Toasting to Tosca: the Re-Inauguration of the Teatro Municipal

A string of shiny chauffeured cars waltzing around Agustinas, a procession of fur coats and sleek black tuxedos: on a cool Wednesday evening in downtown Santiago, there was the hint of something special happening. After 14 months of intense refurbishments following the 2008 earthquake, the Teatro Municipal was being re-inaugurated.

Toasting to Tosca: the re-inauguration of Santiago’s Teatro
Toasting to Tosca: the re-inauguration of Santiago’s Teatro

At the cocktail party to mark the event, the Mayor of Santiago, Pablo Zalaquett, highlighted the national importance of the venue, calling it “The Theater of Chile”. He also expressed his desire for the newly refurbished theater to become an important touristic focal-point of the city to rival the Palacio de la Moneda and La Plaza de Armas. In support of this, Zalaquett announced that the theater’s foyer would be open to the general public every Thursday and Friday starting May 19.

Coinciding with the venue’s official re-opening, the theater also celebrated the start of its 2011-2012 season with the premiere of Tosca. Puccini’s opera is set in 19th century Rome under the rule of the autocratic police chief Baron Scarpia, as the city is slowly advanced upon by Bonaparte’s army. Puccini’s libretto follows the diva Floria Tosca and her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, as they fall victim to Scarpia’s Machiavellian plans to arrest Cavaradossi and keep Tosca for himself, after the artist helped a political prisoner to escape.

Photo by Pilar Díaz
Photo by Pilar Díaz

Tosca is a great opera which combines a catchy plot, memorable arias and, a rather rare feature of opera, a good dose of humor. When fiery-tempered Tosca first meets her lover, she jealously asks him why the portrait of a Magdalena he is working on looks suspiciously like a portrait of the blue-eyed Marquess Attavanti. Following a passionate response from Cavaradossi who promises that nothing would ever surpass the beauty of Tosca’s own black eyes, as she takes her leave, Tosca replies: Ma, falle gli occhi neri! (In that case, paint her eyes black!)

Photo by Pilar Díaz
Photo by Pilar Díaz

The aesthetics of the Teatro Municipal itself, full of red velvet, golden balustrades and intricate ceiling frescoes, are emulated by the scenography in Tosca. As it faithfully replicates the baroque decors of the Roman Basilica Sant Andrea, the Palazzo Farnese and the Castel Sant Angelo, the staging presents a very ornate setting which, at times, seems to smother both the plot and the voices of the cast. However, despite this somewhat dated attachment to the more traditional face of opera, the performance provides a truly charming two and a half hours, with merit where it’s due to the performances of the three main protagonists: Scarpia, Tosca and Cavaradossi.

Photo by Pilar Díaz
Photo by Pilar Díaz

The theater has scheduled seven performances of Tosca between May 20 and 30. Prices range from CP$ 3,000 to CP$ 115,000 (US$6.393 to 245.072). Following Tosca, the Teatro Municipal’s season includes other iconic operas such as Strauss’ Ariadne in Naxos, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Verdi’s Aida. It also has an considerable program of ballets and concerts, all of which are detailed on the Teatro’s website.

Teatro Municipal de Santiago
Augustinas 794
Metro Santa Lucia or Moneda
Box office: 800471000
http://www.municipal.cl/

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