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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Power’s back at the Peón Contreras, but more work remains

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Power has been restored at Teatro Peón Contreras, as evidenced by this recent photo provided by the Yucatán Public Works agency.

Yucatán’s public works and cultural agencies jointly reported progress in the Teatro Peón Contreras’ rise from the ashes. 

Power has been restored to the building, including the four rings of box seats that face the historic theater’s elegant stage. But more studies need to be done before it’s ready to reopen.

The arts community was stunned on Nov. 1 when a fire started in a sound booth on the upper level. 

The structure and foundation of the stately 114-year-old neoclassical opera house are sound, but flames and smoke damaged the north side of the lobby, and furniture and equipment were wrecked on all four floors.

The 1940 chandelier at the Teatro Peón Contreras has 250 lights and 105,000 pieces of cut crystal. It was lowered to protect it from smoke when a fire on the upper level broke out Nov. 1, 2022. Photo: Yucatán Public Works

On Tuesday, a group of restoration experts will examine the interior of the theater to identify architectural details — such as stained glass and molding — that were blackened. The prominent historical element to need restoration is “Las Musas,” the 1907 mural in the dome, which will require chemical analysis. The circa-1940 chandelier beneath it was saved. 

There are lots of chefs in this particular kitchen. These tasks require coordination between the National Center for Conservation and Registration of Movable Artistic Heritage (CENCROPAM), which is part of the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature (INBAL) and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Photos in November 2022 show the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

While officials had hoped that Mérida’s most historic performance venue would re-open by spring 2023, now they say that restoration work won’t even begin until June — over 200 days after the fire.

The Yucatán Symphony Orchestra calls the Peón Contreras home, but has been forced to conclude its 2022-23 season at the much smaller Palacio de la Musica

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