BALTAZAR DIAS CITY THEATRE
On the 24th October of 1884, the first stone was laid for the building of the future Baltazar Dias City Theatre.
A decisive step was thus being taken to make an old dream of Funchal come true: to have a theatre up to its status of third biggest Portuguese town. As a matter of fact, since the demolition of Teatro Grande (Large Theatre), a fact occurred in 1833, local amateurs and continental companies under contract were confined to improvised rooms and stages, such as the Teatro do Bom Gosto (Theatre of Good Taste) and the Teatro Esperança (Theatre of Hope) which didn’t meet the minimum requirements for an adequate performance.
The Baltazar Dias City Theatre opened his doors in 1888. It was built on a Italianate base-plan, with a capacity for hosting 250 people in a variety of seats differing in comfort standards and distance from the stage: front and rear stalls; 21 places in the upper circle; an equal number of boxes and, at last, 150 places in the “gods”. So began a long fruitful career interspersed with some less happy moments, but above all, boasting many seasons of the highest artistic quality.
It is physically impossible to mention here all the events that have taken place in the auditorium, the foyer or even the Great Hall (Salão Nobre) of the Baltazar Dias Theatre in the course of an existence that stretches over a hundred years: there were initiatives coming from the Funchal Municipality (Câmara Municipal do Funchal) Madeira Secretariat for Tourism and Culture (Secretaria Regional do Turismo e Cultura) and other regional institutions (some extinct, others extant) - such as the Academia de Música da Madeira, the Cine-Clube do Funchal, the Sociedade de Concertos da Madeira, the Cine-Forum do Funchal, etc.. It would also have been an unfeasible task to name all theater companies, both national (from Companhia Dramática de Justino Marques in 1895, to the present Teatro Experimental do Funchal) and foreign ones like Italia Vitaliana and Carlo Duse’s Great Italian Dramatic Company (1913) or the Prague Black Theatre. However, it is impossible to overlook some of the great figures of Portuguese theatrical world that have appeared on our stage along all these years: António Sacramento, Maria Matos and Mendonça de Carvalho, Alves da Cunha and Berta de Bivar, Holbeche Bastos, Luisa Satanella and Estêvão Amarante, Nascimento Fernandes, Lucília Simões and Erico Braga, Chaby Pinheiro, Aura and Adelina Abranches, Brunilde Júdice and Alves da Costa, Amélia Rey Colaço and Robles Monteiro, and Vasco Santana. It is also fitting to remember great elocutionists such as João Villaret, Barbara Virgínia, Carlos Wallenstein, Dulce de Oliveira and Mário Viegas.
We should also recall the 20s and the 40s, the golden age of local amateurs and Madeiran authors such as João dos Reis Gomes, Eugénia do Rego Pereira, Frederico Calado Nunes, Francisco Bento de Gouveia and Teodoro Silva.
In addition, the Baltazar Dias City Theatre has been the proud host to many great soloists, both lyrical and instrumental, and welcomed national and international orchestras of undisputed prestige. Their names would make too long a list, so we quote at random: conductors and composers Ruy Coelho, Victorino de Almeida and Jorge Cage; pianists Jorge Peixinho, Sequeira Costa, Varela Cid e Viana da Motta; violinists Luís Barbosa and Antonino David and so many others we unfairly leave unmentioned. Formations like Gulbenkian, Swiss and Munich Orchestras, Salzburg Festival and Amsterdam Baroque Orchestras along with I Solisti Veneti, Hesperion XX and Cologne Musica Antiqua have equally been our guests. Further, Baltazar Dias City Theatre has staged ballet performances and mounted painting exhibitions, thus establishing an artistic and cultural tradition, which we are all proud of and should feel responsible for.