One Off the Bucket List: Visiting the Teatro Colón

28 May

Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires

When I got to Buenos Aires I was told that one of the most famous opera houses in the world (apparently ranked as #5 on a world list), the Teatro Colón, or Colon Theater, was closed for reconstruction. “What a pity,” they’d say, “because it’s really beautiful and you should go see a show there if you ever get a chance. The theater wound up being closed for four years while they revamped it from top to bottom, reopening in time for the bicentennial in May last year. Yet even as an entire year has passed, I never made it down there for a show. For one thing, it’s hard to get tickets, which can be expensive unless you want standing room on the 7th level up. For another reason, the theater is used as a political tool and last season’s shows were drastically cut short when the performers went on strike. Imagine that, after four years they triumphantly returned and went on strike.

Only a couple of months or so ago the theater began to offer tours to the public, but I chose to wait until the colder weather set in so I wouldn’t waste a nice summer day inside. Last week I tried to go but though tours are offered seven days a week, it happened to be one of the few days in the year when an event was held and no one could enter. Thus, today I was back on the track for a tour of the Colon Theater. One of the girls from my tour in Bolivia, Erica, is ending her year around the world in Buenos Aires and on Wednesday we had dinner at La Cabrera, where we agreed to meet up today for the tour.

The famous stage

Tours in Spanish are offered pretty frequently from about 10 am to 3 pm, but English tours are only a few times throughout the day, and since Erica doesn’t fluently speak Spanish, we went for the 1 pm tour. However, once I got there I was told that the tour was already maxed out. Erica was there first and already bought her ticket, but she wouldn’t be able to change it for the 2 pm when there was space. So in traditional Argentine fashion I had to argue to get what I wanted, and like with everything here, it was a fight. I talked to one of the guides and explained that I worked for a travel agency and had been here two years without seeing the place, so she told me to tell the ticket guy that it was okay. Back to him I went where I made a stink, and even though it was breaking the rules, he sold me a ticket for the 11 am (which already passed) and told me to tell the girl at the door that it was okay.

He initially wanted to charge me the $60 ARS for foreigners and I said I’m Argentinian, so without any ID it was down to $20. I wouldn’t recommend trying to scam them on your own however, because 1. I have citizenship and wasn’t lying, 2. They could tell right away if you have a weird or foreigner accent, and 3. Fighting over something like that is such an Argentinian thing to do, it’s clear that I have at the very least been living here. In typical Argentinian fashion he had no change for a $100.

The tour took us to several chambers and rooms in the theater, getting an explanation from the friendly guide on the history and reconstruction. We were taken to sections influenced heavily from European architecture, just like so many other buildings in Buenos Aires. One room was compared to the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, though with no where near as many mirrors. Next we went to the President’s private box to get a view of the theater’s stage, and I was impressed by how close everything seemed to be. It didn’t seem like there was really a bad seat in the place, although there are 500 standing room spots on the 7th deck, which might be tough on the legs. We walked down to the stalls and then the tour ended on the steps and in front of the gift shop and cafe.

Pizzeria Guerrin, My Favorite in Buenos Aires

With the tour over, Erica and I went to my favorite pizzeria in Buenos Aires, Pizzeria Guerrin, found on Avenida Corrientes and Calle Talcahuano, just a couple of blocks from where I used to live. For $4.50 ARS (current price) you can get a slice of mozzarella thrown on a plate quickly and stand up at the counter to rub elbows with other hungry porteños. It’s a classic institution, and though there are several in the center which offer great pizza in this same style, in my opinion Guerrin is better and still cheaper. Guerrin was even featured by the New York Time’s Frugal Traveler, Seth Kugel.

This combination of Colon Theater and Pizzeria Guerrin isn’t such a bad idea if you’re looking for something to do in the center because the two are only a few blocks away and you’re still smack dab in the center of Buenos Aires’ mess. Give it a try sometime.

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