The Municipal Theater of Piraeus, situated right in the heart of the city, designated as a preserved historical monument, is the most emblematic building in Piraeus, dominating the busy city center.
In 1882 the mayor of Piraeus, Trifon Moutzopoulos, submits to the City Council a project concerning the erection of a theater in Piraeus. An ambitious and costly project, it is meant to endow the city with a landmark of unique architectural and artistic value.
Designed by a great Greek architect, Ioannis Lazarimos, and with its construction lasting for 11 years (1884 -1895), the Municipal Theater of Piraeus, a perfect rectangle structure, 45 meters long and 35 meters wide, the external columns and staircases not included, is a representative example of the classicist architectural tradition.
The entrance to the theater is defined by a four-Corinthian Order column portico and a pediment, while on the top of the building there is a terraced roof with a pediment on its façade.
The interior of the Municipal Theater of Piraeus was designed following the structure of the Odeon Theater (Théâtre d’ Odéon), in Paris. The Italian type horse-shoe shaped hall of a capacity of 1,300 people includes the auditorium, three rows of boxes with 23 boxes each and balconies on four levels. A majestic chandelier, dating from the first days of the theater, oversees the hall.
A two-storey foyer, where charity balls and painting expositions used to be held, embraces the hall while spacious dressing rooms and a luxurious parlor catered for the needs of the actors appearing in the Municipal Theater of Piraeus.
What is really striking about the Municipal Theater of Piraeus is its stage. Its dimensions being 20 X 14 m, the stage comprises a proscenium and an orchestra pit. The truss trim is 18 meters high while the downstage is 9 meters deep. Considered as one of the very few remaining examples of baroque in Europe and preserved practically intact, the stage is equipped with sophisticated mechanisms -60% of which survived time and currently are being repaired and reconstructed.
Another feature illustrating the quality of the stage is the wood used for its construction. Although the Municipal Theater of Piraeus is a building of the late 19th century standing so close to the sea, no signs of erosion have appeared on the wooden parts of the stage.
The Theater through Time
Inaugurated in 1895, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus was the point of reference as for the city’s cultural and social evolution. Apart from the numerous plays, concerts and shows presented on its stage, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus will house – among others – the Commercial Club, the Center of Piraeus Labor Unions, the Municipal Library of Piraeus as well as the Municipal Art Gallery of Piraeus for long periods.
In World War I, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus is occupied by French soldiers participating in the blockade of Piraeus by the Entente forces, while a few years later (1922) it will host a great number of the Greek refuges, victims of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Having survived the Allies’ Bombardment of Piraeus (1944) and two major earthquakes (1981 and 1999) and having been the venue for a wide variety of activities from school parties to civil weddings, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus suffered serious damages, which made the need for restoration works imperative.
After the successful completion of the restoration works (2008-2012), a remarkable neoclassic monument was reborn. Having regained its majesty, a theater of exquisite beauty with sophisticated technical equipment, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus can host high-standard productions, playing a key-role in cultural life within and outside the boundaries of Piraeus.
The Archaeological Findings
In 1884, during the first excavation for the erection of the Municipal Theater of Piraeus, remains of a Dionysus temple as well as of a residence belonging to Dionysus worshipers were found. Rooms, corridors, galleries, water tanks and columns were some of the findings. At the time, the remains were reburied.
Recently and during the restoration works on the theater, as well as during the excavation works for the Piraeus subway station construction, 28 water tanks and three pebble floors came to light. The water tanks, after having been replicated, will be reburied, with the replicas decorating the subway station, in a specially designed exposition dedicated to the Hippodameian Water Supply Network. The three pebble floors will be removed so that they can be preserved, with one of them destined to be on display in Piraeus subway station.