The oldest cultural center in the country and the most prestigious stage in Santiago, the Teatro Municipal de Santiago has seen the world’s best performers. This neoclassical gem was inaugurated in 1857, declared a National Monument in 1974, and still hosts a vibrant repertoire today.
Plans for the theater began in 1853, when President Manuel Torres issued a decree for a municipal theater in Santiago, then a rapidly growing city. French Chilean architect Claudio Brunet des Baines was commissioned for its design, and its construction was entrusted to another French Chilean, civil engineer Felipe Charme de l’Isle.
The theater opened in 1857 with a performance of “Ernani,” by Giuseppe Verdi. An Italian opera company was brought in especially for the occasion. At the time, the theater had a capacity of 1,800 and featured a massive glass chandelier.
Just 13 years later, a devastating fire practically destroyed the building after a performance by opera superstar, Carlotta Patti. But the theater was quickly reconstructed, and reopened three years later with another Verdi opera, “La Forza del Destino.”
Sadly, that fire wasn’t the last tragedy to strike the theater. In 1903, an earthquake destroyed most of the interior, and in 1927 another serious fire again gutted the building. However, the theater was quickly rebuilt both times, more opulent than ever. In the 1950s, the theater was fully modernized and numerous cultural institutions were created for it.
Home to the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra, Santiago Ballet, and Santiago Municipal Choir, the theater remains an active and integral part of the city’s culture today. Tours of the historic building are available with reservations.