Part 21: Teatro Colon and El Obelisco


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The Trip

When we finished with the catedral, we got back on the Sube and went to Teatro Colon.  Kathleen wanted to visit this local landmark.  While we were in the "centro" we were warned 3 times by 3 separate, disinterested locals that we should "watch our cameras, someone will attempt to steal them".  First time: warned.  Second time: cautious.  Third time: unreasonably paranoid.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

There were both Spanish and English tours available, albeit at different frequencies.  Naturally, we selected the English tour, but the guide was a native Spanish speaker and therefore had a pretty heavy accent.  No worries, we could adequately understand him.  First stop was the architect's scale model of the building.  Teatro Colon is BA' main opera house and generally considered to be the third best venue for opera by "style" and the fifth best by acoustics.  Modeled after the great opera houses in Europe,  construction was completed in 1857 and at the time was considered to be the planet's premier venue.  A long period of decline and neglect followed resulting in a massive restoration effort from 2004-2010.  The results were stunning.  We just missed a performance at this venue, but in these things, "a miss is as good as a mile".

The internal restoration was extensive and nearly everything was "touched".  Smoking had been allowed in the facility during its operation and the smoke and ash had discolored everything.  Above is one of the entrance galleries and a headshot of the guide.

The craftsmanship was exquisite.  Note the details in the carved marble.

Some of the entrance galleries, or salons, had intricate stained glass portals in the ceiling.

Based on distinctly European style, the crown treatment was first class.  The details were outstanding.

Marble statues in the galleries had to be carefully cleaned to remove the nicotine stains that had accumulated over the years.

Entrance portals to the various audience galleries had busts of famous composers and authors.

Truly impressive detail in the crown molding.

Real gold was used for the gilding.

Many of the columns were adorned with gold gilt as well.

The galleries had huge chandeliers for lighting.

The galleries were huge to accommodate the audience movement and post-show socialization.  In the pre-TV, pre-movie era, this was THE social event of the city.

Given the details in the galleries, the effort required to clean and restore the massive surface area was almost herculean.

Salons had period furniture with highly detailed inlayed wood and bronze adornments.  Marble tops, of course.

The longest gallery had a huge stained glass window.  The window was so long that I could not get a full view with my 24mm lens.

The last stop on the tour was a box seat to allow us to view what the audience sees.  Teatro Colon has several basement levels for workshops and storage.  All sets are produced on-site, including this one. A team of dressmakers create costumes on-site.  When we were there, they were preparing for a show in a few days and there were workers flitting about.

Most areas were covered with cloth curtains or carpet to reduce acoustic reflections.  Even today, operas are performed without use of audio equipment.

The area above the stage is very high to provide room for cranes and extra set equipment that can be lowered onto the stage during a performance.

The cupola at the top of the dome has a hidden gallery where singers can perform giving the impression they are the voice of God.

When the tour completed, we headed to the nearby Petit Colon restaurant for some food and drink.  Outside in the plaza was a nice monument.  But note the ad-hoc wiring in the background.  This is one of the city's most expensive areas and yet the ad-hoc wiring still exists!!

I ordered the Argentine interpretation of an American milkshake.  Visually impressive but less so by taste.

On a side plaza we spotted these mesh steel statues with fellow sleeping in the shade.

Across the plaza we got to the base of El Obelisco.  And again, we were warned about our cameras by a kiosko merchant.  Increasing my "situational awareness", I spied a couple of dudes sizing us up.  I made direct eye contact with them indicating my detection of their intention and they went the other way.  There were plenty of city police around, but seemingly that did nothing to address the robbery rate.  Nearly every gal who had a backpack wore it on front.  Waist packs were in front and purses were in front or under-arm.

The Obelisco stands next to Avenida Alvear and a wide park between the lanes.

European style buildings line Avenida Alvear.  Very cool, even if they house McDuck's below.

With our attention level peaked, we took the sube back to Plaza Italia.  In the station we spotted this abstract tile work on the walls.

More nice tile work.

If you are ever in BA, even for just a short while, Teatro Colon is a must-see.  The plaza area is nice, but the Teatro is quite stunning.

Tomorrow, we head back to the US on a late evening red-eye into Dallas.  This is bitter-sweet for us; we will miss the sights of the mountains and city and regret not allocating another week in-country.  I will not miss the noisy motos, drivers without lights at night, long lines at ATM machines, ATMs running out of cash or intentionally not being restocked or the fact that the ATM machines take 6% of every transaction and limit withdrawls to 2,000 pesos ($100) per withdrawl.  Banks are not very popular here as they totally screwed the population during the last crash (which, as it turns out, is a relatively common occurrence here).  Essentially, the banks stole the average person's saving.  The government did nothing, indeed were beneficiaries of the action. Folks much prefer the more-stable US dollar to the local currency and they will tell you straight-out that after the last humping, their saving are in dollars in their mattresses.

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