The site where the theater stands today was once home to the Teatro Tacon named in honor of the Captain General Miguel Tacon y Rosique who was the governor of Cuba between 1834 and 1838. Is was host to many important entertainment figures of the time, including the famous opera singer Enrico Caruso. When the original Tacon Theater was built it had a capacity for about 2000 people, at that time it was the largest and most luxurious in the Americas and third best in the world for technical qualities. With the population of the city swelling after Cuban Independence, construction of a new building around the existing one began in 1908, the original theater was preserved. The new building opened in 1915. The four white marble sculptures on it's main facade today, represent symbols of Charity, Education, Music and Theatre.
After the last Revolution, since 1960, the Gran Teatro has been presenting the International Ballet Festival of Havana, where performers from all over the world come to dance. In 1965 it became the headquarters for the National Ballet of Cuba and by 1985, at the suggestion of Alicia Alonso (the prima ballerina assoluta of Cuba), the theater was renamed the Gran Teatro de La Habana. After a great deal of renovations the theater was once again reopened on January 1st, 2016 and renamed the 'Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso' in recognition of her contributions to universal culture and her love & loyalty for her country.
The theater is still in operation and features the National Ballet of Cuba as well as hosting the International Ballet Festival of Havana where dancers of major troupes from around the world come to participate. The repairs and renovations made to the theater have added a number of spaces making it a spot to add to the list of sites to visit in Havana. During my tour (5cuc) I was shown around to all the various spaces and will have to return to the Art Gallery as it was closed for technical reasons. I did make it to the basement where they have placed a very cool looking restaurant and wine bar. You can smoke cigars sitting at the bar where they have installed smoke extractors but not in the main dining room. From what I've read, a major face-lift was performed on the interior including the furniture, air-conditioning and technical aspects of the theater itself. A huge glass cubical has been placed in the middle of one of the main rooms where you can walk through and see the history of the theater through pictures on the walls placed in chronological order. Several very large receptions have been held in the main room since it's reopening and the guide said the capacity was in the thousands.
It's worth the 5cuc just to take a picture from the balcony facing Parque Central but the entire space has been beautifully reconstructed and I would recommend paying a visit. If you take the tour you can easily spend 30-40 minutes here and longer if you decide to have a glass of wine or meal in the restaurant below.
Gran Teatro de La Habana "Alicia Alonso"
458 Paseo del Prado e/ San Jose y San Rafael
tel. 53 (7) 862 9473
View from Balcony
Restaurant Wine Bar Downstairs