Sunday 19 September 2021

Tico Pride: The Teatro Nacional

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The ceiling of the Teatro Nacional (National Theatre) is among the ten great ceilings around the world, according to USA Today.

The ceiling of Costa Rica’s premier theatre house located in the heart of San José, the country’s capital, stands out among ceilings like the: National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood (St. Petersburg, Russia), Strahov Monastery (Theology Hall Prague), Chicago Cultural Center (Chicago, US), Library of Congress (Washington DC, US), Sistine Chapel (Vatican City), Senso-ji Temple (Tokyo, Japan), The Residenz (Wurzburg, Germany), and, Blue Mosque (Istanbul).

Jennifer Tombaugh of international tour company Tauck, told USA Today this about the Teatro Nacional’s ceiling:

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[quote]”This lavish theater was one of the first buildings in Central America with electric lighting, but it’s most famous for its ceiling murals. One, a tribute to the country’s coffee and banana crops, is notable for technical errors. Painted by an Italian master who hadn’t visited, it shows coffee growing at sea level (it’s normally cultivated in the mountains). And the bananas? “They’re upside down,”[/quote]

The publication notes that the Costa Rican gem is one of the first buildings in Central America with electric lighting and also famous for its murals, among them paintings of coffee harvesting, Costa Rica’s major export. The theatre has a Renaissance architecture of the purest Neoclassical style, with marble from Italy. One of the curiosities of the works of art adorning the inside of the theatre, opened in 1987, is that of Italian painter, Aleardo Villa, who never visited Costa Rica.

According to the Teatro Nacional’s directore, Adriana Collado, the ceiling and the rest of the theatre, are given constant maintenance due to the large number of visitors.

Construction of the theatre began in 1891, and it opened to the public on 21 October 1897 with a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, when San Jose’s population was only around 19,000 people. The theatre stood as a cultural asset of the country during a time when coffee exports were a source of its success.

Financing the construction was special coffee tax, 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).

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.

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