, for example, the Building Altino Arantes.

Between 1952 and 1955 happens the first major reform of the building during the administration of the mayor Jânio Quadros. This reform had as its objective the delivery of the theater for the celebrations of the Fourth Centenary of the city of São Paulo, but for delay in the works, the reinauguration only happened in 1955. The show room had its orders demolished and rebuilt. The boxes of proscenium were removed to give place to the G. Tamburini organ. The ornaments and furniture were redone by the Lyceum of Arts and Crafts. The red became the official color of the room, as well as the upholstery and upholstery of the chairs and chairs. There was also the installation of elevators and air conditioning system.

The more the years went by, although it still enjoyed great respect, the Municipal Theater, was losing space as a center of culture for the population, which underwent various social and cultural transformations throughout the century. Thus, the performances of the theater were aimed only at a very select audience.

From the end of 20th century to the present day:
In 1980s, the theatre went through further refurbishments, initiated by Mayor Jânio Quadros. Its main purpose was to restore the original works of Ramos de Azevedo. The external façade was restored with sandstone, originated in the same mine that had supplied material for the original building conception at the beginning of the century. The restoration was completed in 1991 under the Mayor Luiza Erundina. Now 100 years old, the Municipal Theatre of São Paulo is considered one of the most celebrated cultural venues in South America which has continually been hosting theatrical plays and operas by the greatest national and international playwrights and composers.The Municipal Theatre of São Paulo, actually has currently the biggest and best lyric production in South America.

As it approached its centenary, new restoration work was begun in the building in 2008. It was the third and most complex renovation of the building, where all the acoustics, acoustics, scenic mechanics and acoustic treatment of the orchestra pit were remade. It was also restored the stage, old paintings and more than 14 thousand stained glass. In addition, leaving the green behind with the intention of making the appearance older, red became again the main color of the show room, as well as the upholstery and the upholstery of the armchairs. The intention of the restoration was to leave the Municipal Theater with the appearance of the last century, but more modern inside. The works were completed in November 2011.

In that same year the theater ceased to be part of the Department of the Municipal Culture Secretariat and was transformed into a foundation of public law, being managed by the Brazilian Institute of Cultural Management in 2013. The objective of transferring management to an Organization was to give more administrative and financial autonomy to the theater, but the initiative was not so successful and corruption scandals arose in 2016 during the management of John Neschling, who was removed from the positions of artistic director and titular director.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the operas that were staged in the Municipal Theater were completely foreign productions, because until then, the theater did not have complete instrumentalists and choirs for a montage of its own. Also at the time there were not many institutions of artistic formation beyond the Conservatory of Drama and Music of São Paulo.

Over the years, the need arose for the theater to have its own artistic bodies to act in its lyrical seasons and to create music and dance schools to prepare professionals to work in these groups.

To present its lyrical seasons, in addition to eventually bringing guest artists, the theater has the following artistic bodies:

Municipal Symphony Orchestra of São Paulo
Municipal Lyrical Choir of São Paulo
Ballet of the City of São Paulo
Coral Paulistano Mário de Andrade
Experimental Repertory Orchestra
String Quartet of the City of São Paulo
Connected to the training center of the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, there are the Municipal School of Music of São Paulo and the School of Dance of São Paulo, whose objective is to train musicians and dancers to pursue an artistic career. Since 2012 both schools are based in the Plaza de las Artes and have come to count on sophisticated infrastructure and adequate for its full functioning.