Is it worth visiting the Teatro Alberto Maranhão? This very famous landmark in the state of Rio Grande do Norte is a preferred destination for history and cultural enthusiasts because of its rich contribution to Brazil’s cultural heritage. For this reason alone, case it deserves more than a visit.
Because Portugal had the longest and strongest impact on Brazil’s art and culture, diagnosis it is no wonder that its influence can be clearly seen almost anywhere you go in the country. Take the city of Natal. Many people would think that it is all about beautiful beaches and sand dunes. The truth is there are many historical and cultural attraction in this city as well.
Tourist Center of Natal
Let’s start at Natal’s Tourism Center or Centro de Turismo de Natal which used to be an orphanage and, sickness later on, a jailhouse. Today, it houses a lot of tourist facilities like handicraft stores, an art gallery, a restaurant and a club. A short walk from the Tourism Center will bring you to Natal’s Historic Center.
The Historic Center is composed of a group of historical buildings. Included in this interesting structural collection are:
- Natal’s city hall, the Palácio Felipe Camarão
- the trapezium-shaped Catedral Nova or Catedral Metropolitana
- the baroque-style Igreja de Santo Antônio church which was erected in 1976
- the Câmara Cascudo Memorial and Museum, built in honor of the state’s most popular folklorist
- the French-style Teatro Alberto Maranhão
Of these great edifices, perhaps the most impressive building would be Teatro Alberto Maranhão, which is Natal’s oldest theatre. It is listed as a national monument by the prestigious Historical and Artistic Heritage of Rio Grande do Norte. While Portuguese in design, there is a heavy influence of 19th century French architecture as well as some element of Belgian art involved.
Construction Begins on Teatro Alberto Maranhão
The theatre was designed engineer José de Berredo. Construction under the supervision of Major Theodósio Paiva begun in 1898. In 1904, the newly-constructed building was inaugurated under the name of Teatro Carlos Gomes or Carlos Gomes Theater.
By 1910, the Carlos Gomes Theater still maintained its original measurements of 78.60 meters long and 18.30 meters wide, and three doors. By the stairway on the building’s façade stands a statue named “Art” which was sculpted by Mathurin Moreau.
Theater Renovation and Re-Opening
During the second term of State Governor Alberto Maranhão, between the years 1908 and 1914, the theater was closed to undergo renovations. Additions were made to improve the buildings look. These included an upper deck, iron railings, and steel gates from France (Val de Casting Osnes). Artwork was added on the façade as well as seats, desks and other furniture.
In July 19,1912, the theater reopened under the new name Gran-Campañia Española de Zarzuela, Opera y Opereta Pablo López. It’s opening presentation was Leo Fall’s operetta “Princesa dos Dólares” (“Princess of Dollars”).
Restoration and More Renovations
In 1957, then Natal Mayor Djalma Maranhão changed the municipality theater’s name to Teatro Alberto Maranhão, and that’s the name it keeps until the present.
Recent Improvements on Teatro Alberto Maranhão
Below are some of the renovations done to the theater over the years.
- The theater was closed for renovation in 1959 and re-opened on March 24, 1960.
- The theater’s air conditioning was centralized in 1977.
- In June 1988, further restorations to the building were made under the initiative of the José Augusto Foundation. These included audience and stage section, meeting hall, garden, and dressing rooms. The restoration work went under the supervision of the Coordinator of the Historical and Artistic Heritage of Rio Grande do Natal.
- 2004 marked the centennial of the Teatro Alberto Maranhão. New changes were added since the first ones in 1960. The improvements gave the theater better accessibility as ramps leading to the theater square from the street were constructed. Improvements were also done on the theater square and new bathrooms installed.
- A new air conditioning system was installed in the entire building, primarily the auditorium, administrative and audience areas.
- The theater was repainted and professionals restored the furniture, flooring, lighting, and mosaic to its original form. A new coffee shop, toilets, and shops were added. The flooring was replaced with a new one and the inner courtyard was extended.
- Much of the theater’s foyer, auditorium and facilities were restored to their original glory.
The Teatro Alberto Maranhão remained for many years the best theater in Natal. Despite its age, the grand old theater has modern facilities and features installed for the convenience of a new generation of theater-appreciating people. It has presented highly-acclaimed stage plays, operas, concerts and dance to Natalenses and tourists alike. For more than a century, the Teatro Alberto Maranhão has continued to produce and stage world-class theatrical presentations. All these at a ticket price that is not expensive. At present, it continues to draw in both young and old tourist to introduce them to Brazilian culture. Not bad for a theater that’s over a hundred years old.