When I think of the ballet, the opera, or the national symphonic orchestra I rarely view them as cultural events available to the masses. Each of these has always had some level of elitism–in American popular culture, “going to the opera” is usually an activity performed by the wealthy, and often boring, characters.
This is not the case at the recently renovated Teatro Colón. Once the largest opera house in the Southern Hemisphere (until Sydney Opera House was built), this massive theater, adorned with old paintings and carvings that make you feel like royalty, is filled with boxes for season ticket holders, and regular seating, for eight stories. And, most surprising, the tickets are not incredibly expensive, for Americans or for Argentine’s.
Buying tickets online to go see the ballet, Manon, with my host mom, the prices ranged from 30 to 200 pesos; (about $7.50-$50 US dollars). And once at the theater, I was surprised to find that even the least expensive tickets offered good views of the stage. Some were standing only, and others were high up, but they all allowed the theater-goer to fully embrace the performance.
Most impressive, though, was the variety of people at the theater. From the older couples, to families with small children; from people in dresses and suits and heels to people in jeans and t-shirts. Argentines sat beside tourists, and everyone was in good spirits.
Behind us was a group of American’s eager to see the historic theater, to one side was an Argentine family, and to our other, a worker in the Chilean embassy who we talked with during the show, during both intermissions, and until we had to go opposite directions walking home. Through it all, what really impressed me was how eager they were to share the culture. The ballet was not reserved for the elite, it was for everyone to share in the beauty, and the magic (and it was magical- from the orchestra to the scenery to the dancers I was in awe the entire performance). People from different social classes and different countries were all brought together to share art, and whether seated in private boxes or standing at the highest balcony, all that mattered was that they were all there to appreciate the performance and discuss it with each other. The first words our new friend at the Chilean Embassy said to us, beginning an evening of pleasant conversation, translate to “how wonderful”.