31 May, 2020       LISBON - MAX. Mostly sunny with a shower or thunderstorm aroundº, MIN. 17º

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Folders  |  Historical Lisbon Theatres - S. Luiz Municipal Theatre
Historical Lisbon Theatres - S. Luiz Municipal Theatre
Hirondina Cavaco
Historical Lisbon Theatres - S. Luiz Municipal Theatre

In the XIXth century, the historical centre of Lisbon, particularly the area situated between the Chiado, Bairro Alto and the Baixa, was the city’s social and cultural meeting point. Today, it holds the memory of an epoch in which the capital’s bourgoisie frequented the soirées promoted by the theatres that still remain in those quarters: C. Carlos, S. Luíz, Dona Maria II and Trindade.
During the weeks to come we will be telling you about the history of these houses which, for more than a hundred years, have offered culture, dreams and diversion to the Lisbon population.
The idea of building this theatre came from a modest actor, Guilherme da Silveira, who manages to gain the support of a group of capitalists, among them the Viscount of São Luiz of Braga, a controversial and daring man, well connected with the rest of Europe, namely with the biggest names in showbiz, and who will later become the father figure behind this theatre.
So, on the night of 22nd of May of 1894, the Chiado´s elegant society rushes to the grand opening of a new theatre. It is so cosmopolitan that it dedicates itself essentially to bringing foreign companies. It is so Parisian that its plans were drawn up by Frenchman Louis Reynaud. It is so aristocratic that even its name pays homage to Her Majesty the Queen, who accompanied by the King D. Carlos, honors this event with her presence. And so starts the D. Amélia Theatre.
In 1898, the Viscount welcomes the prestigious D. Maria II Theatre company, removed from its home by government decision and so also includes glorious national names, although still alternating them with foreign companies of drama, comedy, opera, ballet, and bringing onstage famous names like Sarah Bernhardt. On the 5th of October 1910 the Monarchy falls. To maintain his theatre in good grace, he changes its name to ‘Teatro República’ (Republic Theatre). A fire destroys it completely in 1914, but the Viscount doesn´t give up, he changes the company to the S. Carlos and rebuilds it, keeping the original exterior lines of the building. On the 16th of January of 1916, the ‘Republica’ reopens, even more modern and Parisian. There are still foreign companies, concerts and cultural events that attract names like Almada Negreiros or Fernando Pessoa and on the 17th of November of 1917, a young 19 year old star from the cultural aristocracy debuts on its stage: Amélia Rey Colaço, who would become the biggest and most influential personality of Portuguese theatre in the XX century. In 1918 the Viscount of S. Luiz dies and as a tribute to its patron, the theatre which he helped turn into a centre of culture and good taste again changes name, this time to Teatro S. Luiz.
Little by little, the French and Viennese waltzes that animated the 1920’s fade away and the public  takes a fancy for the cinematographer. The S. Luiz, always trendy, follows the audience´s preference, it restyles and renovates its equipment. On Easter Saturday of 1928, it opens as S. Luiz Cine and now has a viewing screen. For decades, it shows almost in exclusive the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer productions and great concerts, great musicians like Arthur Rubinstein, the best French singers like Lucienne Boyer, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Trenet, and also lots of classical and modern poetry reading. In the sixties, cinema goes from bad to worse and it slowly returns to theatre. Even though big names from the past in national theatre step onto its stage, the public is still reluctant to show up. On the 6th of May 1971, the theatre is purchased by the Lisbon municipality, and its name becomes Teatro Municipal de São Luiz. Drama makes a comeback, with a municipal company headed by Eunice Muñoz and directed by Luiz Francisco Rebello, which due to political reasons and a lack of audience, falls apart in 1972. In the heart of Chiado, partly burned down in 1988, the S. Luiz remains lost and even becomes a cinema again. In December 2002, after undergoing several remodelation works, it reopens with the musical ‘Amália’, Filipe la Féria´s tribute to the most famous Portuguese woman in the XX century.
Since its reopening, the S. Luiz Municipal Theatre, has been claiming its space as a living theatre, with a faithful public and successful seasons. In the Main room (with 730 seats) famous names frequently make appearances, like Pina Bausch, Artur Pizarro, Maria João Pires; stageplays from works of William Shakespeare, José Saramago, David Hare, Federico Garcia Lorca, renowned orchestras lend their charm to musicals, humour amuses the audience, new talents are perceived, new Fado singers are presented (Camané, Cristina Branco, Mafalda Arnauth, Katia Guerreiro, Jacinta) and other names of Portuguese Jazz (Carlos Martins, Bernardo Sassetti, Mário Laginha, Maria João) who have helped to build the already emblematic S. Luiz jazz festival; among many others.
With its program of events well established, the Winter Garden (170 seats) now offers a meeting point, of discussion or of pure entertainment, revealing itself as a privileged space for new artists to come forward.
The S. Luiz Municipal Theatre, after successive changes in its name, and after repeatedly alternating between being a theatre or a cinema, now lives up to its reputation it has enjoyed for decades: the most chic culture house in the capital promotes the most talked about and glitzy events and is a central meeting point of discovery and socializing, where anybody finds everybody.

São Luiz Teatro Municipal
Rua António Maria Cardoso, 38, 1200-027 Lisboa. General number : 213 257 640 Ticket office: 213 257 650 www.teatrosaoluiz.egeac.pt

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