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Restoring a Concert Hall

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Over a century old Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires was restored and opened in 2010. The final result was extremely successful, as the original excellent acoustic conditions were maintained, largely due to the strict requirements demanded in the selection of new materials and the measurements made. The internationally renowned conductor Daniel Baren boin, who after his first performance in the renovated theatre conducting West – Eastern Divan Orchestra, said: “ The acoustics of the Colon Theatre is undoubtedly a miracle “. Alberto M. Haedo, member of ADAA & NCAC and the Acoustic Consultant, Teatro Colón Restoration Works, gives a detailed account of the work undertaken.

According to Leo Beranek`s book Concert Halls and Opera Halls (1), the Teatro Colón is considered the opera house with the best acoustics in the world, as well as the third most important concert hall (using a concert shell), a concept also present in the two previous editions of the book (2 & 3). On page 164, Beranek also mentions the acoustical parameters of this opera house.

Teatro Colón was inaugurated on 25 May 1908 with the performance of Verdi’s “Aida“, Nearly 25 years after the construction began. Italian Architect Francesco Tamburini designed the original building.

After his death, Architects Meano and Dormal took over the responsibility of finishing the construction. The auditorium has the shape of a rather elongated horseshoe, with an overall at the level of balcony rails of 75 meters, a width between balcony rails, at its narrowest diameter, of 22,65m., and a wall-to-wall width of 29,25m.

The height from the center of the orchestra to the center of the ceiling is 28 m., and the distance from the front of the stage to the orchestra entrance door is 36m. At stage level, the auditorium has seven tiers or levels all around; the first tiers consist of balconies, and the other four of gallery seats. With a volume of 20,570 cubic meters, the theater has 2,487 seats, but with the standing room places, it makes a total capacity of nearly 3,500 people.

Originally, the theater had a total area of 35,000 square meters, but after the construction of underground annex facilities, the building extends over a 58,000 square meters superface. AS the theater is responsible for its own productions and manufactures every item that is required for each performance, its workshops are located in these underground facilities: Scenic Arts, Stage Props, Costume Tailoring, Shoemaking, Wig and Make-up Design, among others.

The Teatro Colón Master Plan, a project structured on the basis of implementing a complete restoration of the building, was devised. The team charged with the responsibility of carrying out the Plan`s actions is made up of top-level professionals with broad experience in their respective fields. A sliding over roof structure was built, allowing for the replacement of the zinc roofing without altering the theater`s normal activities.

The electrical wiring, air conditioning system and stage machinery were upgraded strictly maintaining the original form and design of both the auditorium and the stage, such as the stage rotating platform, with a diameter of 20.30 meters. Inside the auditorium, the paintings that decorate the front of balconies, walls and ceiling have already undergone renovation, meanwhile, the upholstery of the orchestra, balcony and upper gallery seats, the carpets, the balcony drapes, the wall linings of balcony foyers, the curtains that hang over the entrance to the auditorium and the stage curtain are currently being replaced.

Strictly preserving the famed acoustics of the auditorium is an essential element of the restoration works. As all the materials that are to be replaced may directly affect the acoustical performance, a plan was devised to replace them without significantly changing the existing acoustics.

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