CubaPLUS Magazine

The Martí Theater: traditional, splendid, modern

By: Alina Veranes
Mar 16, 2023
The Martí Theater: traditional, splendid, modern

The Martí Theater, located at the convergence of Zulueta and Dragones streets, in the Cuban capital, came back to life more resplendent than ever established this century and millennium, after almost 40 years in a comprehensive restoration process, which healed its old nineteenth-century structures, decorated it according to the majesty of its style and endowed it with technological advances that guarantee the enjoyment of modern shows, of a great artistic level.

The Martí Theater: traditional, splendid, modernIn 2022, it again needed another urgent healing intervention, due to an accident that occurred nearby, but this time its enlistment was very fast and the Colosseum of 100 doors, name that the Bayamés poet José Fornaris gave it in his time, it recovered its conditions to the joy of the citizenship and current artistic casts.

Inaugurated on June 8, 1884 with the name of Teatro Irijoa, taken from the last name of its builder and owner, Basque Ricardo Irijoa, it was not until 1900 that it was named Martí Theater, in honor of the National Hero of the Independence of Cuba, who fell in combat in 1895.

Since its founding, the capital's theater achieved great popularity for the presentations of the buffo genre, very much in the Creole style, so in demand at that time, excellent architectural conditions for the use it had, very favorable to its acoustics, and had floors covered in marble, luxuriously carpeted, cafeteria services, lounges and an adjoining garden adorned with sculptures.

The Martí Theater: traditional, splendid, modernA majestic building that responded to the highest requirements of the shows it offered. It was a place where public dances were also held, in addition to the liked jokes of Creole companies and the circus of Don Santiago Pubillones.

Later came the zarzuelas, operettas, vaudeville. The Cuban Belle Epoque, more flattened than anywhere else in the world because here the native talent had always been abundant and it was well defended, although with academic level.

Before being called the Martí Theater, Mr. Irijoa died in poverty and had another owner for some years under the name of Eden Garden. That theater entered history in the 20th century not only by being named Martí, but also because it served as the headquarters for the Constituent Assembly that drafted the first Magna Carta of the Cuban republic, born under a foreign boot, on May 20, 1902.

The Cuban mambises who made up that patriotic assembly rebelled against the designs of the inspector, but were unable to win.Later the golden artistic era of the colosseum passed thanks to the work of businessmen such as Julián Santa Cruz and Eulogio Velasco who brought great Hispanic stars to their stageof that time.

In the 1930s, Cuban vernacular theater reigned supreme, with works by or directed by Gonzalo Roig, Rodrigo Prats, Ernesto Lecuona, the performances of the one and only Rita Montaner, María de los Ángeles Santana, Enrique Piñero, Arquímedes Pous, Alicia Rico and Candita Quintana, all endearing figures when the glories of the Martí Theater are remembered.

Works like "Rosa la China", by Ernesto Lecuona; "Soledad", "Amalia Batista" and "María Belén Chacón", by Rodrigo Prats; and «|Cecilia Valdés», were immortalized in that emblematic place of Cuban history and culture, which is today a legend. The Jorge Anckermann group, had its headquarters there after the 60s, among other great artists, until it was time to close its doors for the long and memorable restoration.

Today it lives  wonderful days.

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