MANAGUA – One of Nicaragua’s most treasured landmarks, The Rubén Darío National Theater, is turning 40 years old this year, making it one of the most enduring institutions in the country.
Inaugurated on Dec. 6, 1969 on the shore of LakeManagua, in the heart of the capital city’s old downtown center, the Rubén Darío National Theater is one of the few institutions that has survived the past 40 years of Nicaragua’s tumultuous history, including revolution, civil war and a 1972 earthquake that leveled most of the city.
Indeed, this “jewel of Managua” has been a “natural observer of Nicaragua’s history for the past 40 years,” said the national theater’s new director, Ramón Rodríguez, the first man to hold the position.
“The theater is a symbol that has survived earthquakes and war, and remains standing as a monument to Nicaraguan culture,” Rodríguez told The Nica Times during a recent interview.
Today, the theater is known not only for its resilience and proud history, but also for its unparalleled acoustics, which has earned it recognition as one of the best theaters in Latin America. Some international singers have been known to perform in the Rubén Darío Theater without a microphone, saying the venue is one of the few places in the world where the acoustics are good enough to sing unaccompanied by amplifiers.
Over the years, the theater has seen some big names in the world of music and theater, including the Duke Ellington Orchestra, world-famous French mime Marcel Marceau, and internationally renowned ballet companies from Russia, Kiev and Cuba, to name a few acts that have passed through.
The Rubén Darío Theater has also made significant contributions to exposing national artists to the public. Bluefields reggae singer Philip Montalvan recently held a concert at the national theater to release his new CD, “Africa.” Nicaraguan folkloric ballet groups, as well as national folksingers Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy make regular appearances at the theater. And important Nicaraguan theatrical works, such as César Meléndez’s celebrated monologue “El Nica,” have been performed on its stage.
Theater for the People
Ramón Rodríguez, who used to be the director of Nicaragua’s Camerata Bach before being appointed director of the national theater last year by President Daniel Ortega, says that his orders from the government are “to do everything possible to make the theater more accessible to the people.”
As a result, the Rubén Darío Theater has lowered its admission prices by 30 to 50 percent. But that has come as a bit of an additional challenge to the theater to remain economically viable and self-sustaining in tough times.
Rodríguez admits that lowering ticket prices has been “difficult” because “the cost of contracting the artists is expensive.” But the theater has found alternative ways to raise funding, such as turning to the private sector and foreign embassies for sponsorship, as well as holding other activities in the theater such as a ballet school that meets every Monday night.
So far, the national theater has continued its world-class programming despite the economic challenges. Last month, the Black Theater of Prague performed three sellout shows here, and on June 2, Argentine folk singer and Latin American icon Mercedes Sosa will take to the stage for one night only.
“Despite the economic difficulties, we have to offer a center of recreation for Nicaraguans,” Rodríguez said. “The theater is a symbol that we have to preserve, care for and maintain. And we have to feel proud as Nicaraguans to have this temple of culture that is named after one of the great Nicaraguans that has contributed to the world of literature, Rubén Darío.
“It’s a difficult year worldwide,” he added. “But we think that art should continue.”
The 40th anniversary of the Rubén Darío National Theater will culminate with a month-long celebration in December. For more info and programming, visit the national theater’s webpage www.tnrubendario.gob.ni. For tickets, call 222-7426.