Thursday 16 September 2021

Teatro Nacional Celebrates 117th Anniversary

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COSTA RICA EXTRA – Weighing in at 800 kilograms and costing US$7.000, the anniversary cake was the centre piece for the celebration of the Teatro Nacional’s 117th.

The vanilla, orange and caramel cake, created by culinary artist Miosés Carmona, who worked on it for over two months, was a scaled representation of the San José building.

The celebration was attended by some 5.000 people, including the elderly and children. There was enough cake for everybody.

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On hand was first vice-president, Helio Falla; the first lady, Mercedes Peñas; and the ministra de Cultura y Juventud (Minister of Culture and Youth), Elizabeth Fonseca.  President Luis Guillermo Solís is in Toronto, Canada, hamming up investors.

Fonseca expressed his wish that the National Theatre is a cultural institution that guarantees access to all Costa Ricans, without distinction of any kind.

Weighing in at 800 kilograms, the to scale cake was the centerpiece of the 117th anniversary of Teatro Nacional
Weighing in at 800 kilograms, the to scale cake was the centerpiece of the 117th anniversary of Teatro Nacional

Not losing an opportunity to call on Costa Ricans to pay their taxes, Fallas recalled that the theatre was built by a tax on coffee exports. “This is an example of the importance of collecting taxes well, if you want to ensure citizens access to public services,” he said.

The Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica) is the national theatre of Costa Rica. It is located in the heart of San José. Construction began in 1891, and it opened to the public on 21 October 1897 with a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. The National Theatre stood as a cultural asset of the country during a time when coffee exports were a source of its success. It presents high quality performances, with artistic criteria being very high.

The building is considered the finest historic building in the capital, and it is known for its exquisite interior which includes its lavish furnishings.

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Construction history
Constructed in the late 19th century, when San Jose’s population was only around 19,000 people, the theatre presented many private performances. Its only real competition was the Teatro Mora (also called the Municipal Theatre, or Teatro Municipal), that existed for many years before the National Theatre, until it was destroyed and deemed unsafe by an earthquake.

In order to finance the construction of a theatre fit for name “National Theatre”, the President of Costa Rica, José Joaquín Rodríguez Zeledón decided to place a tax on coffee, then the principal export product. Later, one coffee planter begged the government to remove the export tax on his product and put it on rice and beans (also principal export products of the time).

There were many problems during the early period of construction and mistakes were made. But construction errors were fixed by bring in an Italian engineer to direct the process. It took seven years to finish the theatre, and the inauguration took place on 21 October 1897.

The front of the theatre features statues of Calderón de la Barca and Ludwig van Beethoven. The inside features the mural Allegory of Coffee and Bananas by Milanese artist Aleardo Villa, which is nowadays featured on the five colón bill.

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The theatre today
As well as having performances several times a week, the theatre is a tourist attraction. Performances by the National Symphonic Orchestra (NSO) take place as part of orchestra’s regular season, and include both Costa Rican and foreign composers.

Article by Costa Rica Extra, reposted with permission

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