Lisbon’s new concert halls aim to showcase city

A FORMER vaudeville and theatre site in Lisbon could soon be hosting concerts for up to 2,000 people. The city’s rundown and dilapidated Parque Mayer, off its posh main street Avenida da Liberdade, is to be given a multi-million euro face-lift, restoring some of its historic theatre buildings and Victorian music halls to their former glory, reports The Resident’s Chris Graeme.

Lisbon Mayor, Carmona Rodrigues, has joined forces with Canadian impresario, architect and property tycoon, Frank Gehry, to turn the derelict and abandoned site into Lisbon’s Covent Garden.

Medium-term plans include multi-purpose concert halls and theatres, which will stage shows, musicals, classy jazz and pop acts, in a development that will also include swanky cafés, restaurants, shops and gardens.

Until Expo 98, hosted by Portugal, the country suffered from a depressing lack of music venues. The traditional place in Europe’s most southerly capital had been the Victorian Coliseum of Recreation (with a capacity for 10,000 people) and the Aula Magna Hall (with a capacity for 2,000 people) at Lisbon’s main university.

However, since Expo 98 all that has been changing. The Pavilhão Atlântico at Parque das Nações boasts some of the most advanced technical and acoustic facilities anywhere to be seen in Europe, and recently staged the MTV Awards.

Last year, the famous student venue Aula Magna, which has received new and upcoming foreign bands, was totally revamped and modernised with state-of-the-art facilities, sound and lighting equipment.

In April, billionaire Macanese property developer, Stanley Ho, inaugurated Lisbon’s first casino, which includes a new concert hall, aiming to attract big names such as its sister casino in Estoril, which has seen Diana Ross, Roberta Flack and Lionel Ritchie perform in recent years.

The latest entertainment space, launched last month, was Lisbon’s bullring at the city’s Campo Pequeno, which comfortably seats 10,000 spectators. The circular Arabesque amphitheatre, originally built in 1898, has been completely modernised and revamped at a cost of 50 million euros and will not only be used for bullfights but also concerts, TV shows, musicals and theatre plays.

Lisbon councillor, José Amaral Lopes, said that the aim was to transform Lisbon into a metropolis that could cater for both national and international events on a scale that was already seen in other major European capitals.

Talking about Parque Mayer, he said: “The idea is to really put Lisbon on the map for summer festivals that are already held in countries like Italy, ones that will attract tourists to Lisbon and make it a place of reference for entertainment.”