Historia del viejo gran teatro nacional de México

History of the old grand national theater of Mexico

Manuel Mañón

México, 2009
2 vols. 524 p.

Mr. Manuel Mañón wrote his History of the Old Grand National Theater of Mexico as an attestation of a long reach project to trace the history of the most significant theaters in Mexico City. Said project started with his History of the Main Theater of Mexico —also edited in facsimile under the seals of the Bicentennial of Mexico’s Independence and of the 75th anniversary of the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) in Mexico City (1884-1942). Author of 36 works of zarzuela little genre (“género chico” zarzuela), and journalist and theater chronicler from 1899, he wrote this work for the Sunday supplement of the newspaper Excélsior. Part of this work was published after his death. The theater had several names as a reflection of the political currents of the country: Great Santa Anna Theater, Vergara Theater, Grand National Theater, Grand Imperial Theater, and once again, Grand National Theater. It was built by the entrepreneur Francisco Arbeu, with a project by the architect Lorenzo de la Hidalga, with the idea of providing Mexico City with a fully functional and elegant theater. It was comparable to the modern European theaters of its time, since it had additional space for a hotel, galleries and restaurants, which made it a unique piece in its kind.

Mañón wrote: “In my summary telling of the history of the Grand Theater I have drunk from the sources: newspapers and chronicles of those days, programs, scripts, documents and casts I possess, stories I heard from the lips of my father, by Mr. Manuel I. Cisneros, opera singer and music teacher, added to what I was able to see in my childhood and youth, during the last decade of the 19th century.” In the prologue to his book, and, effectively, through 55 issues, the chronicler offers us, on a year by year basis, from 1841 to 1900 —the period in which the governments of Santa Anna, Juárez and part of Porfirio Díaz took place— a portrait of Mexican society in the second half of the 19th century. We are also offered a log of premieres, casts, personalities, critically acclaimed plays, documents and events on the best Mexican and foreign companies that visited Mexico City and who presented on its stage repertoires of lyrical plays, dramas, operas and comedies. During December 1900, the demolition of the Grand Theater started in order to extend the street “5 de mayo”, and the current Palace of Fine Arts was built some blocks away from this very space.

On the history, physical structure, stylistic, typological, technical and formal characteristics of the Grand National Theater (Gran Teatro Nacional), look in this catalog: by Aragón, María Eugenia, The Grand National Theater of Mexico City (1841-1901), Rodolfo Usigli 1992 award, also published by CITRU.