In an immense 7,500-square-meter warehouse, in the La Boca neighborhood, Colón Fábrica opened its doors, a mega exhibition with imposing scenographies, props and costumes used in the great productions of the Teatro Colón, from “Turandot” to “La Bohème” , and from “Swan Lake” to “Rigoletto”, which can be visited on weekends in the Arts District in the south of the city, on the Vuelta de Rocha.
A few meters from Caminito, Fundación Proa, Andreani -the building designed by Clorindo Testa-, the Quinquela Museum, and the yellow, blue, green and red painted cobblestones, is located this kind of hangar that houses magic and work artisan, and that it is imposing and impressive just to cross the glass doors, on Pedro de Mendoza avenue.
“First you have to define this place, is it a warehouse? A museum? A theater? No, this is actually a storage place, scenography, props, of the productions that the Teatro Colón does, but here the works They are set up so that the public can see them and it is as if one, imaginatively, goes up on stage and you can approach, touch, check what things are made of “, says the director of the Colón María Victoria Alcaraz to Télam during a tour of the place.
The Colón Theater is one of the few factory-theaters in the world and this temple is a fascinating journey through the scenographies, costumes and props made in the workshops of the sceno-technical area -like a great ode to its workers- that allows you to discover within the reach of the hand the magnitude of the pieces that make excellence possible on stage.
“The stage workers of the Teatro Colón make each of these pieces, and assemble and disassemble them on stage. It is a very recognized team in the world, very professional, always praised, with sculptors, painters, artisans, blacksmiths, carpenters, who they do these wonders “, adds Alcaraz and explains that the exhibition is dynamic, since the pieces exhibited will rotate as the theater functions require them for the staging. Or if a theater in another country rents them for a season; in that case these imposing constructions must travel by boat since they do not fit on a plane.
The entrance welcomes the visitor with the sector (or “the island”) dedicated to “Turandot”, the emblematic opera by Giacomo Puccini, set in ancient China, and the dress worn by the emperor’s daughter, Turandot, an imposing black suit and silver, with an embroidered tail almost ten meters long, and the respective crown with appliqués.
The structures of this opera are colossal, a blockbuster that included the making of 200 costumes, 300 wigs, 400 headdresses, 200 hairpieces and 160 pairs of shoes. The objects in this production are inspired by the forbidden city of Beijing: the emperor’s throne, in wood, with openwork and ornamentation carved by sculpture later protected with a letter box, gilded with the leaf and patinated. The giant sculptures of the terracotta warriors, which are 4.50 meters high, the 19 imperial pennants that are part of the scenery are between 7 and 10 meters long. Undoubtedly, the gong is the emblem of the setting, it has a diameter of 4.60 meters. And the costumes of the three emblematic characters: Ping, Pang and Pong.
Although the opera is one of the oldest shows in the Western world, this piece, in particular – Giacomo Puccini died before completion, leaving the sketches of a possible ending – offers one of the most moving and popularized arias: “Nessun dorma “, the moment the tenor sings ‘Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me’. It is when Calaf, the only one of Turandot’s suitors, avoids death by deciphering the enigmas imposed as a condition for marrying the cruel princess.
“Here the backdrops of the stage are kept, which are huge. They are painted with a technique, ‘Italian’, the canvas goes on the floor and is painted while standing, with rollers and special brushes. It is an ancient technique that in the Colón Theater it is still used. It is a trade that was lost and that can be learned here. It works as in 1900. In other theaters these trades were lost to lower costs; they began to work with prints, which by far they give the same effect. But now, with broadcasts and HD, all this is worth twice as much. In our productions they shine “, describes Alcaraz, director of the Theater that created the Stage Arts career two years ago, to continue transmitting the trade handcrafted.
The exhibition is designed for all audiences and you do not have to be an opera lover to visit it: each station is accompanied by a screen where the staging is displayed that allows you to recognize each of the elements and costumes in the sample -in addition to a QR code-, and from there the most iconic melodies sound, in a subdued way.
The tour can also be thought of as a trip around the world: the sector of “Aida”, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi – the story of an Ethiopian slave who Radamés, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard, falls in love with – moves to distant Egypt , with the sphinx -emblem of the setting-, the palace, the temple of Fath, the figures of pharaohs.
Or a trip to Paris in 1800, for the setting of “La Bohème”, by Giacomo Puccini; the story of four young bohemians who live on the brink of misery, while suffering and enjoying for love. The poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline live in various situations with the modest seamstress Mimi and the singer Musetta. Their changing rooms, the attic where they take refuge in winter, the Momus Café where they go, the street vendor’s toys – horses, a small wheel of fortune – everything is exhibited in Colón Fábrica.
There are sabers and swords, sculptures and busts of philosophers, royal ladders and thrones, fire hydrants, building facades, columns with their capitals, pianos and candles, toy soldiers and camels, French vases and mirrors, all made in a fascinating and handmade way.
“There is no such place in the world that is stored, or reserved, and that can be visited by the public,” says Alcaraz and promises that in 2022 they will replace new titles, that is, new settings that the public will be able to see in this magical display.
Currently, the sets and costumes for the operas “Turandot”, “La Bohème”, “A tram called desire”, “The tales of Hoffmann”, “Don Pascuale”, “Rigoletto” and “Aida” are displayed, as well as the ballet “The Corsair”.
In addition, the tour includes recreational spaces for children and others for rest for the whole family, where you can interact with part of the scenographic material and have a playful experience with them.
Some reconditioning tasks work there too. This will save resources and investment by reducing production from scratch, reusing productions and clothing, and recycling materials for other productions.
In addition, subjects of the Stage Arts career of the Higher Institute of Theater Art will be taught, which seeks to preserve the trades of the Italian school of opera houses and will enable the training and inclusion of young people and adults who will learn a trade recognized by international level.
Colón Fábrica can be visited on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at Avenida Pedro de Mendoza 2147 from 12 to 18. General admission is 330 pesos for residents of Argentina.