Amazonia Theaters

Photo by Els Slots.

Amazonia Theaters is part of the Tentative list of Brazil in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Amazonia Theaters comprise the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus and the Teatro da Paz in Belem. They were built during the Amazon Rubber Boom of the late 19th century. Large and luxurious, these theaters represent “the desire of local society at that time to align with European standards”.

Map of Amazonia Theaters

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Els Slots

The Netherlands - 20-Nov-22 -

Amazonia Theaters (T) by Els Slots

The Amazon Rubber Boom (1879-1912) caused the economic and social transformation of Brazil’s Amazonia region. In Europe and the USA, the Industrial Revolution and the production of tires drove the high demand for rubber. Rubber could be tapped from trees in the Amazon rainforest, and mostly European entrepreneurs employed indigenous people and migrants from the Northeast to locate and extract it. The temporary commercial success led to the rise of a wealthy elite in the Amazonian cities. They imported all kinds of luxury items from Europe and provided their cities with street cars and electrical lighting. Theaters were also built as places to show off, and the ones in Manaus and in Belém are considered the best examples of this specific era. They still hold a prominent position in these cities, at the central square where in less-commercial cities usually a cathedral stands.

The Teatro Amazonas in Manaus is the pride of this city, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state. Entry to the theater as a tourist is easy nowadays – it’s open Tuesday til Sunday from 9 to 5, and they have a whole bunch of young guides eager to show people around. There seem to be no fixed hours for the tours, I was assigned an English-speaking guide all to myself when I arrived at 1.45 p.m. 

This theater has been lovingly restored in the 1990s and it is used again for all kinds of performances. They reverted the exterior back to its original pink colour (it had been painted green during the military dictatorship of the 1970s, as pink was ‘too communist’). Inside they have a really good LEGO version of that earlier incarnation, made out of 30,000 bricks.

The interior is full of quirky details. To beat the stifling tropical heat, there were no doors to the main hall but only curtains. Also, there were holes beneath the seats where cool air was blown through. The ceiling painted with a bottom view of the Eiffel Tower suits Manaus’ nickname ‘Paris of the Amazon’. The magnificent upstairs ballroom has brown marble columns, symbolizing trees.  Outside, a stretch of rubber pavement has been preserved: it was made so the audiences wouldn’t be so disturbed by the noise of horses and carriages passing by in the streets.

The Teatro do Paz in Belém is the older one of the two theatres (1878). Since its full restoration ended in 2002, it is regularly used for operas again. Visiting hours can be found on its website – the fee is a mere 6 reais (1,10 EUR) and has to be paid in cash. I was on a guided tour conducted in Portuguese, together with 3 Brazilian tourists.

Its entrance hall is very pretty – it has an Art Nouveau vibe, and good floor mosaics symbolizing the unity between the Portuguese and the indigenous people of the Amazon. The main theater hall is fairly similar to the one in Manaus, also horseshoe-shaped, with straw armchairs, Freemason symbols, and special seats for the political elite (with the seat of honour for the state governor). The ceiling has a huge bronze chandelier that was made in the USA.  We didn’t visit any other rooms, maybe there aren’t any but I also heard the guide say something about restoration works going on on the second floor.

The TWHS is fairly recent (2015) and has a good description, so it might show up in the near future as a nomination from Brazil. I can only recommend it. Of course, there are bigger, older, and more beautiful theatres in the world than these two, but you got to love them anyway because of the story of two remote cities that suddenly became part of a global economy and culture, bypassing Brazil’s traditional southeastern powerbase. And kudos to the Brazilian authorities for investing in the restorations (done by public-private cooperation in the case of Manaus), as these cannot be paid for by the limited incomes the theaters generate.

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Michael Novins

United States - 08-Sep-18 -

Amazonia Theaters (T) by Michael Novins

In August 2018, I visited Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. In the late nineteenth century, when fortunes were being made during Brazil’s rubber boom, the Teatro Amazonas was constructed in Manaus, according to legend to attract Enrico Caruso to the middle of the world’s largest rainforest (although it’s doubtful that the great tenor performed there). Nonetheless, Werner Herzog opens his best movie, Fitzcarraldo, with the title character paddling to the opera house to hear Caruso.  I endured an hour of modern dance, all the while thinking “please end,” to see the interior of the opera house, underneath its trompe-l'œil ceiling that is meant to evoke the view from beneath the Eiffel Tower. It was worth suffering the nearly hourlong performance to see the interior, especially since by waiting until the end and for all the other patrons to depart, I was able to take unobstructed photos.

Full Name
Amazonia Theaters
Structure - Civic and Public Works
2015 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: Amazonia Theaters
Theatro da Paz (Belem)
Amazonas Theater (Manaus)

The site has 2 locations

Amazonia Theaters: Teatro Amazonas. Manaus (T)
Amazonia Theaters: Teatro da Paz. Belem (T)
WHS 1997-2024