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Records There are sufficient snips of information which show that during the Eighteenth Century performances of operas and plays begin to take place in the town of Maó, however, at the same time this is not significant enough information in order to enable a complete reconstruction of an historical record of the theatre of Maó with respect to the type of performances which took place, or the buildings in which they were represented during this period. Some paintings which are kept in the Museum of Decorative Art of Paris, show the theatre of Comedy of Maó, during the French occupation of the island. These are two very interesting paintings, as they show us, from two different angles, a theatre, on whose stage the comedy ‘The Hypochondriac’ by Molière is being performed, in front of a large well to do audience who are greatly enjoying the performance. There are also some contemporary programmes which describe some of the plays which are represented in the Comedy Theatre of Mahon, nevertheless, the exact location of this theatre has never been discovered, the most approximate location would be the one which is shown on an English map, situated in the street of Saint Bartholomew, traditionally known as the ‘Street of the Comedy’, this popular term has been passed from generation to generation and always by word of mouth, and is the only proof of the existence of the theatre as no documents have been found which can confirm the precise location of the theatre itself. Some other press articles help to complete the little information with reference to this period, which to this date is still not well known. With reference to the nineteenth century, we have the complete documentation of the construction of a theatre and dance halls within the old bastion of the city walls, situated on the site of today’s Principal theatre. This first building was totally rebuilt in the year 1820, due to the fact that as from 1817, the seasons of Italian opera begin to frequently take place and the need for a new theatre which can accommodate a numerous audience is imminent. The work is carried out by Miquel Comas, however, after a few years this building results as being too small and the construction of another floor is considered. Today’s theatre : 185 years of history In the year 1829, the opera had become deeply rooted among the society of Mahon , and the theatre which had been constructed ten years previously had become insufficient for the representation of the new lyrical works which were arriving from Italy. The opera impresario Giovanni Palagi, who for several years had been settled in Maó , was the author of the new Project and also the promoter of the company which in turn would carry out the construction of a theatre based on the Italian style of construction, and located on the same site as the old theatre. The new building celebrates the opening on the the 15th of December of 1829 and has a capacity for nearly one thousand members of the audience. The theatre hall has the shape of a horseshoe and the pit, with an inclination of one span, is surrounded by 16 arches which support three floors of boxes, plus the gods. The master builders Alfons Hernández and Josep Pere Pons, directed by Palagi, carry out this construction, and the scenic decoration is carried out by the artist from Ciudadela Andrés Galbis. During the nineteenth century, improvements to the theatre were made. In the year 1845 with the acquisition of some adjacent buildings the theatre is extended: in the year 1859 some internal improvements are made and the neoclassic façade is built and in the year 1894 electrical lighting is installed. At the beginning of the twentieth Century, all the installations are revised and adapted to the new security regulations, and after the Civil War, due to the damage caused by a bomb which fell onto the stage, a great number of repairs had to be carried out. Not long after, during the forties, several adjacent buildings on the street of the costa de Deià were acquired in order to house the complimentary services areas and also improve the Security Systems. In the eighties, coinciding with the 150 years of the theatre’s existence, a new refurbishing of the the theatre was carried out, which without a doubt was insufficient for a building which had been used for 150 years and was then showing signs of the times. In agreement with a programme of rehabilitation of historical theatres organised by MOPTMA, a decision was made to restore the theatre, which in due course was closed to the public for nearly five years. The restoration of the theatre has returned the splendour of the old theatre of the eighties, which conserved all the charm of the period, but, at the same time, has provided it with the latest technologies and installations for the staging of the most avant-guarde performances. The hall and the central façade, with local stone, conserve their charm, but the perimeter of the total area has been redone. In the posterior part of the theatre are situated the modern service areas of the dressing rooms, the lift and the technical equipment area, and in the frontal part, the reception area and corridors have been extended-with pleasant areas in which the members of the public can mingle and be attended at all times. The opening of the theatre , in June 2001, gave back to the town of Maó and all Menorca, a theatre prepared for the new century which we had hardly just begun. The curtains of the Principal’s stage During its history, the Principal theatre has had three stage curtains. When the present theatre building was opened in the year 1829, the stage decoration was designed by the artist from Ciudadela, Andreu Galbis, who painted a stage curtain with the representation of Aurora, of which there is no other evidence than the information found in documents of the period. We have no knowledge of the whereabouts or for how long it was actually in use. It is known, however, that a second stage curtain, named the ‘red curtain’ dates from the first period of existence of the Mahones coliseum. This curtain, which was restored for the opening of the year 2001, shows a group of three women, who represent comedy, tragedy and dance, and is framed with two red curtains, thus gaining its popular name. The artists of this stage curtain are unknown. The third stage curtain of the theatre, was made in honour of the visit of Queen Isabel II to Menorca, in the year 1860. In the multiple acts prepared in tribute to the royalty, perhaps the most noteworthy were the extraordinary performances carried out in the Principal theatre, with the representation of the operas Il trovatore and Y Lombardi. A large refurbishment had been carried out in order to be able to welcome the royal entourage, and the Menorcan artist and stage designer, Francesc Pons Encina had been commissioned to design the commemorative stage curtain of the Royal visit. The curtain represents the Spanish coat of arms crowned with a crown of bay leaves, and centred between pillars which form the arms: some architecture completes the ensemble, and it is framed by two green curtains, which became popularly known as the ‘green stage curtain’. The artistic quality of the curtain was greatly admired during the period, and nowadays is still highly praised by Miquel Massip , restorer of the two stage curtains, as well as the central drop. This last piece, which is used to reduce the opening of the stage, is decorated with the coat of arms of the city of Maó, and medallions with portraits of artists related to music and theatre. It was probably designed by the Italian stage designer Gaetano Labó, who was in Maó during the season from 1854 to 1855. The fact that a theatre possesses more than one stage curtain, according to authorised experts, is highly unusual, and possibly unique. Talia Owing to the restoration work carried out on the Principal theatre, a decision was made to install a large statue which would relate to the arts and also catch the eye of the general public who did not know the exact location of the theatre itself., as it is situated in the centre of the town amongst its quaint streets. At the same time, the statue would represent the arts and carry them onto the street, thus prolonging the arts from the theatre building out onto the streets and to the general public. The artist from Ciutadella Maties Quetglas, who was well known for his works, but whose works were not present in the city of Maó, was commissioned to carry out this work of art. The theme which was to be represented was also evident from the beginning, a statue which would relate to the World of the theatre, and this is why, the best choice was the figure of Thalia, who from ancient times represents Comedy. And so the statue of Thalia was created, a feminine figure, perhaps a little androygynous, made of bronze, three metres high, based on a classical design, and situated on a stone pedestal, at a strategic point where the façade of the old theatre and the extensión of the new building are joined. It was revealed in the month of May, 2001, one month before the official opening of the theatre, and whose silhouette has become to form part of the theatre itself.

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Carrer d'en Deia, 38, Mahón

Neighborhood: Maó - Mahón
Telephone: (+34) 971 355 603
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