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Mérida theater’s stunning fresco may be its most painful loss

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Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Mérida’s landmark Teatro Peón Contreras remains a jewel but the public still doesn’t know how tarnished its treasures are after Tuesday’s fire.

The Yucatán Symphony Orchestra has suspended ticket sales and is apparently looking for an alternative space. But how about its Steinway grand piano and other instruments? The curtains are almost certainly ruined, but can the grand chandelier be salvaged?

A ladder truck helped firefighters reach flames inside the Teatro Peón Contreras on Tuesday. Photo: Courtesy

The frescoes painted on the dome — the auditorium’s centerpiece — is perhaps the biggest casualty of Tuesday’s fire, according to a local reporter who has made a list of what is likely damaged.

Hansel Vargas Aguilar, a journalist with Diario de Yucatán, gathered information from sources to share that the auditorium — while spared flames — is, indeed, devastated.

After extensive renovations in 2016, the Teatro Peón Contreras in Merida was reopened.

The stage, orchestra pit, backdrop, and cyclorama are also ruined, but it’s still not clear how badly. Expensive lighting and audio systems are also damaged, said Vargas Aguilar.

Its 10 dressing rooms and rehearsal space were partially or fully damaged.

A ladder truck helped firefighters reach flames inside the Teatro Peón Contreras on Tuesday. Photo: Courtesy

“The worst part of the damage is in the large fresco that decorates his dome, painted by Nicolás Allegretti, and where hangs the enormous chandelier that is lit only on special occasions or at the discretion of the theater director,” said Vargas Aguilar.

“Las Musas,” depicting the nine muses of Apollo, was completed in 1907. The chandelier beneath it was installed in 1940 and supports 250 lights and 105,000 pieces of cut crystal.

In December, the Peón Contreras will mark the 114th anniversary of its inauguration; construction of the enormous theater, modeled on an Italian opera house, began in 1900.

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