Mahón is the capital of Menorca and home to the one of the biggest natural harbours in the world. The city, with a population of just 30,000, has some fine examples of British colonial architecture as the Brits controlled the island (on and off) from 1708 to 1802. Apart from its role as the capital city, its fine cheese and its importance for tourism, Mahón also has a magnificent opera house – the Teatro Principal. |
Travel Tip 1: Mahón is commonly referred to in Menorca by its Catalonian name, Maó. This is the name you should look for on maps if you’re driving in from a villa near Mahón. Teatro Principal: Its History
The Teatro Principal is, in fact, the oldest opera house in Spain – quite an achievement for what is, after all, a small island. It was built in 1829 when new Italian operas were all the rage in European and Menorcan society. But many of these new productions demanded elaborate stage sets and a lot of space, both on stage and behind. Most existing opera houses were too small to accommodate these elaborate productions and the large audiences they drew, so the decision was made to tear down the old one just ten years after its opening and build a much larger structure.
Travel Tip 2: If you’ve rented a villa near Mahón, getting to the centre isn’t difficult. You can hire a car or scooter and get there quickly or take a bus with the Menorca Bus Service.
The Teatro Principal’s Architecture
This grand edifice was designed by Italian architect Giovani Palagi. His design incorporated all the elements and styles associated with Italian architecture of that time, and the result is a truly magnificent building.
The central auditorium is constructed in the shape of a horseshoe. This provides excellent acoustics which was essential in an age before the invention of microphones and loudspeakers.
The theatre holds up to 1,000 people with seating on the ground floor and three tiers of boxes with the “gods” above them.
The interior is lavishly decorated with gilded panels containing artwork by the Menorcan artist Andrés Galbis and is well worth a visit even if you are not an opera fan.
While a great deal of effort was dedicated on the interior decoration of the building, the exterior is far more modest. Constructed from locally hewed stone with an impressive entrance arch, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just another building.
Just outside of the entrance is a three-metre-high bronze statue of the Muse, Thalia, one of the nine Ancient Greek Muses which symbolised music, song and dance. The statue is relatively new and was made by another Menorcan artist, Maties Quetglas, in 2001.
Travel Tip 3: The Teatro Principal is a great way to relax after a day’s touring or shopping. If you’re on your way back to your villa near Mahón, a short stop here will put you in the perfect state of mind for a relaxed meal and perfect evening.
Opera and More
The theatre hosts a wide range of musical and theatrical events, not just opera. To see the current program, go to the theatre’s English site.
Brenda Jaaback, Managing Director of Bartle Holidays, is a renowned Menorca expert. From its history to its people and from its wildlife to its cuisine - no secret of the island remains hidden to her. Personally selecting the finest properties for her clients, Brenda is the go-to person for anyone looking for a villa near Mahon or the surrounding area for a relaxing holiday. Bartle Holidays makes no warranty as to the accuracy of information contained in this article and excludes any liability of any kind for the information.
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