140th anniversary of Teatro Ángela Peralta
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
During the past weeks several events were held at the Teatro Ángela Peralta to commemorate the date when Angela Peralta, known as “The Mexican Nightingale,” arrived in San Miguel de Allende to inaugurate the theater 140 years ago.
The Ángela Peralta is one of the most important and representative performance spaces in San Miguel. It has been the venue for festivals such as Expresión en Corto (now known as GIFF), the Chamber Music Festival, the Jazz Festival and national conferences. The theater has provided a stage for presentations by many important artists, such as Mexican tenor Pedro Vargas, Armando Manzanero and singer Susana Zabaleta, who offered a concert called “Para Darle Cuerda al Mundo” (“To Give Rope to the World”) during the reopening of the theater following renovations in 2006. Plaques with these and other important events are placed in the lobby of the theater.
Until 1871 there was not a proper space in San Miguel for holding quality events, and for that reason several residents worked to have a theater built. The initiative came from the administrador de rentas (administrator of the state offices in the city), Juan Mañón, who was supported by the local government and investors. In 1873 the construction of the new space was finished. Its walls were made of adobe and the ceiling was of tejamanil (wood), but the investors did not have a name for it.
Ángela Peralta, a Mexican soprano, gave several performances in Europe between 1862 and 1865 and later returned to Mexico. In April of 1873 Peralta was performing in Guanajuato; she was invited to come to San Miguel, and she accepted. At the end of April she arrived in the city. It has been said that the residents were so excited they untied the mules from the cart carrying the Mexican Nightingale and pulled it themselves. Peralta gave four concerts here after the inauguration of the theater.
According to the website of the theater, Peralta thanked those who welcomed her to the city and in a speech said, “I have organized a presentation the likes of which have not even been seen in the country’s capital.”
To celebrate the 140th anniversary of the theater, the Education, Culture and Traditions Department organized several events, among them an exhibit of Filipino costumes, music and dances. On May 20, a reenactment of Peralta’s arrival in the city was held; a woman portraying the famous soprano traveled in a horse-drawn cart, accompanied by giant puppets, dancers, locos (persons wearing crazy disguises) and a crowd of residents.
The theater was inaugurated on May 20, 1873. The current façade decorated in a classical style was constructed in 1914 by bricklayer Don Antonio de la Serna.