The magnificent Theatro Municipal de São Paulo is beautiful and tastefully adorned.
In comparison with Rio de Janeiro’s opera house, (Theatro Municipal do RJ) it is simple in its decoration, lacking the mix of ostentatious styles and materials based on the French opera houses. After all Rio was the capital at the turn of the 20th century, and experiencing its Belle epoque.
What distinguish the São Paulo theatre are its coffee leaf designs and the famous “X”, as symbols of the coffee industry. The Theatro Municipal was also the site of the “Semana de Arte Moderna” (the Modern Art Week) that happened on September 7, 1922, one hundred years after Brazil gained its independence. The Modern Art Week revealed new artistic styles and movements and defined the Brazilian modernist spirit.
The arrival of the coffee industry in São Paulo inserted thousands of immigrants into the state at the turn of the 20th century, and funneled revenue and construction into what would grow to be South America’s largest city and financial capital. Coffee was previously cultivated in Rio de Janeiro, but later plantations sprung up in São Paulo, once the railroad construction began. By the 1880s, planters were already seeking immigrant workers, as the push for the abolition of slavery was strong, but the work conditions were poor and European immigrants often returned home. Japanese and Italian immigrants, especially, came to Brazil to work en masse after slavery was abolished in 1888, except some of them had no idea where they were going to live or what exactly they were going to do. Nevertheless, from this industry arose a culture and the great metropolis of São Paulo, home today to nearly 12 million inhabitants and descendants of settlers from all corners of the earth.
Like the other stunning concert venue, the Theatro Municipal, the building that houses the Sala São Paulo, was also financed by coffee money. However, the hall was not in the original construction plan of the early 20th century, and the concert hall was not built until the 1990s. The Sala São Paulo sits inside a train station that was originally completed in the 1930s! Coffee barons constructed this station, which is a five minute walk from another, the Estação de Luz. The Estação de Luz has much more train traffic, but the other station, Julio Prestes, is still active, with one or two lines. The coffee symbols are visible in the floor design and the Xs in the decoration of what were once the waiting rooms in the Julio Prestes Station. The paintings on the windows also contain scenes from the coffee industry.
The Sala São Paulo is really spectacular. The railway station is currently partly functional but there was never a real need for a station so big. The coffee industry never utilized as many trains that had been expected, and the people in the area did not need two full stations in the same neighborhood. The acoustics of the Sala São Paulo are fantastic. It also has a ceiling that goes up and down to change the acoustic depending on what kind of concert is taking place. This is a very rare luxury in a concert hall. The music world should be grateful to the coffee industry and its barons for this marvel of a venue!