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The Teatro Colón, in the City of Buenos Aires, is considered one of the best theaters in the world. Acknowledged for its acoustics and the artistic value of its construction, it turned 100 years in 2008.
The theater is now located in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, among the streets Cerrito, Viamonte, Tucumán and Libertad. It was inaugurated on May 25th, 1908 with Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida. This building replaces the former Teatro Colón, which was located in front of Plaza de Mayo, on the block where the Banco Nación (National Bank) building stands now. The old theater was there between 1857 and 1888.
The construction of the new building took around 20 years. Its cornerstone was placed on May 25th, 1890, intending to inaugurate the theater before October 12th, 1892, the date of the fourth centennial of the discovery of the Americas. The architect in charge of the initial project was Francesco Tamburini. After his death in 1891, the project was continued and modified by his partner Víctor Meano, the architect of the Argentinian Congress building. The construction continued until 1894, but it came to a halt due to financial problems. In 1904, Meano was murdered in his house and the government assigned the Belgian Jules Dormal to finish the construction. Dormal introduced some structural changes and stamped his French style on the decoration.
At the end of 1907, the first lease agreement of the Teatro Colón was signed, even though the works to conclude the building were behind the date set for the inauguration – May 25th, 1908. Finally, despite the fact that some parts (such as the Golden Room and the iron marquees on the streets Libertad and Cerrito) were not finished, the main hall of the Teatro Colón was inaugurated with the Great Italian Lyrical Company performing Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida.
The Teatro Colón's building has an eclectic style, typical of the beginning of the 20th century. It extends for 8,202 m2, 5,006 m of which correspond to the main building and 3,196 m to underground rooms beneath the narrow street Arturo Toscanini (right next to the theater, parallel to the street Viamonte). The total covered area of the initial building was 37,884 m2. The expansions carried out later, especially at the end of the 1960s (by the architect Mario Roberto Álvarez), added 12,000 m2, taking the total area of the Teatro Colón to 58,000 m2.
The main hall, in the shape of a horseshoe, fulfils the most severe standards of the Italian and French classic theater. It has box seats up to the third floor. The horseshoe has a minor diameter of 29.25 m, a major diameter of 32.65 m and a height of 28 m. It can hold up to 2,478 people sitting, but the shows can also be attended by 500 people standing. Its 318 m2 dome used to have paintings by Marcel Jambon, but they got damaged in the 1930s. the repainting of the dome was assigned to the Argentinian painter Raúl Soldi.
The stage has an inclination of 3 cm per meter, 35.25 m wide, 34.50 m deep and 48 m high. It includes a spinning disk with a diameter of 20.30 m which can be electrically activated to spin in any direction and change the scenes quickly. In 1988, the grid sector of the scenic machinery was improved, aiming to make the operation of the scenery easier and to speed up the scenery changes.
The orchestra pit can hold up to 120 musicians. It has been treated with a resonance chamber and special curves for the reflection of sound. These conditions, together with the architectural proportions of the hall and the quality of the materials used, give the Teatro Colón exceptional acoustics, globally acknowledged among the most perfect in the world.
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