The Oldest Opera House in the Americas Celebrates 150 Years

Classic Arts News   The Oldest Opera House in the Americas Celebrates 150 Years
Montevideo's Teatro Sol‹s, the oldest opera house still in use in the Western Hemisphere, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Construction on the building began in 1840 and the hall was inaugurated on August 25, 1856 with a performance of Verdi's Ernani. (The oldest opera house in the United States, the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, opened almost exactly five months later; it celebrates its sesquicentennial next January.)

The opening of the Teatro Sol‹s was a major coup for the young nation of Uruguay, whose first constitution was written barely two decades earlier. The Italian architect Carlo Zucchi began work on the building; he was followed by the Spaniard Francisco Xavier Garmendia.

The theater, which owes its name to Spanish explorer Juan D‹az de Sol‹s (who arrived at the R‹o de la Plata, the broad river separating Uruguay and Argentina, in 1515), was closed from 1998 until 2004 for major renovations. Rodolfo Fuentes, director of the acoustical renovations, said that with the €11 million reconstruction he hoped to transform "the oldest hall in South America into the most modern," according to Agence France-Presse.

Legendary performers who have appeared at the Teatro Sol‹s include Enrico Caruso, Arthur Rubinstein, Isadora Duncan, Andr_s Segovia, Anna Pavlova, Alexander Godunov, Sarah Bernhardt, Margarita Xirg‹, Vivian Leigh, Ruggero Ruggieri, John Gielgud and Michael Redgrave.

The gala production presented on the actual anniversary date (August 25) was Puccini's Tosca, staged by Argentine director Roberto Oswald with Federico Garc‹a Vigil conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra of Montevideo. The final opera production of the Teatro Sol‹s's sesquicentennial season, running from September 22-28, will be Verdi's La traviata, in a production from New York City Opera (with costumes from the Teatro Col‹n in Buenos Aires) with Garc‹a Vigil on the podium and Marga Niec of the Teatro Municipal de Santiago (Chile) directing.

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