Based on a True Story: Exploring the Facts, Myths and Places of the Musical Evita

By Michael Luongo
27 May 2012

Madonna in the film

Architecture: The Casa Rosada, Argentina's Presidential Palace
The Casa Rosada is the musical's most iconic architectural setting, the site of the opening of Act Two, where Evita makes her triumphant balcony appearance — in a Swarovski crystal-encrusted gown — to sing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."

The Casa Rosada, or Pink House, is the Presidential Palace, where Argentina's government is run. The current President is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a former First Lady, partly modeling herself on Evita. Still, it's not a woman's touch that made the building pink. Two legends explain the color. One says two rival political parties, one symbolized by red, another white, painted the building pink as a compromise. Another legend says in olden days the building was painted with cow blood that dried into pink-brown, which is the likely truth.

The Casa Rosada is built over the site of an old Spanish colonial fort and customs house. The President does not live here. She has an official home in Los Olivos in Buenos Aires' suburbs. In Evita's day, the home was in the Palermo neighborhood, where the National Library now exists.

Eva Perón

If you want to cry like Evita from the balcony of the Casa Rosada, go ahead, as the building has been open for free weekend tours including visits to this iconic detail. Madonna used the building in her 1996 movie version of the stage musical. She was filmed on the second floor balcony at three French doors, which Evita also used. A colonnaded balcony (partly obscured by the statue in the accompanying photo) was also historically used by Evita; that balcony is open for tours.

Elena Roger, the native Argentine who plays Evita in director Michael Grandage's Broadway (and earlier London) revival, said that until the Vanity Fair March issue photo session held in the Presidential Palace, "I had never been inside the Casa Rosada," adding, "it was a very nice and emotional experience for me. A large part of the history of my country is in that place."

The Casa Rosada

She and Michael Cerveris, who is a 2012 Best Featured Actor Tony nominee for playing Perón, took photos on the balcony during the visit, though Ricky Martin, who plays Che, stayed inside to prevent stirring the passions of tourists outside. Evita never achieved her dream of holding elected office, but Roger feels that today in Argentina, "it is important to have a woman as a president so that people understand that not only men can run a country. Opening that door for women is crucial to the evolution of society." She added, "step by step we are reaching equality," in Argentina and other countries also run by women.