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Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro – Culture and Art

Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro – Culture and Art

The city of Rio de Janeiro hosts magnificent buildings and one of them is the Municipal Theater. Stage of major events, being one of the largest venues in the country. Want to know more historical details of this space? Read our text about the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. 


The Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro is located at Praça Floriano Peixoto (the famous Cinelândia), in the city center.



Address: Praça Floriano, s/n – Cinelândia, Rio de Janeiro 

Telephone: (21) 2332-9191 ou 2332-9134 

E-mail: informacoestmrj@gmail.com 

Want to know what shows are available at the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro? See the Theatro Program here!


Cinelândia Square is one of the points visited in our Walking Tour Downtown and Lapa! Join our tour and see the city of Rio de Janeiro with new eyes.



The history of the construction of the Municipal Theater coincided with the big reform proposed by the Mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Pereira Passos, which began in 1902. 


The city of Rio de Janeiro in the 20th century was very chaotic, as its growth took place without planning. Many streets had no lighting, they were moist, dirty, narrow. This area was perfect for the proliferation of diseases, with frequent epidemics.   

At that time, the disadvantaged population lived in collective housing (tenement) and these did not offer basic hygiene conditions. Horse carts competed for space with people, who competed for spaces with cars and trams, a very complicated situation.  

With modernity, the ideas for improvement of most hygienists of the time was to clean up, that is, to build wider avenues, to make better use of the sun and winds, to remove the old and end the tenements of collective houses.


Between 1902 and 1906, the President of the Republic was Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves, who supported the idea of sanitation and modernization. To remove the paper and carry out these works, the president counted on the work of engineer Francisco Pereira Passos, who held the position of mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Public health was under the command of Oswaldo Cruz.

With the union of the political powers of the city and the federal government, a new metropolis began to emerge. Many details of the renovation in the city were inspired by the remodeling of Paris. Wide avenues, modern architecture, majestic buildings were built, and public hygiene habits were changed. The Municipal Theater is one of the buildings that mark this period.


On October 15, 1903, Pereira Passos, had the idea of creating a public competition to choose the architectural design of the theater. The objective was to provide an opportunity for architects from all over the world to participate in the competition, which had a deadline until March 1904. At the end of the period, seven proposals were received.


Two finalists were chosen: the “Aquilla” project by a secret author (in reality it was the project of the mayor’s son, engineer Franciscos de Oliveira Passos).


The second project was “Isadora”, by a French architect Albert Guilbert, (who held the position of vice president of the Association of French Architects).


It’s easy to imagine that the choice of the Aquilla project and its “secret author” caused great polemic in Rio society, due to the favoritism by the mayor’s son.

There were even rumors that in reality the project would have been prepared by the architectural body of the city. As a solution to the rumors, it was decided to unite the projects of the two finalists, since both were inspired by the Paris Opera.



The Theatro Municipal project underwent some minor changes with the joining of ideas and began to be built on January 2, 1905. The decoration of the space counted on the work of great artists of the time such as Rodolfo Amoedo, the Bernardelli brothers and the Eliseu Visconti.

Many European artisans also participated in the creation of stained glass and mosaics. About 280 workers were called to work in two shifts. At this fast pace in a short time, it was already possible to observe some details of what would become the grandeur of the Municipal Theater. 


The grandiose Municipal Theater is based on 1180 hardwood stakes


This is one of the most important and beautiful buildings in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It was inaugurated on July 14, 1909, by President Nilo Peçanha and under Mayor Sousa Aguiar, after four and a half years after the beginning of the works. The Municipal Theater is considered one of the main concert hall in Brazil. It’s also considered one of the most important in South America.

The greatest international artists have been received over the Theater’s more than 100 years of existence. Brazilian artists are also present in the country’s cultural trajectory through this space in dance, opera and music.


Did you know that Theatro Municipal has a state-owned art company? Yes! The project was created in the mid-19th century, and João Caetano was one of his biggest supporters. The idea gained strength at the end of the century through the work of Arthur Azevedo. There were many of Arthur’s dedication to making this project a reality. Unfortunately he failed to see the opening, dying nine months before the scheduled date, but his name is always remembered!

And finally, in the 30s, the Municipal Theater started to have their artistic bodies in Choir, Ballet and Symphonic Orchestra! If you want to see some of these shows, be aware of the official artistic seasons.


Right after its inauguration, the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro received international opera and dance companies, mainly from France and Italy. The Theater also underwent some renovations, in the years 1934, 1975, 1996 and 2008.

The Municipal Theater initially had the capacity to receive 1,739 spectators. After the first renovation (which took only 3 months) it increased its capacity to 2,205 seats. In the second renovation, in 1975, works were carried out to restore and modernize the space. In the same year, a Technical Production Center was created.


In 1996, an annex building was built in order to offer space for the rehearsals of the artistic body of the Theater. The last of the renovations took two years, starting in 2008 and ending in 2010, restoring and modernizing the facilities of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro.


Theatro Municipal also offers a dance school. This is the oldest institution dedicated to teaching dance and training classical dancers in the country.

The institution was founded in 1927, by Russian ballerina Maria Olenewa. The founder was in Brazil on tour as a member of different companies in the years 1918 and 1921.

In 1926, Maria Olenewa decided to settle in the city and started some pedagogical projects. She had the idea of presenting a project to the federal government for the creation of a school for the training of dancers.

The project was accepted and the inaugural class was held on April 11, 1927. On November 19 of the same year, the school held its first ballet show named Les Sylphides e Divertissements. 

Find out a little more about the State Dance School.


On event days, some rules must be followed by the spectators, regarding dress and access to the Show Room. Learn all the Rules of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro.

What did you think about our text? The Municipal Theater is really special! Visit it!

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