Opera will be performed in the heart of the Amazon rain forest for the first time in more than 80 years when the legendary Teatro Amazonas reopens March 17 after a three-year, $8-million restoration.
The theater was built in the city of Manaus in 1896 at the height of Brazil's rubber boom. The rubber barons, who spoke French and sent their linen shirt cuffs to Lisbon to be laundered, spared no expense in building and furnishing the theater, believing their wealth would last forever.
Opera companies from Spain, Italy and Portugal traveled across the Atlantic to perform in Manaus.
The theater, however, staged its last opera in 1907, when Brazilian rubber began losing its markets to Far Eastern exporters. Teatro Amazonas then fell prey to termites and tropical storms.
The latest renovation of the theater is its fourth, but it has not been used for opera since the 1907 closing.
Opening night will feature excerpts of "Guarany," an opera by Carlos Gomes; the last scene of the Villa-Lobos ballet "Amazon Forest," danced by Brazil's premiere ballerina, Marcia Haydee, and a symphonic presentation of the poem "Statutes of Man," written by Amazonian composer Claudio Santoro. President Fernando Collor de Mello will attend opening night.