The majestic chandelier of the Teatro Colón, a structure weighing 1,300 kilogramme with 735 lights, was lowered from the dome of the main hall this week for its annual maintenance ritual, ahead of the famous theatre’s re-opening to the public.
Constructed in Europe in the late 19th century, the imposing chandelier crowns the interior of the theatre, widely considered one of the most important opera houses in the world, where voices like Enrico Caruso or María Callas have resounded and where directors like Arturo Toscanini or dancers like Vaslav Nijinsky and Maya Plisetskaya have presented masterpieces.
Located in the centre of the dome, the chandelier is surrounded by frescoes painted by Argentine artist Raúl Soldi. The lighting fixture’s movable part of 5.5 metres in diameter and almost four metres high hangs from a fixed ceiling over seven metres in circumference, skirted by 100 tiny lamps suspended 30 metres above the public.
The Colón’s chandelier was lit for the first time on May 25, 1908, when Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aída inaugurated the theatre. The legendary performance space is considered by specialists as having some of the best acoustics in the world, as well as being one of the most beautiful theatres.
Notably, the chandelier, built by brothers Esteban and Luis Azaretto, was designed with a hidden corridor in the ceiling to place musicians and chorus singers with the idea of achieving special sound effects.
The task of lowering it last Tuesday, achieved with the thanks of special cranes, took around 40 minutes, at the end of which the chandelier was suspended at the height of the main orchestra seats. Specialised craftsmen then set about their annual task of cleaning and replacing light-bulbs to prepare the chandelier for the return of performances yesterday.
The theatre’s re-opening comes with strict health measures given the coronavirus pandemic, including a limit of half its maximum seating capacity. The initial run of shows will include performances by the Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires, Orquesta Estable del Colón and the Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón.
“The return of the Teatro Colón is one of the most anticipated comebacks,” said Buenos Aires City Culture Minister Enrique Avogadro. “The cultural sector has been illustrating its great commitment to the protocols and healthcare necessary in order to take care of ourselves while we continue to experience this pandemic.”
María Victoria Alcaraz, the Colón’s general director of Colón, said the return to live performances was a source of “immense joy” for spectators and performers alike.