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Amazonia Theaters

Date of Submission: 30/01/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Brazil to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Manaus, Amazonas; Belém, Pará
Ref.: 5996
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Description

Teatro Amazonas: S3 7 49.01 W60 1 24.23
Teatro da Paz: S1 45 28.32 W48 49 38.18

Built in the late nineteenth century, both Teatro Amazonas (Amazon Theater) and Teatro da Paz (Peace Theater) are located in the Brazilian Amazon in the cities of Manaus and Belém, respectively. These theaters are significant monuments located in the two largest urban centers of the region, symbols of the economic boom achieved and represented by a model of Europeanized civility reproduced in the tropics due to the Amazon Rubber Boom in South America.

This modernity, fostered by rubber exports - a period in which the cities of Belém and Manaus monopolized the supply of latex for the manufacture of various products in the context of the Industrial Revolution underway in Europe, was made possible by the wealth generated by intercontinental trade resulting in sponsoring the arrival of architects, engineers and European artists, who promoted profound changes in the urban landscape of these cities.

The construction of these two monumental opera houses, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon forest, symbolizes the deployment process in the tropics of the ideals of progress and civilization existent in the nineteenth century, when the ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean, overflowing with latex, returned with people, products and ideas of the European Belle Époque.

Associated with the eclectic language, the ethnic regional elements of the fauna and the flora, in a stylized and allegorical manner, were incorporated into the interior decoration of these monuments, making up the decorative theme of theaters built in the Amazon environment, showing the search for a local bourgeois identity.

Larger and more luxurious than all Brazilian theaters previously built, both Teatro Amazonas and Teatro da Paz, here designated as “Teatros da Amazônia”, have become urban landmarks representative of a time of intense commercial and cultural cosmopolitanism, which lasted to the present day in the urban centers of Manaus and Belém, symbolizing periods of economic boom. Within these eclectic monuments, opera festivals open to the public and other cultural events are still promoted, maintaining these places as traditional centers of cultural life.

Description of the component parts:

Teatro da Paz (Paz Theater)

One of the examples of neoclassical architecture in Brazil and the first show house of monumental character in the northern part of the country, the Teatro da Paz was erected in 1874 with an original project by José Tibúrcio de Magalhães. He presented an opera house typology, with the audience in a horseshoe shape, with orchestra pit, proscenium and curtain.

For the theater beautification, the local government undertook the first reform carried out between 1887 and 1890, where they contracted services for the painting of the concert hall and auditorium, by the Italian artists from the Roman Academy of San Luca, Domenico De Angelis and Giovanni Capranesi. The beautiful ceiling, painted by De Angelis, with light effects and sinuous shapes and the Baroque style, offers idyllic scenes with characters from Greek and Roman mythology, with representations of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples.

Another important artist in this intervention was the Brazilian Crispim do Amaral, hired to paint the stage curtain made in Paris by set designer Eugène Carpezat. This being the first Republican artistic representation of the state of Pará, alluding to the Allegory of the Republic, an oil painting that brings Marianne, the traditional representation of the French Republic, to the center amid mestizos, native inhabitants, mulattos and Greco-Roman mythological characters.

In 1904, in the prime of the Amazonian Belle Époque, during the government of Augusto Montenegro and the Municipal Commissioner Antonio Lemos, the theater underwent further intervention incorporating the luxurious interior design, the taste of eclecticism, which remains to this day. The facade has been redesigned to meet the classical standards, the electric lighting system has been improved, in addition to the refined and integrated furniture that are incorporated into the environment, including: hardwood floors in the area, wall coverings decorated with metal sheets, statues made in Carrara marble in Paris, representing Gonçalves Dias and José de Alencar, two representatives of the romantic literature canon, installed in hallways, caryatids in "Tercé stone", iron bars and bronze made in Paris, as well as chandeliers and crystal chandeliers highlighted by the concert hall luster acquired from the United States of America. It should also be noted that the auditorium additionally received, among other elements, the busts of the Brazilian maestros Carlos Gomes and Henrique Eulálio Gurjão, made in Genoa, Italy.

Due to its condition, which inspired care, in 2000, 2008 and 2010, some improvements were undertaken for the modernization of the infrastructure, occasion in which the electrical and hydraulic installations were recovered, with internal adjustments of use being made, along with the structural strengthening of the roof, and the restoration of all integrated artistic property.

Teatro Amazonas (Amazon Theater)

A building whose cornerstone was laid in 1884, the Teatro Amazonas had its design drawn up in Portugal at the Lisbon Engineering Office. As for the style of the facade, the Teatro Amazonas is essentially eclectic with many aspects close to Art Nouveau style. The construction of the theater used the most advanced construction techniques of the time, introducing metal structures, especially the dome, with its iron frame being brought from Europe. This grand element that does not have the function of giving light to the internal space, stands out not only for its size but also for its unique multicolored coating, in all 36,000 glazed scales that, besides providing a monumental character to the building, reflects the desire to make this theater an unique piece of work in architecture.

In order to achieve the desired luxury and refinement, most of the materials used in the construction were brought from Europe: glazed tiles from Alsace for the dome; iron railings and furniture in the style of Louis XV of France; Italian marble; steel beams from Glasgow; fittings and the rose window for the main hall from the Koch Fréres Parisian house.

The lack of manual labor in the region, scarce at the time, was remedied by the recruiting of various foreign professionals, including Domenico de Angelis, who was hired to paint the foyer with other Italian artists. The foyer, or Honor Room, features beautiful illusionist paintings that demonstrate the refined technique of these professionals. Over the metallic columns, cornices, balustrades and pillars, the technique of stucco has been used, making it resemble marble. The illusionist effect can also be seen in faux tapestry, on painted Gobelins representing the fauna and flora of the Amazon Region, a theme required by the Amazon State Government.

Another professional who has also stamped his art on the theater was Crispim do Amaral, who, along the responsibility for the decoration of the concert hall and other decorative elements, made the curtain representing the meeting of the waters of the Negro and Solimões Rivers, emblematic references of the landforms of the Amazon Region and its waterways.

The Teatro Amazonas has undergone some renovations since its opening in 1898. There was an effort in 1974 when a broad restoration took place, preserving its original architectural style and giving the building a more modern infrastructure, with new lighting and air conditioning. There were also some internal adjustments and restoration of furnishings at this time. The last intervention, back in 1990, corresponded to the full restoration of the theater, which had serious conservation issues. At the time, Brazilian and foreign technicians recovered the original features of all paintings by Domenico de Angelis and by Amaral Crispin, the bronze and crystal Murano chandeliers, the two house drapes, among other pieces of art.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Justification for the selection of the constituent elements

The urban transformations made possible by the wealth generated from the rubber boom, radically changed the face of two landlocked cities in the Amazon rainforest. Inspired on European  civility and progress templates, Belém and Manaus financed their improvement projects and beautification of spaces through the urban layout reforms, expansion of avenues, boulevards and construction of squares, monuments and socialization spaces such as shops and cafés.

With inseparable stories, as the theater were built around the same time and shared much of the manual labor and artists who build them, the Amazonia Theaters symbolize and fully embody the aspirations of ostentation of the commercial elites, as well as it embodies the economic and social changes that marked a unique historical period in the Amazon region.

Criterion (ii): From the first decades of the nineteenth century until the end of the 1910s, the northern cities of Brazil were involved in the development context at the time that was changing the course of humanity rapidly and definitely: the Industrial Revolution. The latex extracted from an Amazon rainforest native plant, Hevea brasiliensis, was sent to various countries in Europe and used for the manufacture of accessories, gears and tires, which ultimately affected livelihoods in the Old and the New World. In addition to the international demand for rubber, the local political context contributed to this exchange: the implementation of the Republican Regime in Brazil, and the opening of the Amazon River to all flags in 1867 allowed the wealth generated by the latex trade to generate profound social changes, implemented mainly in urban reforms and architecture. In this context associated with the distribution of Amazonian cities, far from the country capital, a direct flow was established with the main capitals of Europe where new things came: building materials, in-vogue architectural styles, projects, ideas and influences of all kinds.

The remodeling of urban spaces in Belém and Manaus, the major urban centers of the Amazon region, were inspired along the lines of the reforms promoted by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in Paris and crowned by the building of inspired architectural monuments in the cosmopolitan ideal of the civility and modernity of European cities, which lived through a period of profusion of art and knowledge. During the splendor period of the rubber boom, the cities of Belém and Manaus became Brazilian windows of the European Belle Époque. While the ports of these cities have become places of intense movement of goods, persons and raw materials, the construction of the Theatres in these cities involved artists, architects, foreign engineers, and numerous Brazilians from around the country. Manual labor that was recruited in impoverished regions of northeastern Brazil was divided between the latex extraction and manual labor on public works.

Although short, the 30-year period of the heyday in international trade of existing rubber in the region has definitively changed the social and urban context of Belém and Manaus, effectively contributing to the evolving industrial society that kept developing in the European continent, and which gave its first incipient steps in the Amazon, imprinting with Teatro Amazonas and Teatro da Paz an important record for humanity of this economic cycle that, from 1910 on, with the severe economic stagnation arising from the exploitation of rubber in Southeast Asia, began to lose its strength and splendor.

Criterion (iv): The Amazonia Theaters constitute true monuments in the jungle, expressing the desire of local society at that time to align with European standards, becoming icons of a standard of civility, urbanization and culture. The sizeable resources proceeded from the gum exploitation enabled an unprecedented urban renewal, reflected in a prominent position given to theaters in its implementation, both in the city of Belém as in Manaus. Today, the theaters figure as central areas of cultural activity in the Northern Region of Brazil as much as exceptional symbols of the prominent times that occurred in the Amazon Region.

The construction of the theaters brought together foreign artists, interior decorators, painters and sculptors, most of Italian origin, in light of the scarce local supply of skilled labor, which alternated between Belém and Manaus and was responsible for a considerable boost not only in the architectural and artistic field, but also in the wider cultural field. These artists, although aligned to European representation models, had incorporated regional elements, expressing the desire to affirm the local identity. In this respect, a natural beauty is given to the Amazonia Theaters that can be seen in the light of the conceptual quality of elaborate designs, the decorative elements that integrates it, and the prominence acquired in the urban context where they were built.

The main decorative elements that adorn the Teatro da Paz are the result of the interaction of European and regional influences. The ceiling painted by Domenico de Angelis Rococo is an exceptional example, with characters from Greek and Roman mythology and Amazonian indigenous inhabitants representing four scenes: Apollo's entrance into the Amazon rainforest, the goddess Talia surrounded by angelic figures, the goddess Diana on a hunt among native inhabitants through the forest, and the goddess Mnemosyne, portrayed as a painter whose model is an autochthon individual.

In the Teatro Amazonas, the decorative panels in the foyer acquire uniqueness as they allude to the Amazonian nature, fascinating foreign travelers and naturalists with its realistic depictions of jaguars, herons, streams and forests. Amaral Crispin's curtain, an homage to the famous meeting of the waters of the Negro and Solimões Rivers, also deserves to be highlighted.

The other building materials and movable property brought mainly from Europe denote the desire to be equal to the old world, to give preference for the use of noble materials from specialized regions, such as Carrara marble, sculptures from Genoa, decorative pieces in iron from Paris, and glazed tiles from Alsace for the dome.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity

The Amazonia Theaters preserve, to the present day, their typological and morphological characteristics referring to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, still maintaining its prominent position in the urban area in which they operate. In addition, the profusion of sumptuous integrated decorative elements corroborate to the magnificence of both buildings, and the bedazzlement effect resulting in them can be seen.

The interventions undertaken over the decades occurred, overall, in order to modernize and maintain the buildings and their functions, all while preserving the architectural authenticity of these monuments.

Therefore, considering the attributes that persist as a documentation value of this unique experience undertaken in the Amazon, these theatres keep intact their basic design, materials and usage, as these show houses still function and are presented as cultural references in their locations with intense cultural agendas of concerts and plays, among other activities.

Integrity

The Amazonia Theaters retain their architectural features, allowing a reading and understanding of its architectural, historical, cultural and symbolic attributes, while with documentary values.

As for the management, both theaters are under legal protection as a national cultural heritage site, and the area enclosed for their protection - in the immediate surroundings - is enough to ensure the attributes they possess, ensuring their preservation and visibility.

The Teatro da Paz is under federal preservation normatives, combining Campina and Cidade Velha neighborhoods, and is housed in the Architectural, Landscape, Urbanistic Ensemble of the Republic Square, an area also listed by the Government of the State of Pará. The Government of the State of Pará, the theater's owner, was responsible for the last work of restoration carried out in 2010. The building has good preservation conditions.

The Teatro Amazonas, owned by the Amazonas State Government, is also listed the federal government, as it is by the Municipal government, as a result of being inserted in the Historic Center of Manaus.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Amazonia Theaters, the only opera houses erected throughout the Amazon Region, are striking examples afforded by the Industrial Revolution and the influence of European culture in the Amazon, translated into its implementation, architectural language, artistic elements and construction techniques. However, the strength of the thriving nature present in the region’s environment eventually influenced this unique architectural production in the tropics represented in the fine art paintings on the walls and ceilings of both theaters.

For this mixture of references, it is closer to the Palau de la Musica Catalana (Barcelona), inscribed in the World Heritage List since 1997, which became one of the representative examples of the search for a Catalan national identity through an interpretation of Eclecticism under the modernist spirit which was spreading in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century, made possible by industrial progress. The building features a fusion of influences of Baroque, Arabic and modern elements, where the Spanish vernacular architecture also was also expressed.

As for the unprecedented nature of the Amazonia Theaters in relation to the context and representing an important urban reference, they can be compared to the Margravial Opera House (Bayreuth), which became a World Heritage Site in 2012. Built between 1745 and 1750, it is the only Baroque theater still preserved intact, whose full implementation in a public space differs from other theaters of the time, those located in palaces, foreshadowing the great public opera houses of the nineteenth century.