The history of Havana’s Great Theater dates back to 1837 when General Tacon founded the New World’s’ first theater on this same site in the heart of Cuba’s capital. Today, despite the faded splendour of the decor and heavy dependence on donations as diverse as food, guitar strings, pens, fashion magazines, and magnetic tape, the theater in a hub of cultural life. Havanese call it the ‘Garcia Lorca’ in reference to its magnificent main room built at the turn of the century.

Looking at the ancient lithographs of the theater, one can have an idea of it’s former luxury. Before the hard times Cuba experiences today which threaten the Garcia Lorca’s survival, some of the most famous artists appeared on its stage, such as Sarah Bernhardt, Enrico Caruso, Rachmaninov, Anna Pavlova and Pablo Casals.

80 years old Alicia Alonso, founder of the theater’s resident Ballet Nacional and it’s most famous ballerina, embodies the revolutionary utopia. At the beginning of the 1960, Alicia devoted herself to the ideological line which advocated ‘Arts for Everybody ‘. Through her impetus, the theater, which was formely associated with the Cuban bourgeoisie, has turned into arts centre whose rich diversity contrasts with the dirth of such activities and entertainments available outside its walls.

Beside performances during the ballet and opera seasons, people come to the Grand Theater to study dance, small companies rehearse in the Carpentier and Artaud rooms, movie fans crowd into the Luis Bunuel video room and the public visit painting and sculpture exhibitions. The Cabaret Nacional, housed in the basement of the building, is one of the few popular night spots in the city which has remained typically Havanese.

Garcia Lorca’s performers, despite their hard work and dedication to their art, dream of leaving for mythical elsewhere. When touring in western countries, the prestigious Ballet Nacional sees frequent defections among its dancers. Between reheasals young ballerinas curse the ‘libreta ‘ rationing system. Since the end of exchanges with the Soviet ‘elder brother ‘, this ration card cannot guarantee them enough food to eat. It is not uncommon for Maria Eugenia Barrios to sing Tosca with only a piece of bread in her stomach.

Today swans dance on a lake of indifference. While the 400 employees and artists work resignedly, counter-revolution is not raging in the theater.

The Grand Theatre is a separated world, which reflects the contradictions of Cuban society.

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  • The Garcia Lorca Theatre is located in the heart of the Cuban capital
  • Detail of the baroque facade
  • The four prima ballarinas of the spanish ballet in the main staircase of the theatre
  • Reminder of Alicia alonso’s triumph in New York dancing « Giselle » in the 40’s
  • Alicia alonso during a rehearsal on the Lorca stage
  • Young ballet pupils of the Garcia Lorca
  • Spanish Ballet, Flamenco. The prima ballarina Adelina Carvajal rehearsing the « Dance of the Fire »
  • Duo
  • A couple of dancers having o break at the balcony
  • Flamenco quadrille, Sevillanas
  • Moulding
  • Dancers of the Spanish Ballet rehearsing
  • Stretching session for a young Ballet pupil just before starting class
  • Stretching session for Ballet pupils
  • Warm up
  • Scene painters at work
  • Even used sheets are recycled for the setting by Maria the seamstress
  • Nelson Salmon has been the chief of the property department for 20 years
  • Box-officce. A ticket costs about 5 peso
  • A musician prepares his instrument in the orchestra pit before playing a romantic bolero
  • Rodolpho, painter
  • Some employees have a private party in the theatre
  • A remain of the ancient theatre behind the Lorca
  • Maria Eugenia Barrios is one of the most famous Cuban divas as a soprano.
  • Hairdressers
  • Wigmaker
  • International Contest week, backstage. A young modern dancer from Brazil concentrating before her performance
  • International Contest week. Backstage, a ballet dancer is waiting her turn on stage
  • International contest week, backstage
  • Concentration backstage
  • Back door entrance. This couple recently won the national contest for lyrical singing
  • The National Cabaret stage.
  • The National Cabaret. Dressing-room
  • The National Cabaret. Dressing-room
  • The National Cabaret , curtain
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