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By Nicole Pelligrino, Contributing Reporter

Teatro Municipal from Cinelândia Square, Photo by Nicole Pelligrino
Teatro Municipal from Cinelândia Square being refurbished, Photo by Nicole Pelligrino

RIO DE JANEIRO – Gazing up toward the Teatro Municipal from Cinelândia Square, the stunning world-class theater of the arts is scarcely recognizable behind the high, black temporary fence secured topped with barbed-wire, and underneath the metal rafters and supports. Desperately in need of repairs and updating, the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) has funded a R$4 million project, beginning in 2008 and slated for completion this July, in time to celebrate its centennial year.

Programa Nacional de Apoio à Cultura (PRONAC — The National Program of Support to Culture) has called for an all-out renovation of the theater. The funds have been principally allocated for a complete overhaul of all sanitary and plumbing facilities and restoration of the theater’s large copper dome. The remaining money is intended for use towards updating stage equipment, artistic renovations, and for architectonic restoration.

As one of the most gorgeous and ambitious structures in Centro, the Teatro Municipal is intended to be returned to its original glory and principal purpose: to serve as an outstanding center for the arts, particularly ballet, opera and theater—on par with those of Europe. The theater was originally erected in the image of the famed Paris Opera. Building began in 1905 and completed in 1909—on Bastille Day (most agree this was deliberate).

The mayor at the time, Pereira Passos, ordered a complete re-hauling of the city center, in an attempt to reinvent Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro, (still the capital of Brazil at the time), as a city reinvented and modernized. The “Francification” of Centro culminated in grouping of several museums and theaters around Cinelândia; the Teatro Municipal serving as paramount to the district’s redesign.

The theater was constructed in eclectic style—and used works from significant Brazilian artists of the time such as Eliseu Visconti, Rodolfo Amoedo and Rodolfo Bernadelli for both the interior and exterior of the structure.

According to the BNDES website:
“Work will include carpentry and specialized woodworking; and architecture and engineering for the coordination of copper, structure, stamping, installations and waterproofing services. Also required will be the immunization of floors and woodwork, the disassembling and assembling of door and window frames and of metal structures and artistic copper fixtures, the replacement of rain gutters and glass fixtures, and the replacement of old wall coverings by new ones. Services such as manufacturing of resin molds for the stamping of copper plates and ornaments are also included. The replacement of water pipes by new, imbedded plumbing, the installation of new levers, push buttons and pumps, the interconnection of reservoirs the renovation of restrooms, waterproofing of the cistern and works ensuring supply to the fire-fighting reservoirs destined are included in the modernization item. “

Reflection of Teatro Municipal under construction, Photo by Nicole Pelligrino
Reflection of Teatro Municipal under construction, Photo by Nicole Pelligrino

Upon completion of the ambitious project; the repairs should pay for themselves; generating new revenue for the city and increasing tourism to Rio’s aging downtown. Some have even argued that the rebirth of the Teatro Municipal might inspire further renewal and restoration of the downtown district. The inauguration of the theater is sure to be a sensation. Rio’s future is sure to be as exciting and rich as it’s historical past, and the Teatro Municipal is at the forefront.

For more information on the refurbishing visit the BNDES website

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