The Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires is one of the most important opera houses in the world. Its rich and prestigious history and its ideal acoustic and architectural conditions place it at the level of theaters such as the Scala in Milan, the Paris Opera, the Vienna Opera, Covent Garden in London and the Metropolitan in New York.
The Colón theater operated in two buildings, the first was located on the block that Banco Nación occupies today, in front of the Plaza de Mayo. It operated there from 1857 to 1888, the year in which it was closed for the construction of a new hall.
The land for the construction of the new and current building is located on the block bordered by Cerrito, Viamonte, Libertad and Tucumán streets. Formerly, this land housed the Parque Station, the first railway station in the Argentine Republic as the head of the Buenos Aires Western Railway.
The construction of the new building took around 20 years, with its foundation stone being laid on May 25, 1890, with the intention of inaugurating it before October 12, 1892, coinciding with the fourth centenary of the discovery of America. The initial project was by the architect Francesco Tamburini who, upon his death in 1891, was continued and modified by his partner, the architect Víctor Meano, author of the National Congress palace. The works progressed until 1894, but were then stalled due to financial issues. In 1904, after Meano's death, the government commissioned the Belgian Jules Dormal to finish the work. Dormal introduced some structural modifications and definitively left his mark on the French style of decoration.
At the end of 1907, the first lease contract for the Teatro Colón was signed, although the completion work on the building was behind schedule in relation to the date set for the inauguration of the hall, May 25, 1908. In any case, at that time On this date, the first performance was held in the main hall of the Teatro Colón with a performance of Aida, by the Great Italian Lyric Company, although with some parts of the building unfinished such as the Golden Hall and the iron canopies on Libertad streets. and Cerrito.
The new building was designed in an eclectic style, typical of the beginning of the 20th century, it covers 8,202 square meters, of which 5,006 correspond to the central building and 3,196 to rooms below the level of the Arturo Toscanini passage (next to the theater building, parallel to the Viamonte street). The total covered area of the old building is 37,884 square meters. The expansions carried out later, especially those at the end of the 1960s, by architect Mario Roberto Álvarez, added 12,000 square meters, bringing the total area of the Teatro Colón to 58,000 square meters.
The main hall, in the shape of a horseshoe, meets the most severe standards of classical Italian and French theater. The floor is lined with boxes up to the third floor. The horseshoe has 29.25 meters in smaller diameter, 32.65 meters in larger diameter and 28 meters in height. It has a total capacity of 2,478 seats, but around 500 people standing can also watch the shows. The 318 square meter dome had paintings by Marcel Jambon, which deteriorated in the 1930s. In the 1960s it was decided to paint the dome again and the work was commissioned to the Argentine painter Raúl Soldi, who inaugurated it in 1966.
The stage has an inclination of three centimeters per meter and is 35.25 meters wide by 34.50 meters deep, and 48 meters high. It has a 20.30 meter diameter rotating disc that can be electrically operated to rotate in any direction and quickly change scenes. In 1988, work was carried out to modernize the stage machinery in the grill sector, in order to facilitate the management of the sets and speed up scene changes.
The orchestra pit has a capacity for 120 musicians. It is treated with a resonance chamber and special sound reflection curves. These conditions, the architectural proportions of the room and the quality of the materials contribute to the Teatro Colón having exceptional acoustics, recognized worldwide as one of the most perfect.
In its beginnings, the Colón hired foreign companies for its seasons. But from 1925 it had its own stable orchestra, ballet and choir bodies, and its own production workshops. This allowed him, already in the 1930s, to organize his own seasons financed by the city budget. Since then, the Teatro Colón has been defined as a seasonal theater or stagione with the capacity to fully carry out an entire production thanks to the professionalism of its specialized scenic teams.
Throughout its extensive history, no important artist in the last 114 years has failed to set foot on its stage. For example, singers like Enrico Caruso, Claudia Muzio, Maria Callas, Régine Crespin, Birgit Nilsson, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti. Dancers such as Vaslav Nijinski, Margot Fonteyn, Maia Plisetskaia, Rudolf Nureyev, Mijail Barishnikov, and directors such as Arturo Toscanini, Herbert von Karajan, Héctor Panizza, Ferdinand Leitner, among many more. It is also common that, following the tradition inaugurated by Richard Strauss, Camille Saint-Saëns, Pietro Mascagni and Ottorino Respighi, composers come to the Colón to direct or supervise the premieres of their own works.
Also several first-rate teachers worked here steadily until they achieved high artistic goals, such as Erich Kleiber, Fritz Busch, stage directors such as Margarita Wallmann or Ernst Poettgen, dance teachers such as Bronislawa Nijinska or Tamara Grigorieva, choir directors such as Romano Gandolfi or Tullio Boni, without failing to mention the numerous instrumental soloists and symphony and chamber orchestras who offered unforgettable evenings throughout more than a hundred years of uninterrupted activity.
As of 2010, the Teatro Colón exhibits a building restored in all its original splendor, giving a framework of distinguished hierarchy to its presentations. For all these reasons, the Teatro Colón is a pride of our culture and a reference center for opera, dance and academic music throughout the world, and is considered one of the best theaters in the world, recognized for its acoustics and the artistic value of its construction, its current building turned 100 years old in 2008.