Teatro Nacional São João
From 1798 to 1992, from Real Teatro de São João to Teatro Nacional São João, how many theatres have occupied this building/monument?
By initiative of Chief Magistrate Francisco de Almada e Mendonça and a group of private investors, who wanted the “Realm’s second city” to have a “fine school of manners and civility”, the Real Teatro de São João, thus named as an homage to the Prince Regent (future King Dom João VI), was built from a project by Italian scenographer and architect Vincenzo Mazzoneschi. Officially inaugurated on May 13, 1798, it was the first building in Porto to be specifically conceived for the presentation of stage shows. In spite of being alternately used, not always in the most peaceful of ways, by declamatory and lyrical theatre companies, the Real Teatro de São João’s activity would eventually turn to the universe of Italian opera, presenting all the performances of that genre in Porto until the end of the 19th century. On the night of April 11 to 12, 1908, a fire destroyed the building. In October of that same year, a public competition for its rebuilding was launched, which was won by a draft of José Marques da Silva, once described as “Porto’s last classical and first modern architect”. The stylistic and methodological teachings absorbed at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, had strengthened his fascination with the “French form”, quite clear in the rigorous and yet theatrical way in which reception, transition and performance areas are articulated. In spite of budgetary restraints, the architect was able to combine ostentation and efficiency, successfully integrating purely architectural aspects with constructive ones. He employed an innovative technique, using concrete for the basic structure and cement mortars for the decorations. At the time it was built, the Teatro de São João combined technical innovation with a stylistic prolongation of traditional taste.
In 1932, only twelve years after its opening (March 7, 1920), and in keeping with the general decadence of Porto’s theatrical activity, it changed its name to São João Cine, operating from then on basically as a cinema. Progressively, the building fell into disrepair. Finally, it was bought by the Portuguese State on October 8, 1992, and opened its doors to the public one month later, on November 28, now officially named Teatro Nacional São João. After a process of restoration, renovation and refurbishment, which took place from 1993 to 1995, under the guidance of architect João Carreira, it resumed its regular artistic activity. Bibliography: Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico – Boletim IPPAR: Teatro Nacional São João. Porto: IPPAR, 1995.