Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo, Teatro Municipal, São Paulo, 1903–11.
A Second Empire public building in São Paulo, contemporary with similar exercises
in Rio and Manaus.

This unmistakable piece of Haussmannization was accompanied by some flamboyant public buildings built in Rio in the Second Empire style, including the Biblioteca Nacional (1910) and the Museo Nacional de Belas Artes (1908). However, the Teatro Municipal (Francisco de Oliveira Passos, 1909) stands out, an extraordinary confection of marble, onyx, bronze and mirrors, based on Charles Garnier’s Paris Opera, with all materials imported from Europe.

Its highly ornate main facade has a ceremonial stair leading to a triple porticoes entrance, with Corinthian columns, pilasters, balustrades, stained glass and twin domes, the whole pile topped by figurines representing Comedy and Tragedy, and, at the very summit, a giant sculpted eagle. The excess of Rio’s theatre was matched only by the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, completed by Celestial Sacardim in 1896, again from substantially imported materials.

The Haussmannization of Rio had echoes in most other large Brazilian cities. Rio experimented further with this mode in the years 1926–30 with a megalomaniac scheme under the Frenchman Alfred Agache, which saw little realized apart from the creation of the gargantuan Avenida Presidente Vargas.  The first decades of the twentieth century are in some ways better characterized by the internationalization of Brazil’s trade and its representation in increasingly eclectic private buildings.

The Rio suburb of Santa Teresa is (as Norma Evenson has described) an assortment of ‘Gothic Revival, Swiss Cottage Style, Second Empire and Art Nouveau’. Similar eclecticism was clearly visible at the same time in Sao Paulo, especially along the newly created Avenida Paulista. Here it was common to see villas in the English half-timbered style too. English influence was more publicly manifest in the city’s Luz railway station (Charles Henry Driver, 1896–1901), whose clock tower disconcertingly cites the Palace of Westminster. The city’s real innovation in the early twentieth century was, however, the skyscraper, which in the form of the Predio Martinelli (1929), an inflated Renaissance palazzo, was as eclectic as anything found in New York.
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