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Municipal Theater: Baltazar Dias

In the 1880´s It became the Theater as we know it today.

Hey guys! After telling you my first impressions about the Island, about food, a little bit of Flora and Fauna, about History, and one of the Kings of Portugal, last month you discovered one French author, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and one of his famous books, Le Petit Prince. For April we are gonna talk about the Municipal Theater of Funchal, Municipal Theater Baltazar Dias or “Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias”.

When we speak about the Theater Baltazar Dias of Funchal, we could speak about the Theater La Scala of Milano or about the Theater D.Maria II of Lisbon (Queen of Portugal between 1826 and 1853).

As some people say, here a quote taken from a video on YouTube of The Guardian newspaper (the British one): “Teatro Alla Scala is not only a place where opera and music have always been performed. It has also been a social center for the city” – from Gino Vezzini, “Amici del Loggione del Teatro Alla Scala”, so Friend of the Loggione del Teatro alla Scala). So this place is very important for all Milano’s people and is a part integrated into Milano landscape. This same man says also “If the theater is not going well, the city is not going well”.

This Theater in Milano saw many different very famous musicians and compositors (Verdi, Puccini among them), and this is different from the History of the Theatre of Funchal.

This latest one had different functions and names since the beginning of the XIX century. First It was a green space. Then a market, “Mercado de São João” (“Saint John Market”) during 10 years. A few years later It became an equestrian circus.

The Funchal Democratic people wanted and needed a place for plays, supporting a famous Advisor of the City of Funchal who have been asking for Its construction for 40 years. But at the beginning of Its demand, It was refused because of the Civil War time (1822-1834), and Its demolition happened because It was believed to help enemies get through the Theater to the Saint Laurent Palace.

So the President of the “Câmara Municipal” of Funchal, that is to say, the mayor of the city council, built a Theater at the place of that equestrian circus, being the second one of the City. It took the name of D. Maria Pia in 1888, date of inauguration, only 4 years after the renovation of the Circus to make it become a theater.

In 1883, an architect, Thomas Soller, conceived and drew the plans of the new theatre. Everything was finished in 1887. But It was inaugurated one year later, in 1888. It took the name of Teatro Funchalense at first, Funchal Theater, then the one of Maria Pia, One Portuguese Queen, as the third name, Theater Funchalense. Funchal City Hall wanted to call it “Manuel d’Arriaga”, the name of the first Portuguese President of the Republic when It was proclaimed on 5th of October 1910, but this one refused. The fourth name became Manuel d’Arriaga, a few years after when he died, even If that one didn’t want.

The fifth name is the actual one, Baltazar Dias. We don’t know much about him, just that he was Madeiran, but not from where in Madeira Island or even in Porto Santo Island. He was blind but we don’t have proof that his wife wrote his plays for him. He wrote or made his wife writing, certain plays about the life and the reign of Charlemagne. Another is about the Nativity Scene. This last play was written in verses (at that time Poetry and Dramaturgy).

The actual theater was probably renovated one last time, even If we’re not sure about it, in 1940 thanks to President of Câmara Municipal, Dr. Fernᾶo de Ornelas. It is smaller than the last one, with 384 seats against more than 1000 for the one located at the beginning of the XIXth century next to the Sᾶo Lourenço Fortress.

This actual Theater can also be arranged to offer Cinema sessions, or even as a Concert room. The huge central chandelier was manufactured in Paris, in Boulevard Beaumarchais, with no less than thousands of pearls, divided in 8 pieces.

In 1888, the first play which was played in the Theater was in “Zarzuela” type, in Spanish classical music, because It was played but above all sung. “Las dos Princesas”, in typically Spanish style.

Merci for your attention!

Short bio of the volunteer:

Augustin COCHET, French (from Lyon area), with knowledge in Food Process and Food Industries. In studies reorientation: to Theater and Tourism, Human Sciences; and passionate of books/magazines, new languages, food, and culture.


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