Teatro Regional del Maule, a coliseum with a local accent
It began its history in 1875 as the Municipal Theater of Talca, a lime and brick construction located in the heart of the city in the central Chilean valley. The original theater was demolished in 1968 and three decades later, in 2005, the current Maule Regional Theater (TRM) was inaugurated, the first of the regional theaters on the Chilean cultural circuit. Today, the TRM offers a varied program of concerts led by stable bodies such as the Orquesta Clásica del Maule, ballet, opera and popular music shows, and theater company productions with a marked local accent that open the doors to a «space for all ».
by Álvaro Molina R.
At the end of 2015, the city of Talca, the heart of Chile’s central and agricultural zone, woke up invaded by posters promoting the opera La traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi. It was one of the first opera co-productions premiered by the Maule Regional Theater (TRM). The cast included singers such as the soprano Paulina González (Violetta) and the tenor Sergio Járlaz (Alfredo), while the stage direction was carried out by Rodrigo Navarrete. The presentation of the opera was also an opportunity for the Orquesta Clásica del Maule (OCM), one of the stable bodies of the theater, to shine under the baton of its principal conductor, Rodrigo Rettig.
“An exuberant dramatic work”, “a magnificent production”, headlined some prominent Chilean opera critics about the version of La traviata presented at the TRM. «It is, in short, an excellent end to the 2015 opera season in charge of a Regional Theater that wants to rise to the challenges of a country that must, now, decentralize its cultural activity with high-quality shows. This Traviata adds in the best way to that purpose.”, wrote the critic José Luis Arredondo A.
The opera program at the theater began in 2009 with the presentation of Tosca. After the success of La traviata in 2015, however, the theater installed a tradition of culminating its artistic seasons with an opera, starring singers from the Chilean scene, with local productions and the accompaniment of its stable orchestra. Thus, Verdian operas continued to be present on the lyrical billboard of the Maule Regional Theater with Otello (2016) and Il trovatore (2017), while in 2018 La bohème, by Puccini, would arrive.
Ten years before that successful production of La traviata, in 2005, the Maule Regional Theater was inaugurated by the then Chilean president, Ricardo Lagos. The milestone culminated a process that began in 1970, when plans began to build a new artistic venue in the city to replace the old Talca Municipal Theater, demolished in 1968.
The TRM was inaugurated as the first regional theater in Chile, a model that would be replicated in the country in subsequent years with other spaces such as the José Bohr Regional Theater in Punta Arenas (2012), the Lucho Gatica Regional Theater in Rancagua (2013) or Biobío Theater (2018). The history of this theater, however, is not exempt from anecdotal episodes.
In the land of artists
Talca is a city with a population of just over 200 thousand inhabitants. It is located in the Maule region, one of the main agricultural centers of the Chilean central valley. In the nearby fields and communes, crops of vegetables, fruits, vines and cereals flourish. The economy linked to agriculture promoted the rise of the Talquina society during the 19th century; Wheat imports to California and Australia, industrialization in the milling sector and architectural sophistication shaped a period of splendor in the city, both in the buildings of its historic center and in its artistic and cultural production. The region was the birthplace of artists such as the painters Agustín Abarca and Boris Casanova, as well as the poets and writers Pablo Neruda and Pablo de Rokha.
In the midst of the prosperity of the end of the century, the Municipal Theater of Talca was erected, inaugurated in 1874. The project materialized a desire of the Talquina community to build its own space for arts and cultures, also promoted by Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, in that then deputy for Talca and mayor of Santiago. The theater was a space full of luxury and ostentation that during its brief history received personalities from the artistic world such as the French actress Sarah Bernhardt. The rugged Chilean geography, however, shook the foundations of the building.
The earthquakes that struck the region deteriorated the state of the theater, particularly the one that had the city of Valdivia as its epicenter in 1960 and reached a magnitude of 9.6° on the Richter scale. With devastating consequences, the region’s authorities decided to close the doors of the Municipal Theater in 1960 and then, in 1968, they demolished and buried the venue.
It would take two years for the idea of building a new theater to take hold. The works began, but the fragile and unstable political and economic situation in Chile at the beginning of the 1970s paralyzed the construction. Over time, the project to rebuild a space for the arts in Talca was suspended and uncertain for more than thirty years.
It was not until the early 1990s that plans to build a new theater in Talca were reinitiated. After the first steps that were taken through state contributions, at the end of 2001 the negotiations and political agreements were resumed to build the modern facility.
In 2005, the doors of the renovated Teatro Regional del Maule were opened in a ceremony that included the participation of former President Ricardo Lagos, regional authorities and artistic groups. Thus began a new life for the arts scene in Talca, with the promise of being the largest cultural project in the region.
A “place for everyone” in the Maule region
The Teatro Regional del Maule is located at #1484 Calle 1 Oriente, on the corner of Alameda Bernardo O’Higgins, the main avenue in the heart of Talca. The modern building covers more than four thousand square meters built, has a capacity for 1,060 spectators and, in addition, contains four floors, state-of-the-art technology, an orchestra pit and an acoustic chamber.
The venue has opted for a large billboard that includes theater, ballet, folk dance, opera, symphonic and popular music concerts, stand up comedy, festivals, among other artistic disciplines to become a “space for all” members of the community.
Since its origins, the Maule Regional Theater has focused on working for and for artistic projects in the region. This materialized in a social and educational project known as the “Zona de Teatros, región del Maule”, whose objective was to promote the circulation of billboards in different communes of the region. Plays, musicals and concerts reached the cities of Linares, Cauquenes or Curicó, among many other communes. In parallel, other artistic projects of the theater began to develop and became stable casts.
The Maule Classical Orchestra began its activities in 2009 and today, with the direction of Rodrigo Rettig, it already has more than 50 popular lyrical galas, the production of eight operas, symphonic tributes and musical shows, among other events. Through an alliance with the Foundation of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Chile (FOJI), the TRM also houses its own Children’s and Youth Orchestra, a space for creation, experimentation and learning aimed at children and young people from Maule. Another body that gives this theater its identity is the Golden Big Band, an ensemble of regional musicians that promotes the repertoire of jazz and big band swing and styles such as gospel or ballroom.
Hand in hand with the Maule Classical Orchestra and the support of different public and private institutions, the opera has been present at the Maule Regional Theater since 2009, the year in which they premiered a production of Tosca. Then followed works such as Carmen (2011); The Barber of Seville (2012); La Traviata (2015); Otello (2016); Il trovatore (2017) and La Bohème (2018). The productions of these operas have been led by a generation of Chilean talents and singers, including Paulina González; Sergio Jarlaz; Marcela Gonzalez; Javier Weibel; Evelyn Ramirez; and Camilla Guggiana.
In September 2022, the Maule Regional Theater celebrated its seventeenth anniversary on the Chilean cultural scene. During a milestone to celebrate the anniversary, the executive secretary of the theater, Victoria Flores, commented: “our commitment is […] to continue professionalizing the different areas, innovating in formats, supporting the work of the communes in terms of management culture, and link the contents with the interests and needs of the people, because ultimately everything we do is for each one of you”.