Styles and Theatres |
n 1898, the (then) small town of Natal witnessed the emergence of the foundations of a building which would change not just the Praça Augusto Severo, but also the habits of its people, accustomed to the tranquility of sunny mornings, to calm conversation in the late afternoons, to chairs on the pavements.
In 1898, in the (still) small city of Natal, the future scholar Luiz da Câmara Cascudo was born. Much later, he would define the building on those foundations thus: "The Carlos Gomes was the theatre, fascinating, unique, dominant".
The Carlos Gomes Theatre, conceived during the government of Desembargador Joaquim Ferreira Chaves and designed by the engineer José de Berredo, was built under the supervision of Major Theodósio Paiva, a not uncommon happening at the time. It was opened six years later - 24th March 1904; the box-office money was destined to relief of the starving drought victims who, driven from the arid hinterland, at the time overpopulated the city.
The first night was carefully prepared by the Governor Alberto Maranhão, and the Theatre's first director, Joaquim Scipião. The stage set represented a typical city in the north of Brazil, and the people of Natal watched a performance by the Band of the Security Guards Battalion, dramatizations, monologues, and recitations of poetry.
Until 1910, during Alberto Maranhão's second mandate, the Carlos Gomes Theatre kept its original chalet form. It was completely rebuilt with a new floor and iron gates and railings made by the French foundry, Val de Osnes. It was officially reopened in 1912, with a performance by Pablo Lópes "Gran Cia. de Zarzuela". From then on, French, Spanish and Portuguese companies included the comfortable Carlos Gomes Theatre in their tours. In 1936 lyric singer Bidu Sayão gave her first recital in Natal.
For the Theatre, the following years were years of decadence, and increasing loss of character. As it belonged to the city, in 1957 the Mayor of Natal, Djalma Maranhão, changed its name to the Alberto Maranhão Theatre, and act of homage to its great defender.
In 1959 came another rebuild, completed for reopening on March 24th of the following year. It then functioned regularly and without interruption until the '70s, when the very necessary central air-conditioning system was installed. In July 1988, the José Augusto Foundation entrusted by the Estate Government with administration of the Theatre, carried out another large-scale rebuild: dressing-rooms, gardens, the great hall, stage, stalls, nothing was forgotten.
Under the technical supervision of the State Coordination for the Historical and Artistic Heritage, and with funds from the Bank of Brazil Foundation, the Alberto Maranhão Theatre was patiently restored, using studies and research by specialists to retrace, wherever possible, the building's original features.
Of the Alberto Maranhão Theatre's human features, one must not be forgotten.
One of the workers would allow his son, as yet hardly able to walk, to go with him sometimes to the site.
The boy learned to walk, got a job, and never worked anywhere but the Theatre, his first home, his second, his third...
Today the Alberto Maranhão Theatre's oldest employee, senhor José Nicanor, known to the city of Natal as Coquinho, can hardly walk, but he cares for his house night and day.
Still lucid, he tells the tales which he lived and does not wish to forget.
Solicitous, he replaces the night watchman, who is late or has lost his way. In a single reality, he unites the fantasy of theatre and life.