The headquarters and main location the Cultural Center is on Calle 37, 150 meters north of Avenida 2.  It includes the popular Eugene O'Neill Theater
The headquarters and main location the Cultural Center is on Calle 37, 150 meters north of Avenida 2. It includes the popular Eugene O’Neill Theater

QCOSTARICA-  If you are a North American with a middle-class income, you probably do not go to the opera very often. It is even less likely that you would fly off to England to watch one of the London Theater’s top-notch theatrical works. And it is inconceivable that would visit Moscow to watch the Bolshoi Ballet.

But if you live in Costa Rica, you can enjoy all of these things. And you can do so at a fraction of the cost.

San José, Costa Rica is fortunate to have the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano. In English it is the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center, or just the “Cultural Center.”

The Cultural Center is a bi-national non-profit organization that works closely with the U. S. Embassy to help promote diplomacy, cultural awareness and language teaching. There are several branches of the Cultural Center, but the headquarters is just outside of Downtown San José, on the way to the San Pedro Mall.

The San Pedro Headquarters of the Cultural Center includes one of San José‘s great treasures: The Eugene O’Neill Theater. This is an intimate theater that seats 300 and is renowned for it’s state-of-the-art Bose sound system.

American history, and great works in American and English literature are part of what is available at the Cultural Center's Mark Twain Library.
American history, and great works in American and English literature are part of what is available at the Cultural Center’s Mark Twain Library.

At the Eugene O’Neill Theater you can watch live jazz performances, chamber music, choral music, plays, classical recitals and much more.

You can also attend the opera. Not just any opera: The New York Metropolitan Opera. Live! As it is happening!

The Eugene O’Neill Theater in San José receives live broadcasts of opera performances directly from The Met via satellite. The Theater then projects the images on stage in high-definition, accompanied with exquisite stereo sound.

The results are stunning,” Said Jerry Ledin, a former member of the Cultural Center’s board of directors. “It is almost like being at The Met in person.”

In some ways it is even better.” Said Karl Schmack, the Cultural Center’s executive director. “Because the performance is captured by cameras from many different angles, you will always have the best seat in the house.”

Anna Netrebko - Russian-born soprano, Anna Netrebko, will star in this season's first opera performance: Verdi's “Il Trovatore” on October 3rd. It will appear at the Cultural Center, live from the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Anna Netrebko – Russian-born soprano, Anna Netrebko, will star in this season’s first opera performance: Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” on October 3rd. It will appear at the Cultural Center, live from the New York Metropolitan Opera.

The Cultural Center is very excited about this coming opera season. It begins on October 3rd with Guiseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” starring Russian born soprano Anna Netrebko.

In addition to the opera, the Cultural Center also presents similar high-definition performances of plays from The London Theater, and ballets from the Bolshoi in Moscow.

And this August and September, the Cultural Center will be presenting a series of films that focus on important artists. Beginning on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 there will be a film about Van Gogh.

We will keep you up to date with events at the Cultural Center that should be of interest to the expat community.

Classrooms at the Cultural Center are often used for their popular English classes. The Cultural Center is one of the most prestigious places for Ticos to learn English.
Classrooms at the Cultural Center are often used for their popular English classes. The Cultural Center is one of the most prestigious places for Ticos to learn English.

The Cultural Center also serves many other functions. They are best known for teaching English to Costa Rican students. At each of their locations, they offer English classes for children, for teens and for adults. They also offer job placement and career assistance for their bi-lingual students.

One of the most popular services that the Cultural Center provides is help for young Costa Ricans who want to study in the United States. They prepare the students for SAT tests, and then administer the tests. They help provide students and families with information about living and studying at universities in the USA. They will help guide the Tico students with the visa requirements, student financial aid, and the reams of paperwork.

Executive Director of the Cultural Center, Karl Schmack, left, and past board member, Jerry Leden, right, discuss this season's schedule of New York Metropolitan Opera performances, which will appear at the Center.
Executive Director of the Cultural Center, Karl Schmack, left, and past board member, Jerry Leden, right, discuss this season’s schedule of New York Metropolitan Opera performances, which will appear at the Center.

Each of the locations of the Cultural Center has a library of English-language books. The libraries are called Mark Twain Libraries, and they offer more than just books. You will find an impressive selection of audio books, periodicals, videos, DVDs, internet work stations and reference material. I am very pleased that their collection includes a copy of The Real San José, the first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José .

Executive Director, Karl Schmack, points out that the Cultural Center receives donations of used books from members of the English speaking community in Costa Rica. Some of those books become part of the Mark Twain Library system. And many others are donated to needy schools throughout Costa Rica.

Mr. Schmack says that the Cultural Center encourages participation and involvement from Americans and other expats. Whether it is to attend the opera or other events, to use the Mark Twain Library, or to make use of any of their other services, visitors are always welcomed. And, Mr. Schmack adds, we are always happy for members of the expat community to volunteer their time for the Center.

The Mark Twain Library at the Cultural Center includes English-language books, periodicals, DVDs, internet work-stations, and many other resources for students and members.
The Mark Twain Library at the Cultural Center includes English-language books, periodicals, DVDs, internet work-stations, and many other resources for students and members.

The headquarters of the Cultural Center and the Eugene O’Neill Theater are located on Calle 37, about 150 meters north of Avenida 2.  For a list of the locations of all the Cultural Center branches, and their hours of operations, click here: Locations.

The Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center, and it’s Eugene O’Neill Theater, are among  the great resources of Costa Rica.  They are an important part of The Real San José .

Michael Miller is the author of first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José, Costa Rica, titled: The Real San José.