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National Theater - San Josť, Costa Rica
he National Theater was officially inaugurated on October 21, 1897, thus culminating many years of planning,
embellishing and political and economic maneuverings.
Going back further in time, Costa Rica experienced great cultural isolation due to various factors, among the religious restrictions. Nevertheless, in the first half of the nineteenth century, initial efforts were made in the areas of acting and drama, which small performances in houses or in the open air. Instead of diminishing their interest in drama for lack of a playhouse, Costa Ricans were very attracted to the stage arts; people would carry chairs to an improvised shed to attend performances. (It was 1846 when a woman first appeared on stage in Costa Rica, an event that was strongly criticized by the Church).

In the 1840s, political and economic changes introduced Costa Rica to the rest of the world. As a result of increasing coffee exports and the arrival of foreign travelers, borders became less oppressive and a cultural awakening, with new ideas and literary works, developed. The press and universities were in their first stages; independence, political instability and various coups d`état were part of the atmosphere previous to democracy. A nation was shaping itself. It was in this context that in 1847 the idea of building a theater first took form.

Presidents and heads of state like Dr. José María Castro Madriz and General Tomás Guardia, among others, were always supportive of the idea of building an appropriate palais díart, even if there was not always political consensus.

But before there was a National Theater,other attempts were made to build a place to create the artistic splendor and magic that Costa Ricans so loved.

In 1850, the Teatro Municipal, though a small and hardly adequate facility, fulfilled the needs of a country that longed to see the performances of internacional and local artists. However, in 1888 it was razed because of deterioration from earthquakes. As a result, international artists and companies no longer included Costa Rica in their itineraries, increasing the urgency of Costa Ricans to build a new theater. The fact that the famous prima donna Adelina Patti rejected a proposal to perform in a provisional theater only created added impetus.

From the on, several serious attempts were made to get financing for a new performing hall. At first, a tax on coffee exports was proposed, which brought an agitated debate to the national congress, and later on, was influential in the mistaken concept that coffee covered the total cost of the theater. It was not until 1893 that president José Juaquín Rodriguez decreed a general tax on all the costs of the construction.

In november 1890, a commission decided upon the location of the new National Theater. It was to be located diagonally across from the former Santo Tomás University, in the center of San José

A year later, the first work started under the supervision of the PublicWorks Board, appointed by the government. The technical department of the board was in charge of designing the plans for the National Theater, in spite of many proposals

from renowned professionals like Enrique Invernizio and Francisco Durini, who would later be very helpful in the final stages of the project.

In spite of the enthusiasm and hard work, construction continued not without serious problems and setbacks. The press seriously criticized the work and complained about the size of the stage, inefficient acoustics and weak foundations, which were just a few of the many architectural and engineering headaches builders had to contend with. The whole affair ended in 1895 with the hiring of Ruy Cristóforo Molinari, an italian architect and theater expert.

Every single detail, like the installation of the lighting system in the facade and the arrival of the theaterís new ornamentation at the port of Limón, was followed closely by Costa Ricans. Their expectations were increasingly turning into impatience; they had waited seven years for their theater to be completed.



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National Theater Beginning Opening