150 years of counting on the heart

Countless times I have affirmed, with total conviction, that theater buildings outlive people and companies. They make the cultural heritage of all citizens.

When we enter a theater, we do not think that we are there because there was someone who built it 80, 120 or 150 years before, as in the case of the Liceo.

This historic theater on the corner of Rivadavia and Paraná in the city of Buenos Aires, opened on July 26, 1872 (34 years before the Congress building itself, which gave the neighborhood its name) is today the oldest theater in our country and, also, the oldest private in all of Latin America. I make the exception of “private” because those that exist in the city of Ouro Preto in Brazil or Solís in Montevideo are older, but supported by the public treasury.

Personally, almost thirty years ago I unexpectedly took charge of this space, the city’s urban heritage. One afternoon the manager of the Liceo, who was known by the pseudonym of Buddy Day, came to my office at the Ateneo theater -Paraguay and Suipacha-.

He came to ask me about his urgency in selling me his theater for health reasons. Surprised, I replied that it was impossible for me because I was financially compromised by the purchase of the Blanca Podestá, the former Smart, today Comafi Multiteatro.

Buddy told me that wouldn’t be a problem. He had already thought of it. The partner of 50% of that property was businessman Julio Werthein, from Banco Mercantil. “I already talked about it. He offers you a soft loan from his own bank so you can do it. You are the card that I think I should play: otherwise we will have to sell it to the only bidder we have, to turn it into a horse betting house”.

Shocked by the possible change of destination of that property, we agreed that that same night, together with my trusted architect, we would go to tour the room. The meeting had to take place at two in the morning “so that the possibility of the operation does not transcend”, according to what he told me.

Indeed, at that time, Buddy lifted one of the metal curtains in the Rivadavia and Paraná room for the purpose of the architect’s visit and professional look, who approved the building’s condition. In the morning we were at the bank’s offices to start the operation. The screens with horses went to one of the cinemas on Suipacha street between Lavalle and Corrientes. Buddy hadn’t lied.

The Liceo theater celebrated this week exactly 150 years since its foundation. We decided as a company, having overcome the closure imposed by the pandemic months ago, to reopen it recently on the date and time of that Friday in 1872, also waiting for a show that already knew this same stage in 2009 and that was referenced among the best of the history of musical theatre.

Elena Roger, at the head of an exceptional artistic team giving life to Piaf, would mean the reunion between artistic excellence and a very consistent framework. That happened this last Tuesday, when the emotion caused by the enormous talent went down to a stalls that did not hesitate to automatically stand up as a return to such dedication.

Being a theatrical entrepreneur in this country for 47 years offers a varied palette of charms and disappointments, nothing different from those who carry out other activities professionally. I also tend to repeat myself thinking that I am more of a theater artist than a businessman. I don’t think that the reverse equation would have allowed me to stay in this field, in which human matter is the protagonist, egos carry a “French poster” and sensibilities are always prepared to fight battles.

In contrast to this, and precisely for this reason, it becomes a mysterious profession -the best for me- where nights like Tuesday’s, symbolically blowing out the Liceo candles, cause me immense happiness that, by far, I do not know. measured in bordereaux.

* Theatrical entrepreneur.

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