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Amazon Theatre - Manaus, Amazonas | by Francisco Aragão
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Amazon Theatre - Manaus, Amazonas

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The Amazon Theatre (Teatro Amazonas) is an opera house located in the heart of Manaus, inside the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. It is the location of the annual Festival Amazonas de Ópera (Amazonas Opera Festival) held in April.

It was built during the Belle Époque at a time when fortunes were made in the rubber boom. Construction of the Amazon Theater was first proposed in 1881 by a member of the House of Representatives, Antonio Jose Fernandes Júnior, the idea being to construct a jewel in the heart of the Amazonian forest and to make Manaus one of the great centers of civilization.

In the following year the State legislature approved some limited financing, but this was considered insufficient. In 1882, the president of the Province, Jose Lustosa Paranaguá, approved a larger budget and initiated a competition for the presentation of plans. By 1884, construction was ready to begin under the Italian architect Celestial Sacardim who planned for the theatre in the Renaissance style to be state of the art and to include electric lighting.

Work proceeded slowly over the following fifteen years with some stops and re-starts from 1885 to 1892. Roofing tiles came from Alsace while, from Paris, came furniture and furnishings in the style of Louis XV, much from the Koch Fréres company. From Italy came Carrarra marble for the stairs, statues, and columns. Steel walls were ordered from England. The theatre has 198 chandeliers, including 32 of Murano glass. The curtain, with its painting the "Meeting of the Waters" was originally created in Paris by Crispim do Amaral, depicts the junction of the Rio Negro and the Solimões to form the Amazon. On the outside of the building, the dome is covered with 36,000 decorated ceramic tiles painted in the colors of the national flag.

Work recommenced in 1893. By 1895, when the masonry work and external was completed, the decoration of the interior, and the installation of electric lighting, could begin more rapidly. The Italian Domenico de Angelis painted the beautiful panels that decorate the ceilings of the auditorium and of the audience chamber. However, even after its inauguration and first public presentations, two more years would pass before the building was finally completed, a project taking seventeen years in all.

The theatre was inaugurated on 31 December 1896, with the first performance occurring on 7 January 1897 with the Italian opera, La Gioconda, by Amilcare Ponchielli.

It has been restored four times, most recently in 1929, 1974 and between 1988 and 1990, and it currently has 701 seats covered with red velvet.

At night

It has been noted that, as of 2001, opera is once again flourishing at the theatre:

"Until four years ago, there had been no opera here for almost 90 years. Then a new governor of Amazonas was elected, a populist called Amazonino Mendes, who decided that his city should have a top-quality professional orchestra, choir and corps de ballet. He set aside about 1.5 million pounds a year, an enormous amount in a state where half the population is illiterate and living on about 60 pounds a month.

As a result Manaus has become the focus of a most unlikely musical migration. Some of Eastern Europe's best musicians have been tempted from such orchestras as the Kirov to Manaus with the lure of much higher wages. In fact, 39 of the 54-member Amazon Philharmonic orchestra are from Bulgaria, Belarus and Russia. Even the archivist hails from Belarus".

Today, the theatre is also the location for an annual film festival.



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Taken on January 31, 2011