I live outside of Montevideo, in one of the coastal communities about an hour away from it, so going into the capital city of Montevideo is somewhat of a treat for me.
|Plaza Independencia with the Artigas mausoleum and palm trees on the left.|
I went there to attend a Jazz festival. I like the old "Big Band" style of music, like the way Arthur Miller once conducted. The night that I went to the Teatro Solis, the Montevideo Symphony orchestra was performing. It was being lead by Maestro Panchito Nolé, one of the last exponents of the golden age of grand orchestras. His great passion for Big Band music and Jazz led to his forming his own band and having a successful career in radio and television in Uruguay and Argentina. He is a pianist as well as a conductor and music arranger. Surprisingly he even performed some music by Quincy Jones that night, a more modern well know composer. He likes all genres of music.
That night there was also performing, an Italian quartet sponsored by the Italian Embassy. Flavio Boltro played trumpet and Eric Legnini played piano. These two are well known international players. Eric Legnini was born in Belgium. He is the son of Italian immigrants and so has kept close ties to Italy. Flavio is into modern Jazz and has played in Paris. Franck Agulhon was on drums and Thomas Bramerie was on Bass. They played more alternative Jazz and not big band style. We had floor seats up close and center.
The Solis Theatre or Teatro Solis (in Spanish) was inaugurated on August 25th. 1856. It is the oldest theatre in Uruguay. It is government owned by Montevideo. In 1998 a large scale renovation took place and it wasn't reopened again until August of 2004.
There is a tradition that when there is a performance going on, a special light located on the top of the theatre glows red to signal that a show is on. You can especially see this better at night, of course, but just in case you have any doubts, just go around to the back of the building where the entire top half of the roof is lit up red.
When you first step inside there is a beautiful crystal chandelier to greet you. A modern exposition Gallery is up the stairs and a small drink café is off to one side on the bottom floor.
Next, after a quick trip to the ladies room, I stepped inside to an elegant old world scene, a grand room with 5 tiers of balcony seating was ringing the floor seating.
Red velvet and wooden appliques on a light yellow, antiqued wood paneling arose before my eyes. A grand old lady indeed. Sadly, because during that night there occurred a sudden soccer playoff between Brazil and Uruguay most of the paid for seats were left vacant. Soccer watching prevailed over a live music performance.
It ended up being a "bit" in my favor as my friends and I convinced the ushers to let us sit in one of the now empty balcony seats (probably against policy but we managed to do it). We choose the President's box to watch the second quartet group from Italy. The seats closest to the rail on all levels are very tight fitting with no leg or toe room (in my opinion). Our seats on the main floor were much more comfortable. At least, I didn't have to pay anything to learn that lesson!
It's important to look up, at the ceilings of any great land mark as they are often highly decorated. The round ceiling in the main auditorium had the names of famous Romantic era composers like Verdi and Meyerbeer, etc... painted on it. There was a beautiful fresco painting above the stage area as well.
As I left, I walked around on the black and while tiled walkway that curves around the building. I was glancing at the beginning of Old Town/Cuidad Viejo, the original part of Montevideo thinking about how glorious this structure was then as it is now.
You can tour this theatre for free on Wednesdays at 11AM, 12PM and 4PM. Or pay a modest $20 (I believe that is in pesos??) on Tuesdays through Sunday (same hours). Saturday hours for the tours are 11, 12, 13/ 1PM and 4PM. They add the extra one o'clock time slot on Saturdays. Also, for $50 and booked ahead of time, you can arrange a tour in English, Portuguese or French but that depends on who's available. You need to call ahead to coordinate those language tours. The phone numbers to call are 1950 3323 or call 1950 3325.
As summer officially starts this month (December) for us down in South America, I will try and explore Montevideo a little more and report back on what I find.