Majestic and unique, the Teatro José Peón Contreras is an authentic symbol of art and culture in Yucatán. This neo-classic style building was designed by Italian architects, built at the beginning of the 20th C., and inaugurated in December 1908. It has passed through various re-births including tima as a theater, cinema, gas station, office building, and eventually came back to life as a place for theatrical and artistic activities in 1984.
Located at the corner of Calle 60 and 57, Centro, it owes its name to the Yucatecan poet, novelist, playwright, doctor, and politician José Peón Contreras (1843-1907). As soon as you enter the theater you will be amazed at the detail of the architectural elements. Walk through its ample vestibule to the monumental marble staircase that takes you to the upper lobby and the theater. From this level’s terrace you have a view of Calle 60.
The interior of the theater features a central cupula with a magnificent fresco called “La Alegoría de las Artes y de las Ciencias” (the allegory of the arts and sciences) painted by Italian Nicolás Alegreti, with a spectacular chandelier suspended from its center. This gem of cut crystal contains 250 lights and weighs 750 kilograms. Take note that the stage measures more than 14 meters wide, which places it in the same category as other important theaters in México.
The theater has 1000 seats distributed between its three levels including main seating area, boxes, and balconies. It also has three art exhibition rooms, bookstore, offices, cafeteria, and administration. It is a “must” visit during your stay in Mérida, for its history, architecture, and because it always has something to offer its visitors: events, exhibits, and of course, concerts.
It is considered the most important cultural space in the state, headquarters for national and international events, theatrical, opera, music, and dance performances, as well as variety shows, shows for children, festivals, and conferences. Since 2004 it has been the venue for our state symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica de Yucatán, or “OSY”) and is renowned throughout México. Each presentation offers a different selection, showcasing the philharmonic talent of the excellent musicians who reside in our state.
By Violeta H. Cantarell