On the eve of celebrating its 125th year, São Luiz Teatro Municipal sees itself as a theatre of the city and for the city, of everyone and for everyone, with a keen awareness of Portuguese culture and world cultures.
Anchored in the performing arts, the programme of Teatro São Luiz develops a varied array of proposals, challenging artists through commissions and co-productions. Not wanting to limit itself to the production and presentation of performances, it strives to be a platform mindful of the different stages of the creative process — residency, creation, production, diffusion — to which we must add the primal component of the relationship with the publics. It also inscribes in its mission the principles of cooperation, sharing and solidarity, with strategic programmes that aim to enable Lisbon inhabitants to have access to culture, through a policy of accessibility and valorisation of material and imaterial heritage.
Since its reopening, on the 30th of November 2002, São Luiz Teatro Municipal has undertook as its mission to deliver to the city a live Theatre, with an audience, energetic, with hundreds of sessions per season, and sometimes with up to three daily presentations between the Sala Luis Miguel Cintra, the Sala Bernardo Sassetti and the Sala Mário Viegas.
The history of Teatro São Luiz begins in 1892, driven by actor Guilherme da Silveira, this year marks the creation of a society for the construction of a theatre, in the old rua do Tesouro Velho (renamed António Maria Cardoso in 1907) on the land belonging to the House of Bragança. It is presided by the Viscount of São Luiz de Braga, a title attributed by King D. Carlos I in 1891, with Celestino da Silva, Alfredo Miranda, Alfredo Waddington and António Ramos, member of the Ramalho Ortigão family.
On the 22nd of May 1894, following a project by French architect Louis-Ernest Reynaud modified in Lisbon by Emílio Rossi and with an afresco by stage designer Luigi Manini, the Theatro D. Amélia is inaugurated, on the celebration of the eighth anniversary of the queen’s marriage to D. Carlos I. The opening performance was the operetta A Filha do Tambor-Mor, by Offenbach.
Two years after, small films are played during the intermissions and at the end of the plays, and the Theatre was the second venue in Portugal (after the Real Coliseu) to screen cinema, Cinematography: Animated Photography as it was called, to the Portuguese public. On a screen, behind which a film projector is placed, films are shown every night — among others, the first Portuguese image ever recorded on film — A Boca do Inferno em Cascais, by Erwin Rousby.
In 1898, Eleanora Duse, the actress, performs on this stage , where, a year later Sarah Bernhardt plays A Dama das Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas fils, Adriana Lecouvreur, a play written by her, Tosca, by Sardon, and Hamlet, by Shakespeare. It is also here that in 1906, the actress Palmira Bastos plays Venus with great success, and where, later she will end her career with O Ciclone (1966). In 1902 Julia Bartet was a sensation, and, in the same year, A Ceia dos Cardeais, by Júlio Dantas, is presented by the Companhia Rosas & Brasão, that was based in the Theatre.
With the implementation of the republic, in 1910, the Theatre is renamed Teatro República. In 1914, on the night of the 12th to the 13th of September, a fire destroys most of the building. In memory of that tragic event, an image is still hung over the stage in the main venue , the image of what is now called Saint Asbestos (Santo Amianto), a prop from the play which is said to have been the only object saved from the fire.
With a project by architect Tertuliano Lacerda Marques, the Theatre reopens two years later with the play Os Postiços, by Eduardo Schwalbach, and the premiere was attended by the President of the Republic, Bernardino Machado. In 1917 the Theatre becomes the property of the heirs of one of its founders, António Ramos, and the Ortigão Ramos family buys the property from the House of Bragança. In that same year, Amélia Rey Colaço debutes in this Theatre and it is also here that, in April, the First Conferência Futurista takes place with Almada Negreiros and Santa-Rita Pintor.
In 1918 the Viscount of São Luiz passes away, and on the 14th of April of the same year, as a tribute to one of its biggest facilitators the Theatre is renamed Theatro São Luiz.
On the 7th of April 1928, after several occasional film sessions and after having received as guests personalities like Italian film director Rino Lupo and the French actor Max Linder, it becomes permanently a Cinema, and changes its name to São Luiz Cine, with a decor by Leitão de Barros, and premiering in Portugal the most important films of that time. It was in this Theatre, for example, that the Portuguese audience was able to watch, for the first time, Metropolis, by Fritz Lang, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Pedro Blanc executing the original score by Godfried Kuppertz. In 1930, it becomes one of the first venues to prepare itself for the “age of Sound Film” premiering in Portugal Prémio de Beleza, by Augusto Genina. The first Portuguese sound film, A Severa, by Leitão de Barros, premieres in São Luiz Cine, on the 18th of June 1931.
In May 1971, the building is acquired by Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, and renamed Teatro Municipal São Luiz, but is still operated as a cinema at first. Used by the company of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, a new resident company, headlined by Eunice Muñoz and directed by Luiz Francisco Rebello is formed. Several plays are performed here.
Premises were granted to Companhia Teatral do Chiado and one of the venues is occupied by the company in 1991, naming it Teatro-Estúdio Mário Viegas. In 1999, the Theatre undergoes a major intervention and restauration in the stage, dressing rooms and house areas.
Since its reopening, on the 30th of November 2002, the São Luiz Teatro Municipal has undertook as its mission to deliver to the city a live Theatre, with an audience, energetic, with hundreds of sessions per season, and sometimes with up to three daily presentations between the Sala Luis Miguel Cintra, the Sala Bernardo Sassetti and the Sala Mário Viegas.