Teatro Carlos Alberto
The twelve-year span separating the destruction by fire of the Real Teatro de São João (1908) from the opening of the new Teatro de São João (1920) meant a golden opportunity which the other theatres in Porto quickly seized. All of them carried out improvement works, competing among themselves to temporarily occupy the position of the only “first-rate theatre” in the city. Among them was Teatro Carlos Alberto. It had been named after a Sardinian king who died an exile in Porto, in 1849, where he lived at the Mansion of the Baron of Valado, in the gardens of which the theatre was built by initiative of Manuel da Silva Neves. Ever since its opening, on October 14, 1897, its vocation had been to present popular spectacles: from circus shows to operettas, light plays and films. In the late 1970s, when it had been almost exclusively reduced to showing films, the Secretariat of State of Culture rented it. The newly-named Auditório Nacional Carlos Alberto opened its doors on September 29, 1980, and began hosting more diversified programs, in a career that would come to an end in March 2000. As Porto’s turn as European Capital of Culture approached, the building was purchased by the event’s organisers, Sociedade Porto 2001. To maintain the building’s symbolic value while bringing its traditional use up to date were the challenges met by architect Nuno Lacerda Lopes’ project. The strong implantation in Porto’s collective memory of this cultural site suggested a use of varied scales, which the project developed as a confrontation of markedly vertical spaces with extremely horizontal ones, opposing sections in opaque, solid materials to the transparency and dematerialisation of others, with very little separation between stage and stalls, and with formerly unused spaces turned into a foyer that acts as the extension of an ancient, narrow street that broadens into an inner square. The introduction of new elements is identified, in functional terms, by the use of distinct materials – from the wooden structure of the administrative section to the glass box of the public space and the concrete parallelepiped that ensures vertical circulation through the elevator –, which respect the building’s basic structure while communicating a necessary impression of the meeting and combination of aesthetic approaches, in an intersection of architectural language and scenographic expression. After a complicated process of advances and recoils, the renewed Teatro Carlos Alberto was finally returned to the city on the night of September 15, 2003. Bibliography: Nuno Lacerda Lopes – “Do passado recente para uma memória futura”. Duas Colunas: Notícias do Teatro Nacional São João. N.º 6 (Sept. 2003). Luís Soares Carneiro – “Notas sobre um teatro do Porto”. Duas Colunas: Notícias do Teatro Nacional São João. N.º 6 (Sept. 2003).