Before the National Theater opened, other private theaters already existed, but all of them had failed. In 1890, the president Jose Joaquin Rodriguez decided to impose a tax to coffee exportation in order to build this theater. On the ceiling of the stairway of the theater you can see the famous painting by Aleardo Villa titled “Coffee Allegory”, which can also be found on the ˘5 bills.
Soon after, the tax for building the theater was also imposed over other goods, typical to Costa Ricans, like rice and beans, and this is why it’s said that the National Theater was paid by all Costa Ricans.
The theater’s building represents the economic and political stability that was accomplished in the late XIX century. There was no limited budget: luxury materials were imported, such as precious woods, iron, marble, gold and French glasses.
The statues of The Music, The Fame and The Dance receive the visitors, and on the sides you will see the statues of Beethoven and Pedro Calderon de la Barca. In its interior, in the first lobby, there’s a marble sculpture named “Heroes of Misery”, which was made by the Costa Rican artist Juan Ramon Bonilla, awarded with the medal of the LXXIX International Exposition of Arts in Rome, in 1909. Its construction was expected to last two years, but it took seven and finally opened on October 21st, 1897, with the opera of Fausto de Gounod.
The presentations are currently pre-selected to guarantee the best quality, and in order to take advantage of this space, two constant initiatives have started: “Teatro al medio dia” (Theather at noon) and “Musica al atardecer” (Music at sunset). In “Teatro al medio dia”, you can enjoy a 30-minute show every Tuesday for only ˘500. This space was created especially for those who work in the surroundings of the theater and can appreciate the presentation during lunchtime.
Foreigners must pay $10, but it includes a tour around the theater, which costs $7. After the tour you can relax in the Theater’s Coffee Shop, which shares the space with the Jose Luis Lopez Escarre Gallery. You can also visit the gift store or see the pieces of the other gallery, named Enrique Echandi.
“Musica al atardecer” is the other cultural space open for everyone, but especially for those who work in San Jose. The idea is for them to enjoy 45 minutes of music instead of wasting an hour in traffic. This takes place every Thursday for ˘1.000, where you can listen to soloists, ensembles, the National Symphonic Orchestra or the National Juvenile Orchestra in the foyer of the theater, which has space for 150 people.
You can also visit its website (www.teatronacional.go.cr) to make a virtual tour and observe its Neoclassical architecture.