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A day in the baltazar dias

Written by  yvette vieira fts bárbara fernandes


Follow me through the passageways and labyrinths of the old municipal theater of Funchal which celebrates its 130 years of public service to the people of Madeira.

Early in the morning we left behind the stormy day on the island to immerse ourselves in the cozy interior, in a kind of lukewarm, of the Baltazar Dias theater where the last adjustments are already being made for the setting of the play "The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis”. In the center of the room there is a constant bustle that obeys a rhythmic rhythm dictated by the creaking of the stage boards and the sure indications of the theater technician.


With determination and speed test each light, replace the spotlights and check all the cables of the old theater. Just as lightly as these "characters" enter and leave the scene, unexpectedly, the cleaning crew emerges, vacuuming the room, cleaning the scene and shakes the cloths off the stage. Nothing is left to chance, as clarified the young Tiago Aguiar, one of the stage technicians "my job is to record the light network programs to create the effects of light that are needed during the show. In "The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis" we have a predefined plan that is delivered to us, that is what serves the light design and a general idea of the producer. Sometimes we have to make adaptations in the lights of the stage, because on many occasions what they ask us in terms of technical equipment is not available in the theater, as was the case of this play. "

On a day with a very busy program, mid-morning, the rehearsals of the group "The new generation" begin, which will present a recital of violin and piano titled "Essential Romantics", where they will interpret works by F. Chopin, WA Mozart and J. Brahms. The technical team of Baltazar Dias, under the watchful eye of Cristina Bliousnila, carefully places the Steinway of 1,200 kilos in front of the stage, the young duo Rafael Kyrychenko on the piano and Filipe Fernandes on the violin test the acoustics of their instruments in the space, it is vital that the chords are played with clarity throughout this velvety theater.

Discreetly, almost as if they had rehearsed all those who are superfluous to the approaching moment leave the scene, silence strikes on the stage, and an accomplice glance begins sonata in G. minor, D. 408, of Johannes Brahms for violin. The music invades the room, but from time to time the melody is interrupted by the determined voice of the master and teacher who gives precise indications about the time of entry of the violin and the gravity or softness with which the keys of the piano should be played. Again, and again small excerpts from the sonata are being repeated to appease and please Bliousnila's keen ear. It is intense hours of an essay that most closely resembles the concert itself, with a variant, there on stage, over and over again all potential mistakes are anticipated, and the decisive details corrected before the great moment that will take place at 6:00 pm this same day.

Later, it is time for a perplex through the entrails of the old theater, between corridors meandered by a red carpet and rooms with little light, we are gradually revealing the professionals who daily make this house a space that warmly welcomes the visiting public and do not think that are few, on the contrary, it takes more people than you imagine to keep this century-old theatrical institution standing preferably for a century more. But what are the challenges of a space with 130 years of existence?
Ricardo Martins, technical head of Baltazar Dias responds, "These are challenges that have to do with the routine of the theater, because in my opinion we have an excess of shows for a house with 130 years. It was not supposed to have so much activity, but since we are the only room that has the function to bring everyone to us, because it is a municipal theater, we must go to the maximum of the possibilities of this house. It becomes a demanding routine, because there are many shows and one after another with a team that is very small, although we have occasional help, which helps us a lot, that are part of the program of occupation in the work context, turns out to be a double job, we already have to do what is necessary daily and teach as well. We are eight people, but we needed that same number of staff and we need stage technicians, most of whom are not".

And what are the shows that most "problems" bring to your team?
"Especially musicals and ballets, because it requires a lot of technical light, it has linoleum, a lot of assembly time and preparation itself for the show. The musicals involve a lot of people and we have to guarantee the safety of equipment and people. In ballets sometimes come kids from the local schools and we have to be careful with the side aisles, they do not have the notion that the bulbs are so strong that they can burn them, although we have LED lights that do not approach in terms of temperature the incandescent ones, but just the same we have to be extra careful ".

Why the need for these works? "In my opinion the main work that was to be done is the stage. Why this? It is already many years old, it is made of wood and over time it has been sanded several times, because it was in bad condition it was varnishing again, and each passing machine spent a millimeter, 20 years ago we had woods of 19 millimeters thick, now it is 15 and this is weakening the stage. We have to take all the slats off the stage, but what we are doing now is to compose some that are in very poor condition, so we do not have to close because the theater as it has a lot of activity a month would not be enough for that. The stage, moreover, has a slope of 4%, has to do with the Italian stage designs, if the audience has also a slope with the same percentage and so both coincide in the limelight and the audience has another perspective, a broader view of the stage. This style of theater is no longer used, because the rooms are now used for multiple events and, as a rule, dancers do not like this type of inclined stage, they want a smooth and level area, they are used to rehearsing in this kind of spaces and when they come here you have to spend more than 3 to 4 hours of extra rehearsal just to get accustomed to the slope. "


Continuing our tour through the centennial structure, we rounded the audience and after descending a few small stairs we found ourselves underneath the stage, it is a robust structure that is supported by several wooden beams and from which one could hear a kind of rumbling deafening over our heads that sound more like a thunder mixed with the muffled sound of Schubert. In a small cubicle we come across another of the stage technicians, Pedro Nunes who tells us what he does at Baltazar Dias daily, "I treat everything that goes on the stage, from maintenance, work of lights and tunings. We have dealt a lot with the "legs" which is what will fill the scene, whether it is a play, a concert, or a ballet. As "The year of the death of Ricardo Reis" was produced by the theater we were the ones who made the scene too ".


We follow the path leaving behind the joyful cacophony to a new corridor, where the faces that are in charge of keeping the venerable theater master live and kicking, we entered the first door that we found where they are affected Lucilina Gouveia, one of the administrative, whose function is "To make the plans of vacations, treatment of the certificates and of all the bureaucratic part" and Fátima Henriques, the accountant who deals with "the invoices, I make the revenue of the shows, I distribute the reports coming from the ticketline, that is to say, that each producer sold on that day and I also do extra work like the hour charts that workers are doing and crafts closing events. "

Turning from another corner, we entered the mirror room that the artists rehearse and at the end of several of our reflections we came across Carla Freitas, one of the guides, of the educational section, who clarifies, "I make guided tours in the theater, especially for the schools, we also do this work with the groups that contact us, whether they are senior citizens or workshops for recreational activities. As a rule, we do tours inside the theater, people know the foyer, the theater, the presidential cabin, the audience and the noble hall. We also tell the story of what was done in this space 130 years ago and end up traveling a little through time. We approach the monarchy, the time the theater was built and the various names it has had over time. "


Another of the teams that we visit on this tour and perhaps the youngest room of this institution is made up of designers in which Juan Abreu, the blessed man among many women, is the elected spokesman of the team that elucidates us about the work that they develop, "We have several tasks, we worked the institutional communication part, not only for the theater as for the municipal museums. At the level of Baltazar Dias we have dealt with all the schedule of the month, even for the employees themselves, everything is sent by email in visual terms and what is posted out at the box office. Often the companies do not have posters and we are the ones that executed them here. The agendas of the theater are also designed in this department, as a rule, are quarterly and a trimonthly edition, because in the month of August we have almost no activities. Everything that is graphic material from certificates of participation, workshops, activities, thanks and material to inform in any case, we are the ones that produce it. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to communicate all the activities keeping a classic line and at the same time trying to be different, appropriate to the topicality. There has to be a balance between these two aspects, although we have tried to be a little more daring to try to attract the younger audience who may be more distant from the theater, who associate the space with the tourists who visit us”.


Now time is up for our cicerone by the passageways of this exquisite labyrinth to talk about herself, Ana Raquel Fernandes, is the face of the communication of the theater, in this scope she refers, "I am responsible for social networks and the bridge between the theater and journalists. We created Facebook events that will take place in the theater and we loaded all these activities on the other digital platforms. I also update the website and write press releases for the shows we sent to all social media to publish because they do not have the time to do so. I deal with the mailing list, check the contents, send the calendars, I also do the clipping, which is to gather all the news that comes out about the shows and that in the end we sent to the producers. I also communicate the Henrique Franco and Sugar Museum, the library and the ticket reservations. The hardest part of my job is to have time, because it implies a lot, it's very complicated to manage everything and be ready on time. "


Soon after, in the production room, Dora Vieira's face emerges among piles of paper, after answering another phone call, about her work she replies "I make contacts with artists and agents. Then I do the internal information to verify whether we have that actor, or artist, although there is somehow the endorsement of the direction. Then we continue to the scheduling, the payment of cachets, the trips if applicable and the transportation from the airport to Funchal. There are a lot of hassles involving my section, for example, when the plane cannot land, and we have to try again, contact hotels and restaurants when it's the case to cancel."


Last but not least we come across the always smiling and busy Catarina Faria, "I work in theater production and programming. Here we received all the proposals of the cultural agents of the island of Madeira, and at the national level and, we coordinated the book fair of Funchal. We have a strategic line to reach various audiences, from children's activities to more senior audiences. We have tried to focus on various artistic activities, although this is a theater, it is the only municipal house in Funchal, so we received dance, music, literature and conferences. We have tried to diversify to the fullest over a month so that people have the opportunity to see the various artistic performances on stage. Then we know the projects of the people and how the City Council can support them, for example, sometimes we meet with various cultural agents and challenge them within our programmatic logic. Now we had the Gato association and we launched the challenge of picking up a book by Luísa Paolinelli that focuses on the various elements of the history of Madeira, such as sugar and idealize a children’s play with a pedagogical function that is to teach the younger ones are some of the elements of Madeiran identity. We also supported the creation, from acquisition of equipment, to set design and they come here to debut in Baltazar Dias. Then we also get involved in all the logistics of production, what time is the rehearsal? When are the light, sound and stage assemblies? And we affected the necessary staff to the room, to the stage, to the foyer, or if it will be carried out in the municipal garden that is also part of our management. Turn out to be the events, but also the spaces, we are the central information and source distribution for the various teams. All of these events involve a great deal of logistics, so when we are contacted by a group that wants a "hole" it is almost impossible to access the request, because as there is a previous schedule, there has to be an official request to the theater, to us and this whole bureaucratic part corresponds to this office. For the show "The year of the death of Ricardo Reis" was necessary to order 20 doors, which are affixed in the scenario with wooden slats that were necessary to acquire. Then we will try in loco the mental image of the show, or the stage plot, which is where we will stay what on stage and sometimes we noticed that there are things that do not work, in this case the orchestra was placed on scaffolding, because the space on stage was not enough for everyone, so we had to think of an alternative and production had to find a solution.


What are you going to do differently for the 130 years of Baltazar Dias? "As we were going to celebrate 130 years of theater and we had to do something different, and we brought a show to Funchal that people had not yet experienced as was the case of" The Death of the Audience "that questioned how the viewer relates to the show we are accustomed to getting to a room, sitting down and being the passive receivers of a show, but in this case there were no chairs, people were on stage and they were involved in the very design of the play, they had roles and they were also actors and it was a way to deconstruct all this concept.


And if you thought that this was all on the day of a municipal theater, could not be more deceived dear reader, at nightfall after another day in which Baltazar Dias opened its doors to the public for classical music, with the concert of "Essential Romantics", after final applause, after the last spectator leaves the audience, the doors are closed and a new dizzying bustle takes over the stage for the general rehearsal of the play "The year of the death of Ricardo Reis", the dancers Chantal Pereira and Casey-Lee Binns, Marcenda and Lídia respectively, warm up, the protagonist Hélder Sumares projects his voice in the space, the body of dance rehearses its steps together, the musicians of the orchestra gradually occupy their places on the stage and test their instruments, while the stage technicians perform the final touches of the scene and are tested once again all the projectors individually.

The choreographer and dancer Juliana Andrade and the director of actors Diana Pita take the stage and start a briefing on the first scenes that will be rehearsed, and the points are placed for each of the dancers and the protagonists. Silence is demanded, before an empty stage the narrator, Tiago Silva gives voice to the one who is approaching "after Pessoa's death, Ricardo Reis returns to the crib, but does not feel embraced by the city that saw him born. The regime of Salazar mutes the society, it darkens the countenances, it deflects the attentions, it turns the gray city. In the distance there are cries of war. Housed in a hotel on Alecrim Street, he meets two women, Lydia, an earthy woman, practical and without artifice, the connection to the earth and Marcenda, fragile, distant, paralyzed, and without enthusiasm, a mirror of himself. Looks for Pessoa in the tomb but cannot find him. In the corners and labyrinths of the city, sometimes between the shadows, does the poet find himself again, returning from the dead? "And here comes the shadow, incorporated by Juliana Teixeira, and both begin a silent dialogue accompanied by the musical themes written by Márcio Faria and Roberto Moritz.
Gradually the adaptation written by Carolina Caldeira gains wings and the characters give life to the Salazarist Portugal where "there are religious fervor, festive excesses, hidden horrors, and a people who are deceived, under a regime that oppresses. And observing the man who observes, the eyes of the regime, always present "and also the critical eye of Diana Pita who takes frantic notes on the failures in the times of entry, the positions on stage, the text and choreography, who else Juliana Andrade meets with whom she exchanges impressions of each one of the scenes of this performative spectacle. Quickly without realizing it, the hours pass "time is scarce, and the sands of time and history do not allow Reis the possibility of dawn. Pessoa is waiting for you, it's time to leave. And the world continues, "the rehearsal ends, Baltazar Dias will finally be able to rest his old boards, but tomorrow is a new day in its birthday month, congratulations!

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