Teatro Nacional is a magnificent neoclassical building that sticks out like a pure bred among mutts in the middle of Central San José. I recommend a visit to anyone who has a day in San José, especially anyone who lives in Costa Rica. After spending all my days on the beach, in the jungle, or in a typical concrete wall and tin roof building, the Teatro Nacional made me feel like Cinderella!
Teatro Nacional was constructed in the last decade of the 1800s by classically trained European architects, sculptors, and painters, including the Italian Paolo Serra who decided to remain in Costa Rica after the job was complete. 🙂 The outside is gorgeous, but to truly appreciate it, I had to do two things: 1. step inside, and 2. attend a performance. Anyone is allowed inside the entry foyer and restaurant (which I can recommend for a quick, quality bite to eat), but you have to attend a performance to enter the heart of the theatre.
To get the full experience, I have attended two performances at the theatre in the past few weeks. The first was a late afternoon performance in the 2nd level concert foyer – it was part of a concert series dedicated to musica antiqua. I heard an array of music from the 1500s played on period instruments. Combined with the heat (no AC or fans), I thought it was perfect lullaby music and would have fallen asleep if it were not for all the eye candy around me – lush furniture, marble sculptures, and angelic murals.
The second performance was last Friday night. I got all dolled up and Julio took me to see the National Symphonic Orchestra of Costa Rica. The performance was captivating, the conductor energizing, and the piano player was extremely dramatic, all making for a memorable experience. And it only got better with the ambiance and crisp acoustics of the main theatre – 100+ years old and Costa Rica has done an amazing job of maintaining the original historical details.
There are frequent performances of many varieties at Teatro Nacional. (schedule here). Admission prices are very affordable, too – the afternoon show I attended was about $5 US.