A brief history of the first decades of Theatro Municipal through its brochures and programs

Who is who?
When entering the theater, it is part of the ritual to receive the program or complete brochure about the performance that is about to get on the stage. It works as a guide, where the piece's context, the artists' biographies, the description of the characters and plot are explained to the general public as a warm up for the reality that, in some minutes, will be immersed in. As being to get in the French working class bohemia or travel into space in a history about passion and jealousy, it is through the programs and its data sheets that artists' names loose their original personalities and embody new ways of being. This little list of names inside the programs immortalizes a noted performance and gives us access to what happened more than a century ago. The program's content and the design of each edition narrate the historical evolution of the cultural context and of the different administrations that passed through the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo. In this exhibition, you will understand how the theater's premiere in 1911 was, see famous names that performed here, go through historical landmarks of the city such as the Semana de Arte Modena, and witness the culture's democratization articulated by Mario de Andrade.

In 1903, the construction of one of the biggest concert halls of Latin America starts. Inspired in the architectural style of Paris Opera, the Theatro Municipal of São Paulo opened its doors for the first time in 1911. For the opening, the Companhia Italiana Titta Ruffo has been chosen to perform.

The premiere, however, didn't happen in the scheduled date. The Companhia Italiana Titta Ruffo's scenarios didn't arrive in time from Argentina and the opera was postponed to the next day, September 12th. The chosen play for the premiere was the opera "Hamlet," by the french Ambroise Thomas.

The choice of playing "Hamlet" with the Italian Titta Ruffo for the premiere caused an outbreak inside São Paulo's Parliament and in major city's newspapers. As a solution, the entrepreneur Celestino Silva decided to open the presentation with excerpts of "Il Guarany", by the Brazilian Carlos Gomes, and under the baton of Eduardo Vitale.

Image from the inauguration program.

The history of the construction and the architectural references used for the building were explained in a monograph released during the first opening. Ramos de Azevedo, M.P. Villaboim, Alfredo Pujol, and Numa de Oliveira were members of the commission responsible to structure what would be the premiere event.

A bridge to the world
The grandiosity of the Theatro in the middle of the city with the fastest growth in the South hemisphere made all eyes in the world focus in São Paulo. Theater companies such as Comédie Française (France) and Teatro Nô (Japan) started booking the city in the route of their world tours. The French were the first ones performing on the stage in São Paulo, especially because of the influence of French culture in tropical ground. Shortly thereafter came the Italians, who always caused a commotion in the audience because of the newly arrived Italian colonization in the end of 19th century.

Lucien Guitry, leading the Companhia Dramática Francesa, visited the Theatro Municipal in June 1912 performing "Samson," by H. Bernstein. The author was very well known by his enviable theatrical carpentry.

Program of the Companhia Dramatica Rio-Platense performance.

Faustino da Rosa e Walter Mocchi were the entrepreneurs responsible for most of the events at Theatro Municipal, in special the lyrical seasons between 1912 and 1920.

Program of the Grande Companhia Dramatica Franceza Mr. Lucien Guitry, which was back to the Theatro after its "Samson" performance in 1912.

Program of the Grande Companhia Lyrica Italiana for a concert in benefit of the Italian Cruz Vermelha. Several presentations at the Theatro supported social causes.

Program of "La Traviata," with Tito Schipa and Maria Barrientos.

In 1917, Enrico Caruso, at the top of his carreer and considered the King of Tenors, performed at Theatro Municipal singing seven operas.

Companies of the country were also invited to perform at Theatro Municipal, such as Grande Companhia Lyrica do Theatro Municipal do Rio.

The overthrow of the canons
In 1922, on February 13th, 15th and 17th, the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo was the stage of one of the most important artistic events in the country, the Semana de Arte Moderna. In the lobby, rented for 847,000 réis (around R$ 20,000 nowadays), concerts, dancers, conferences, and an art exhibition shaped the event that caused an uproar in our history. Using the Municipal as one of the places of the Semana generated protests from a still conservative and not less provincial civil society. The controversy increased when, in the second day of the event, the brilliant pianist Guiomar Novaes, congratulated in that time by the very influent journalist and writer Paulo Menotti Del Picchia, played works by Debussy, innovative French composer, and generated protests of all kinds. The Semana, defended by some historians as a reaction that changed the arts future, was seen in that time as a scandal and pure entertainment of some young lads founded by patrons of São Paulo's bourgeoisie. The History, however, proved them wrong.

Catalog of Semana de Arte Moderna's exhibition.

The audience was surprised by Villa-Lobos wearing a suit and flip-flops. Instead of clapping, the public hooted, howled, screamed, and barked like dogs. In the image, an ad of February 16, 1922, in O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, about Heitor Villa-Lobos concert.

Receipt of the rent of Theatro Municipal for 847,000 réis (around US$ 5,700).

The Companhia de Ernete Zacconi was the first ones of Italian theater to perform on the new stage in São Paulo, opening path for several more to come to Municipal. Shortly after, came the Companhia de Clara Della Guardia, specialist in the romantic repertoire, which included "Zazá" and "Adriana Lecouvreur". Clara Della Guardia's love for the stages was so prominent that when she died, in 1937, she was buried dressed like Marguerite Gautier, the Camille, as her wish. Between other Italian companies, it were Melato-Betrone, which came here in 1925; Teatro de Arte de Milão, 1929; Muse Italiche, 1931; Opera Nacional Dopolavoro, 1936; Arte Dramática Bragaglia, 1937; Companhia Italiana de Comedia Paola-Borboni-Luigi Cimara, 1938; Compagnia Del Teatro Italiano, with Vittorio Gassmann, 1951; and Piccolo Teatro di Milano, 1981. The programing of most of these companies were filled with melodramas and light comedy, having enormous popular acceptance, especially because of the great Italian community that migrated to São Paulo.

Program of "Il Beffardo" performed by Betrone.

Program of "Il Ferro" performed by Festa Artística Maria Melato.

Lyrical climax
The variety of lyrical events during the 1920s in Municipal was rarely equivalent in the coming years. One of the most exciting happenings was the visit of the composer Pietro Mascagni, in 1922, for the celebration of the Centenary of Independency. Mascagni conducted your operas "Iris," "Isabeau," "Il Poccolo Marat," and "Cavalleria Rusticana," and "Rigoletto," by Verdi, and "Il Guarany," by Carlos Gomes. The big premieres were still on. In 1920, the tenor Beniamino Gigli, considered the successor of Enrico Caruso and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi -- who had a voice more dramatic than Gigli --, caused a sensation in the city. In the female cast, stood out the exceptional Claudia Muzio and the Brazilian Bidú Sayão, who premiered with the opera "Rigoletto." Closing the decade, a Russian company was in charge of 1929's season. At that time, it were staged operas by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Moussorgsky, and of composers of the famous Group of 5, consisting in musicians of the Soviet vanguard.

Bidú Sayão in the cover of 1926's program.

Program of "Il Barbiere Di Siviglia," with Bidú Sayão.

Program of "Manon Lescaut" with Claudia Muzio e Beniamino Gigli.

The coup
The 1930's Revolution was the big responsible by the interruption of the lyrical seasons of the Theatro during the first years of the decade. The revolutionaries believed that the opera represented a tradition that it was no longer representative of the new art production, which it was departing to focus in the elite -- that was diluted by the financial crisis -- to center its attention in an emergent social class and an audience notarially heterogeneous. The seasons could only be retaken three years later, after a popular season organized by the Brazilian tenor Reis e Silva, which counted with names like the soprano Carmem Gomes and the basses José and Salvador Perrotta. During the celebration in homage of Carlos Gomes, in 1936, Gina Cigna, exceptional Italian-French dramatic-soprano, participated in the rerun of "Lo Schiavo." Bidú Sayão appeared in "Il Guarany," on the side of Georges Thill, who was considered one of the best French tenors of his time. In May 1938, the S.A. Teatro Brasileiro, founded by Grabriela Besanzoni, makes its first performance in Municipal, although having a short life but being of great importance to opera's life in Brazil.

In 1935, Plínio Salgado released his political manifesto at the stage of Theatro Municipal creating the Brazilian Integralist Party (Partido Integralista Brasileiro). Several people reacted against it in a big confront between supporters of Plínio and opposition parties. Turmoils, fights, cops, prisons, gun shots, and murders happened in the city because of the event.

Mario de Andrade, in 1936, established the Cultural Department in the city. Thanks to it, several projects had strong influence in the Theatro, as having for the first time its own management of the programming. Andrade also created, between 1936 and 1939, many popular events as a way to democratize the access of culture.

In 1937, the Theatro Municipal hosted the "Congresso da Língua Nacional Cantada", from which a written publication was released with all the studies and projects about the Portuguese language.

Still following the democratization of access to culture, the Theatro Municipal also hosted Carnival parties.

Credits: Story


Fernando Haddad

City's Secretary of Culture
Nabil Bonduki


Deliberative Council
Nabil Bonduki - President
Leonardo Martinelli
Pablo Zappelini de Leon

Head Office
Jose Luiz Herencia

Management Director
Carolina Paes Simão

Educational Director
Leonardo Martinelli


Council President
Claudio Jorge Willer

Executive Director
William Nacked

Financial Director
Neil Amereno

Artistic Director
John Neschling


Cristiane Santos
Bernardo Guerra

Olivieri Advogados Associados

General board

Maria Carolina G. de Freitas

Egberto Cunha

Ticket Office
Nelson F. de Oliveira

Artistic Department

Advisory of Artistic Department
Eduardo Strausser
Thomas Yaksic
Clarisse De Conti

Eni Tenorio dos Santos

Artistic Programming Coordination
João Malatian

Technical Director
Juan Guillermo Nova

Assistant of Technical Department
Daniela Gogoni

Stage Director
Ronaldo Zero

Assistant of Stage Director
Caroline Vieira

Resident Assistant of Scenic Department
Julianna Santos

Second Assistant of Scenic Department
Ana Vanessa

Costumes Coordination
Edison Vigil

Resident Costume Designer
Imme Moller

Costume Producer
Fernanda Camara


Rodrigo Savazoni

Executive Coordinator
Thiago Carrapatoso

Artistic Archive

Maria Elisa P. Pasqualini

Coordinator Assistant
Milton Tadashi Nakamoto

Copyists and Archivists
Ariel Oliveira
Cassio Mendes
Guilherme Prioli
Jonatas Ribeiro
Karen Feldman
Leandro Jose Silva
Paulo Cezar Codato
Raissa Encinas
Roberto Dorigatti

Educational Department
Alana dos Santos Schambacler

Production Management

Executive Production
Anna Patricia
Nathalia Costa
Rosa Casalli

Aelson Lima
Pedro Guida
Nivaldo Silvino

Producers Assistant
Arthur Costa

Laysa Padilha de Souza Oliveira


Head of Stagecraft Technician
Anibal Marques (Pelé)

Head of Machinery
Thiago dos S. Panfieti

Deputy Head of Machinery
Paulo M. de S. Filho

Tools Acquis
Marcelo Luiz Frozino

Head of Stagehand Department
João Paulo Gonçalves

Stage Technicians

Alberto dos Santos
Aristides da Costa neto
Carlos Roberto チvila
Ivaildo Bezerra Lopes
Peter Silva M. de Oliveira
Uiler Ulisses Silva
Wilian Danieli Peroso

Scenic Machinery
Alex Sandro N. Pinheiro
Anderson S. de Assis

Eneas R. Leite Neto
Paloma Neves da Costa
Sandra S. Yamamoto

Head of Audio
Segio Luis Ferreira

Audio Operators
Daniel Botelho
Kelly Cristina da Silva
Sergio Nogueira

Head of Lightining
Valeria Lovato

Fernando Azambuja
Igor Augusto F. Oliveira
Lelo Cardoso
Olavo Cadorini
Ubiratan Nunes

Alzira Campiolo
Isabel Rodrigues Martins
Katia Souza
Lindinalva M. Celestino
Maria Auxiliadora
Maria Gabriel Martins
Marlene Collé
Nina de Mello
Regiane Bierrenbach
Tonia Grecco


Sewing Coordination
Emilia Reily

Assistant of Costumes Archive
Ivani Rodrigues Umberto

Scenery Archive
Ermelindo Terribele

Carlos da S. Ribeiro
Marcos C. Rocha
Rui da Silva Costa


Luiz Carlos Lemes
Maria Aparecida
Gonçalo da Silva

Marcos Fecchio

Gisele Pennella

Gabriel Navarro Colasso

Desirée Furoni

Amanda Sena

Caroline Zeferino
Vanessa Beltrão

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google