Its magnitude, magnificent acoustics, and opulence earn the Teatro Colón (Colón Theater) a place among the world's top five opera theaters. An ever-changing stream of imported talent bolsters the well-regarded local lyric and ballet companies.
After an eventful 18-year building process involving the death of one architect and the murder of another, the sublime Italianate structure was finally inaugurated in 1908 with Verdi's Aïda. It has hosted the likes of Maria Callas, Richard Strauss, Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinsky, Enrico Caruso, and Luciano Pavarotti, who said that the Colón has only one flaw: the acoustics are so good that every mistake can be heard. The theater was closed in 2008 for controversial renovations which ran way over schedule and budget, but reopened on May 24, 2010, to coincide with Argentina's bicentenary celebrations. Much of the work done was structural, but its stone facade and interior trimmings are now scrubbed and gleaming.
sumptuous building materials—three kinds of Italian marble, French stained glass, and Venetian mosaics—were imported from Europe to create large-scale lavishness. The seven-tier main theater is breathtaking in size, and has a grand central chandelier with 700 lights to illuminate the 3,000 mere mortals in its red-velvet seats.
Nothing can prepare you for the thrill of seeing an opera or ballet here. The seasons run from April through December, but many seats are reserved for season-ticket holders. Shorter options in the main theater include symphonic cycles by the stable orchestra as well as international orchestral visits. Chamber music concerts are held in the U-shaped Salón Dorado (Golden Room), so named for the 24-karat gold leaf that covers its stucco molding. Underneath the main building is the ultra-minimal Centro Experimental, a tiny theater showcasing avant-garde music, opera, and dramatic performances.
You can see the splendor up close and get in on all the behind-the-scenes action with the theater's extremely popular guided tours. The whirlwind visits take you up and down innumerable staircases to rehearsal rooms and to the costume, shoe, and scenery workshops, before letting you gaze at the stage from a sought-after box. (Arrive at least a half hour before the tour you want to take starts, as they fill up very quickly.)
Buy tickets from the box office on Pasaje Toscanini. If seats are sold out—or beyond your pocket—you can buy 10-peso standing-room tickets on the day of the performance. These are for the lofty upper-tier paraíso, from which you can both see and hear perfectly, although three-hour-long operas are hard on the feet.