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Teatro Viriato | History


Detailed historical memory 

This theatre was inaugurated at the end of the 19th Century under the name Theatro Boa União. It closed its doors in 1960, as Teatro Viriato. After several recovery attempts, and having been inactive for 38 years, Teatro Viriato finally reopened its doors to the public.

Emerging from a project by the Paulo Ribeiro Company, assumed and supported by the Municipality of Viseu and the Ministry of Culture, this showroom’s recovery was meant to offer the public regular access to performing arts with recognized professional, technical and artistic value. Thus, Viseu has become integrated in the national and international circulation routes of diversified performances.

The purpose was to return Teatro Viriato to the Town, enabling the Viseu community to discover new artistic languages in a welcoming and modern space that includes elements that are allusive to its history.

With Teatro Viriato’s recovery, the heyday when Viseu had five show houses and a cinema (Teatro da Rua Escura, Teatro Viriato, Teatro Paraíso, Avenida Teatro, and Cine-Rossio) was restored.


According to some documents, at the time there was a theatre called Teatro da Rua Escura in Viseu. It had boxes, balconies and stalls, but on a small scale and could barely provide for the constant needs of Viseu’s public. Sociedade Filarmónica Viseense Boa União, better known as the Banda dos Melhundros, decided to buy some land for one million two hundred thousand reis. The remaining process took place since 1879, at great cost and counting on the support of some local property owners. The works quickly had to be suspended due to lack of money. Therefore, it was decided to issue shares in the amount of 10 thousand reis to establish a fund that enabled continuing the works. However, despite also resorting to bank loans, it was complicated to overcome the financial difficulties. Nevertheless, they never gave up and managed to finish the works.

Here are the names of those tireless benefactors: Manuel de Figueiredo, José Monteiro Nelas, Francisco Gonçalves da Silva Sampaio, António Rodrigues Correia, António de Albuquerque, José Carlos, José Marques, Francisco de Albuquerque, Manuel Joaquim, Diogo Lopes da Cunha, Mateus José de Sousa, Augusto de Vasconcelos, Joaquim Franco, Joaquim Lopes, Valentim Nunes, Francisco de Figueiredo Lacerda, António Bento, Francisco Duarte, António dos Santos, and Manuel Campos.


13th June, 1883 – Saint Anthony’s Day - Theatro Boa União was inaugurated. This was the first performance house “built” in Viseu by twenty members of Sociedade Filarmónica de Viseu with the same name that was given to the cultural space.

The inaugural programme was included in the Town Festivities as the high point of the entire programme. The debut shows, which were the responsibility of Companhia de Teatro António Pedro, began with the play O Paralytico and, in the days which followed, O Negreiro, the comedy Roupa Branca, O Bebé, Amor e Dinheiro, O Saltimbanco, O Agiota, and Em Maus Lençóis went on stage. The theatrical marathon ended seven days later with the play O Sargento Mor de Vilar.

After the consecutive premiers of the Oporto Theatre Company, it was the turn of Juan Molina’s Italian Lyric Opera Company, with the opera The Favourite, by Donizetti. It was followed by Lucia di Lammermoor, by the same composer, Il Trovatore, Rigoletto, Ernani and A Traviata by Verdi, The Barber of Seville by Rossini, The Sleepwalker by Bellini and, lastly, Faust by Gounod.

Next, from the 19th to 26th July, 1883, Companhia do Teatro da Trindade introduced itself with the comedy O Capitão Carioca and O Gaiato de Lisboa

The Theatre closed for a few months due to the slowdown in the influx of audiences to the shows, since the latter remained in the city for several days. On 1st December, the Theatre reopened once again.

20th December, 1883 – Start of the subscription entry system, which was valid for three Companhia do Teatro Ginásio recitals.

6th April, 1884 (Easter) – Juan Molina returned, this time with Companhia de Zarzuela, made up by 14 artists, as well as the Orchestra members. They presented 14 different shows. Subscription entries were widely practiced.

June, 1884 – One year after Teatro Viriato’s inauguration, Companhia do Príncipe Real do Porto presented some operettas during the Saint Anthony Festivities (A Princesa das Canárias, Gillete de Narbone, Mdme Angot and Magdjyares, performed from Wednesday to Sunday).
February, 1897 – The animatograph arrived at the Theatre, bringing floods of people to enjoy and admire the invention. Films like the “European War”, Quo Vadis, among many other love stories or comedies were exhibited.

1898 – Theatro Boa União was renamed as Teatro Viriato.

1904 – Through the initiative of Bento Cardoso de Melo Girão, the pictures of Gil Vicente, Almeida Garrett, Viriato and an allegory to lyric poetry were painted on the Theatre’s ceiling by the Viseu artist Felisberto Nelas. (The canvas relative to Viriato was recovered and can currently be seen at the Theatre’s Corner, the space were Teatro Viriato exhibits its memories).

1912/13 – The big national and international companies which were part of Teatro Viriato’s programming gave way to the cinematograph screen. The cinema then began to occupy the majority of Teatro Viriato’s programming, gaining great interest among the people of Viseu:
To Teatro Viriato

Boys, never before in Viseu,
- And I’m not the only one saying so,
The entire city also does
Were there such fair films
So beautiful, so grandiose
Such big novelty!
And those who go there once,
Go back twice, go back thirteen times,
Keep going back, time after time.
From Luciano and Jesus:
No seats are left empty!
In Voz da Oficina, 26th April, 1912

The Teatro Viriato venue became Viseu’s “living room” when it came to hosting public figures:

TOMORROW – Saturday, 19th April, 1913

Two stunning PERMANENT performances, beginning at half past seven, where among a well-chosen programme, stood an excellent film “Entre o Dever Maternal e o Amor”. In the audience was the Minister for Internal Development.
In Voz da Oficina, 18th April, 1913

1914 - Teatro Viriato started to be managed by two companies. One promoted the Cinema, and the other, the theatrical performances. The remaining scenic activities, like the Circus, started to lose their place.

17th September, 1921 – Inauguration of the Avenida Teatro theatre, on the same street as Teatro Viriato. Since this theatre was new, it was a strong competitor. “Entre Giestas” by the Amélia Rey-Colaço and Robles Monteiro Company was the inaugural performance. It was considered one of the best theatres at the time, with a capacity to seat two thousand people, and had adjoining gardens. The performances included in the 1926 Town Festivities were exclusively performed at Avenida Teatro. Despite the theatre, music and dance performance programmes, the cinema was its top billing.

1952 – The Cine-Rossio venue began to operate, closing in 1985.

1960 – The opening of Avenida Teatro, in 1912, with a much greater capacity than Teatro Viriato, and the strong competition of the Cinema, led the curtain to drop and the lights to go out. Seventy years after its inauguration, Teatro Viriato closed its doors with the exhibition of “Coro Harmonia”, a female vocal group. Ironically, the following year, in 1961, Avenida Teatro closed its doors forever. Ten years later (1971), it was demolished.


“ (...) The older people of Viseu talk to us today [1985] about urban cultural activity as a distant memory, agglomerating the Taborda actor, in the Rua Escura evenings, with the last Portuguese Revue at the extinct Teatro Avenida, or the performance of the great cellist Guilhermina Suggia at that same Theatre, with Eunice Muñoz or Maria Barroso at the Clube de Viseu, and the scenery of Almada Negreiros (O Mar, by Torga) compressed, shy, in the Almeida Moreira Museum House Auditorium. 

How many years do these memories cover? Who even knows for sure now if Teatro Viriato was, in fact, a Theatre or if it was almost exclusively dedicated to cinematography? 

In effect, the rarefaction and disappearance of several Theatres, the “monopoly”, for so many years, of a low quality cinema, the reduction of the Tourism gallery to a show window with urban crafts (sometimes called art), all contributed towards the progressive abandonment of the town to cultural inactivity. (...)”

Ricardo Pais, in Espaços Culturais na Cidade de Viseu, Cadernos Área Urbana, no. 2, July, 1985

1985 – Twenty-five years after closing, Teatro Viriato reopened its doors in an attempt to show what still remained of the show hall.

In an Área UrbanaNúcleo de Ação Cultural production, sponsored by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, with the support of the Municipality of Viseu and the Civil Government of the District of Viseu, the play Teatro de Enormidades Apenas Críveis à Luz Elétrica, by Aquilino Ribeiro, went on stage, performed and interpreted by Ricardo Pais, Olga Roriz, Luís Madureira, António Emiliano, with scenery by António Lagarto and lighting by Orlando Worm. It was included in the commemorations of the Aquilino Ribeiro Centennial (September). Teatro Viriato relived, momentarily, the glory of its past golden era thanks to the director Ricardo Pais. The first step was, thus, taken by Área Urbana – Núcleo de Ação Cultural to rehabilitate the only theatre room in Viseu.

25th November, 1985 – A survey of Teatro Viriato began by a group of undergraduates from the Architecture College of Universidade do Porto (FAUP), taking into account the Seminar dedicated to the elaboration of 9 Proposals for Recovery and Reuse. 

17th March, 1986 - Teatro Viriato served as the stage for a work meeting with FAUP undergraduates and professors. Its goal was the in loco study of the projects, already in an advanced stage.

On 11th July, Teatro Viriato inaugurated the exhibition – 9 Proposals, at the Almeida Moreira House Museum, and launched Caderno AU no. 3 as an exhibition catalogue.

28th August – This same exhibition was inaugurated by Prime Minister Cavaco Silva at the St. Mateus Fair, where he stated the following: “I hope that when I return to Viseu, Teatro Viriato has already been rebuilt”. The project approved by the Municipality was signed by Sérgio Ramalho and commissioned by the Municipality of Viseu to the Architecture College of Universidade do Porto. A Viriato Office was set up under the guidance of Architecture Professor Sérgio Fernandez, and included three architects and several advisors (Engineers, the Director Ricardo Pais, a Lighting Technician, etc.).


Noteworthy during this time period, in spite of recurring works management difficulties, was the intense and continuous effort made by the Municipality of Viseu, which enabled, in a partnership with other financing institutions, completely recovering Teatro Viriato.

September, 1986 – The Municipality of Viseu unanimously approved the acquisition of the building where Teatro Viriato operated. This proposal was approved at the Municipal Assembly.

27th October – The tenants of Teatro Viriato were paid PTE 13 million (±65 thousand euros) for the transfer, subsidized by the Secretariat of State for Culture, which also guaranteed a co-participation of PTE 15 million (±75 thousand euros) to buy the building.

24th October, 1988 – Launching of the limited tender for the 1st stage of the contract job. – Structural Works.

13th February, 1989 – Awarding of the contract job to the company Construções Moderna, for PTE 50,416,000 (±251 thousand euros).

29th January, 1990 – Suspension of the works relative to the 1st stage – Structural Works, due to technical difficulties attributed to Construções Moderna.

1st March, 1993 – Awarding of the 2nd stage of the contract job – Finishing Works – to the company Tevisil, for the amount of PTE 157,940,000 (±788 thousand euros).

22nd August, 1993 – Ratification of the contract relative to the transfer of the 2nd stage of the contract job between the contractors Tevisil and Construtora Abrantina.

24th November, 1997 – Temporary acceptance of the works by the Municipality of Viseu.

1996 - The Paulo Ribeiro Company presents the Programming and Administration project for Teatro Viriato.


On 8th May, 1998 – The Paulo Ribeiro Company, in representation of a cultural association created for that purpose – Centro de Artes do Espetáculo de Viseu, Associação Cultural e Pedagógica – and the Municipality of Viseu, along with the Ministry of Culture, signed a protocol for the creation of Centro Regional de Artes do Espetáculo das Beiras (CRAEB). This Centre would operate at Teatro Viriato, and was the second such Centre nationwide (the first was CENDREV, Centro Dramático de Évora).

The ministry of Culture, through Instituto Português das Artes do Espectáculo (IPAE), decided to support the CRAEB with a total of PTE 70 million (±350 thousand euros), while the Municipality of Viseu attributed PTE 30 million (±150 thousand euros), besides ceding the Teatro Viriato facilities.

In 1999, the Ministry of Culture contributed with a yearly budget of PTE 72 million (±360 thousand euros - 60% of the total investment). It was up to the Municipality of Viseu to finance the remaining 40%, which equated to PTE 48 million (±240 thousand euros).

On the evening of 8th May, 1998 Teatro Viriato was officially inaugurated by the Ministry of Culture, Prof. Manuel Maria Carrilho and by the President of the Municipality of Viseu, Mr. Fernando de Carvalho Ruas, with a concert by Filarmonia das Beiras. The programme included Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Manuel de Falla’s Love, the Magician and Beethoven’s Symphony in A minor, Opus 92.


On 29th January, 1999, the 1st season of Teatro Viriato’s new life was inaugurated, with the presentation of the show “Raízes Rurais, Paixões Urbanas” by Ricardo Pais. This performance was especially prepared for this occasion.

The opening of Teatro Viriato, Centro Regional das Artes do Espectáculo das Beiras, was a moment that we would like, delightfully, to point out. Thus, a good part of the challenge proposed throughout the last few years is fulfilled: returning Teatro Viriato to the people of Viseu.

As a result of a happy partnership that has revealed itself efficient and, we hope, with increased expectation, we want this new cultural space to always assert itself as a place where everyone can permanently enjoy art and performances.

This moment is also an affirmation of the big commitment which the Municipality has made on a cultural sphere, by providing the conditions that will allow - we are certain - for Viseu to continue to be placed in the route of new cultural events and, naturally, the New Millennium.

Fernando de Carvalho Ruas
President of the Municipality of Viseu

Today – 29th January, 1999 – will be a memorable day. Finally, after a long period of preparation, Teatro Viriato has been reborn and has given way to a project with great visibility that will contribute, without a doubt, to the decentralization and democratization of access to culture. This space was able to captivate the political will and gather consensus to give way to a project meant to be in constant evolution, guided by a perspective of the future and not by small events in the present. Much has been said about the vocation of this space and the pertinence of its existence. I can only welcome those responsible for making this idea possible, namely His Excellency, the Minister of Culture, Professor Manuel Maria Carrilho, His Excellency, the President of the Municipality of Viseu, Mr. Fernando de Carvalho Ruas, as well as all those who, in the background, discreetly participated in this space’s rebirth. I will also take advantage of Ricardo Pais’ wonderful performance to make a toast to Teatro Viriato’s long life.

Paulo Ribeiro
Director of Teatro Viriato

Thus, began the first three-year period foreseen in the protocol established with the Ministry of Culture (MC) and the Municipality of Viseu (MV) - which was subject to an addendum in January, 2000 - to formalize an extraordinary update of the funding by those entities (PTE 84 million / ±419 thousand euros from the MC and PTE 56 million / ±240 thousand euros from the MV).

In 2001, funding was, once again, updated: PTE 90 million / ±449 thousand euros from the MC and PTE 60 million / ±300 thousand euros from the MV.

During 2002, 2003 and 2004, the protocol was consecutively renewed through yearly addenda, maintaining the funding agreed to in 2001. 

In 2004, CAEV applied for the Multiannual Programme (2005/2008) for Sustained Support to the Performing Arts of a Professional Nature, having obtained a classification of “Very Good” with a maximum score both in the disciplinary area to which it applied, as well as in absolute terms in the Centre Region.

In 2008, CAEV / Teatro Viriato, once again, applied for the Award for Direct Support to the Arts / 2009-2012 Quadrennial / Disciplinary Crossing, having obtained second place nationwide.

Since the beginning, Teatro Viriato has received, in permanent residency, the Companhia Paulo Ribeiro (CPR) company, with which it maintains a Strategic Partnership. Besides its activities relative to the creativity and itinerancy of shows, CPR has also done important educational work in Dance within this space and - since January 2004 - at Lugar Presente (the facilities adjacent to Teatro Viriato, in a building recovered and ceded by the MV and Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Viseu).

In 1999, CAEV was contemplated with the Prémio Almada award (dance), instituted by IPAE, “for a programming criteria capable of bringing together the community for which it is meant, feeding it insofar as to the production and circulation of works, as well as from the point of view of the development of its educational sphere.” 

In September 2003, Paulo Ribeiro, the mentor and General and Programming Director of Teatro Viriato, took over the artistic direction of the Gulbenkian Ballet, having been replaced in the Theatre’s direction by Miguel Honrado. 

Miguel Honrado artistically headed Teatro Viriato from September 2003 to August 2006.

In September, 2006, Paulo Ribeiro returned as General and Programming Director of Teatro Viriato.

In 2010, CAEV was recognized as an Institution of Public Utility (Order no. 4213/2010, of 26 February, published in the Official Gazette, 2nd series, no. 48, 10 March 2010, by occasion of the World Theatre Day)

In November, 2016, Paulo Ribeiro left his position as General and Programming Director of Teatro Viriato to embrace a new challenge in the Portuguese National Ballet Company.
In December, 2016, CAEV appointed Paula Garcia as the new General and Programming Director of Teatro Viriato. Paula Garcia had been the Assistant to Management since 1998. She accumulated the responsibility of Production Coordinator in 2002. Since 2006, she had been Assistant Director.

CABRAL, Ana Rocha, Uma iniciativa possível: 100 anos na cidade de Viseu, Uma exposição Iconográfica, Cadernos Área Urbana, no. 4, June, 87;
COSTA, Alexandre Alves, O Teatro Viriato não é o Scala de Milão, Cadernos Área Urbana – Os Espaços Culturais, July, 1985;
MADEIRA, José Alves, O Teatro Viriato, Revista Viseu Municipalis, no. 1,Jan – March, 89 and no. 2 and 3 April – Oct, 89;
MARGARIDA, Catarina, O Teatro Viriato, Centenário da inauguração, Viseu Ilustrado, no. 3, 1883;
PAIS, Ricardo, Espaços Culturais na Cidade de Viseu, Cadernos Área Urbana – Os Espaços Culturais, July, 1985;
PAIS, Ricardo, Communication presented at the Viseu colloquium, Cidade Cultural, organized by Cine Clube de Viseu, February, 1991;
PIMENTEL, Carlos e Perdigão, José, Quatro exemplos (óbvios)... Cadernos Área Urbana – Os Espaços Culturais, July, 1985;
RAMALHO, Sérgio, Recuperação e Reutilização do Teatro Viriato, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Arquitetura, February, 87;
Teatro Viriato – 9 propostas, Cadernos Área Urbana, July, 86;
Aquisição do Teatro Viriato, Dois Anos de Realizações da CMV, 1986/7.

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