Situated grandly atop downtown São Paulo’s Vale do Anhangabaú like a concrete wedding cake, the century-old Theatro Municipal still shines as an example of the city’s place at the vanguard of art in Latin America. Opened in 1911, the ornate showplace—styled in the tradition of the great European opera houses—has welcomed Maria Callas, Isadora Duncan, Duke Ellington, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Ellington to its stage. A recent multimillion-dollar renovation has restored the grandeur of the structure, which serves as the official home of the São Paulo Municipal Symphony Orchestra and the São Paulo City Ballet, among other artistic organizations.
With a design inspired directly by Milan’s Teatroalla Scala, the theater was erected during the height of São Paulo’s wealth and influence as the center of Brazil’s coffee industry, though the location of the structure is called Morro do Chá—Tea Hill. The site of many debuts by Brazilian composers as well as host of 1922’s groundbreaking Week of Modern Art, which set the tone for the country’s multifaceted participation in Modernism, the theater welcomes visitors and offers guided tours arranged through its on-site historical museum, and purchasing tickets for any of the various artistic events at the theater’s turn-of-last-century box office is an experience in itself.