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Sauto Theater: A National Monument to Culture

The city of Matanzas, the capital of the western Cuban province of the same name, offers visitors – both nationals and foreigners – a wide range of attractions that include cultural and historic values.

Founded in 1693 with the initial name of San Severino y San Carlos, Matanzas is also known as the Athens of Cuba and was once called the Venice of the Americas – due to its rivers, bridges and canals – and had a dynamic commercial and cultural activity at the time.

In this environment, institutions such as the Sauto Theater, designed by Italian architect Daniel Dall'Aglio and inaugurated in 1863, stand out.

For experts, it is one of the most important theaters in Cuba and was declared a National Monument in 1978 with a Protection One degree, so all its original structures and designs are very well preserved.

Throughout its history, it has been named the Esteban Theater, as a tribute to the local governor, Pedro Esteban Arraz, or Colon (Columbus), after the discoverer of the Americas, and Marti, in honor of the Cuban Apostle.

It was also known as La Vigia, but it finally was named Sauto, in homage to the doctor in Pharmacy Ambrosio de la Concepción Sauto and Noda, one of the most prominent benefactors in Matanzas.

City of Matanzas
Sauto Theater, Matanzas
Cathedral in the city of Matanzas

From a technical point of view, the theater has a capacity for 775 people, while the main hall is surrounded by three boxes and a gazebo that becomes a dance floor.

It has statues of Greek goddesses in the lobby, and on the ceiling of the main hall you can see images of the eight muses of Olympus.

With a perfect acoustics, this beautiful theater resembles the Scala of Milan, while its original curtain was made of wood with the image of La Concordia Bridge.

As a special element, important figures such as Alicia Alonso and her ballet, Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, tenor Enrico Caruso, actress Sara Bernhandt, Cuban musician Ernesto Lecuona and actress and singer Libertad Lamarque performed in the Sauto Theater, as well as Spanish dancer Antonio Gades, guitarist Leo Brouwer, and pianist and singer Bola de Nieves.

The first performance in the Sauto Theater took place on April 6, 1863, when two plays by poet Jose Jacinto Milanes were presented.

The theater has 93 percent of its original elements, so it is the best preserved of all the Cuban theaters built in the 19th century.

Experts highlight its excellent acoustics, which is attributed, among other factors, to the fact that part of the stage was built on a swamp on the banks of the San Juan River.

In addition, all the elements inside the theater, except the seats and some columns, are made of timber, which favors acoustics, to reaffirm that it is one of the theaters with the greatest resonance in the world.

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