Teatro Amazonas, Brazil

During the turn of the 20th Century the Amazonian Region of Brazil was exporting a high amount from its rubber plantations. This resulted in wealthy rubber barons trying to recreate the lavish lifestyle of Europe by building an Opera House in the middle of the rainforest: The Teatro Amazonas (also known as The Manaus Opera House). Work started in the city of Manaus in 1884 (under the supervision of Italian architect Celestial Sacardim) and lasted nearly 20 years to complete. There were several pauses to construction during this time due to funding issues and the countries extreme climate. Once complete, it had everything from Italian marble, walls of British steel, roof tile from Alsace and furniture from Paris. The dome on the outside of the building is even covered with 36,000 decorated ceramic tiles painted in the Brazilian national flag colors. Inside, there are 198 chandeliers (32 of which were made from Murano glass), a main curtain created in Paris depicting the junction of the Rio Negro and the Solimões to form the Amazon and Italian painter Domenico de Angelis was brought in to decorate the walls and ceilings in a renaissance style.

The first performance in the Teatro Amazonas was on the 7th of January, 1897: a presentation of La Gioconda by the Italian composer Amilcare Ponchielli and included the famous Enrico Caruso singing.

With the invention of artificial rubber and people planting cheaper rubber trees elsewhere, the main source of income was lost and the wealthy left town. This resulted in the Opera House closing down- it did not have a performance for 90 years, except its cameo appearance in a movie: Werner Herzog’s ‘Fitzcarraldo’.

In 2001 the new populist government in the province allocated 1.5 million pounds a year to reviving the glory of the Teatro Amazonas. This was a big step as 60% of the population was illiterate and poverty stricken at the time. A lot of musicians moved to Brazil to perform at the newly opened venue, tempted by the promise of high salaries (most of these came from Eastern Europe).

Today, the Teatro Amazonas is home to the Amazonas Philharmonic and the annual Amazonas Opera Festival. It is also the location of an annual film festival.