Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica              

Most people probably wouldn’t describe Costa Rica’s capital of San José as conventionally beautiful. In fact, most people come for the beaches/rainforest (that’s me!)/nature. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t find beauty –sitting in plain sight– waiting for you to take a closer look.

Along Avenida Central and off the *Plaza de la Cultura sits the gem we call Teatro Nacional – the National Theatre of Costa Rica. If you never get beyond the entrance hall, that alone is impressive.



Sculptures by Pietro Capurro, Italy, and Juan Ramón Bonilla, Costa Rica.


But why wouldn’t you want to explore inside? Let’s mosey on up to the foyer first; it’s the show stealer of this historic building (at least, when there’s not a performance going on and you’re here early in the morning as we are now). Then, we can amble down to the performance space and a few backstage scenes. ¡Vamos! Let’s go.



Before heading downstairs, let’s take a moment to appreciate the ceiling mural called “Alegoría al Café y al Banano” (Allegory of Coffee and Banana) by the Italian Aleardo Villa…who hadn’t actually been to Costa Rica and therefore painted incorrect presumptions on some agricultural aspects in this artwork.



Yes, I realize the photo is distorted, but I wanted to show you the length of the notable (and notorious) mural, and the iPhone panorama option –while incredibly useful and handy– adds this center “bend.” For a more professional photo and a bit more historical background on this art, click this link to The Tico Times.

Now, to the lobby and theater! Mind your step: it’s dimly lit down here when there isn’t a live production.



How did you like it? Did you notice the mix of (mostly European) influences? Because I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell. The exterior is German; some furniture and interior doors are French; the sculptures are by Italians and a Costa Rican; the paintings are by Italians and a Spaniard. Some auditorium seats are from New York, the foyer beneath the carpet is comprised of 20 different Costa Rican woods, and I’m sure there’s a lot I’m glossing over. Now that I think about how much Italian influence there is in the interior decor, it occurs to me just how widespread Italian influence used to be. In any case, this is a must-see if you’re in the city!





*Here’s the theater building –a National Heritage Monument– hiding in plain sight in the city center. This open space is the Plaza de la Cultura. Beneath are the Banco Central museums. And the theater, well, you already know what it looks like inside.