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Campos Eliseos Theatre

Bilbao, Bizkaia

If there is a Basque City famous for trying to look like the Paris of the Belle Epoque, it would be San Sebastian. But do not think that Bilbao didn’t make its efforts. When the crazy twentieth century began, in the late afternoon, the locals used to walk in the new gardens called Champs Elysees, where you could even have a dance undercover, protected from the persistent northern rains.

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If there is a Basque City famous for trying to look like the Paris of the Belle Epoque, it would be San Sebastian. But do not think that Bilbao didn’t make its efforts. When the crazy twentieth century began, in the late afternoon, the locals used to walk in the new gardens called Champs Elysees, where you could even have a dance undercover, protected from the persistent northern rains.

We will not fall into the temptation to make a joke about those from Bilbao, but the fact is that, if in Paris they had the Champs Elysees, on the banks of the Nervión River they decided to go one further. So, in 1902, a theatre was opened on Bertendona Street, on the land that the gardens we already told you about were. The theatre was called Campos Elíseos.

The author of the project was Alfredo Acebal, an architect of the city, and for the façade of art nouveau, a French architect was the one in charge, Jean Batiste Darroquy. The result was a beautiful example of architecture between the old nineteenth-century eclecticism and the refreshing breath of the modernist avant-garde. The theatre did not respect the old moulds, and there was barely any of the new ones yet and like that, there was a unique and well-planted building to face the new century.

The Campos Elíseos had the opportunity to show its endurance when the cinema, something that was spreading around the world at full speed, began to close one theatre after another. But unfortunately, it was not made bombproof and in 1978 the terrorist band ETA bombed the building. It all happened right in the midst of a labour conflict that arose between the company and the theatre workers.

Work was done to repair the damage, and the building opened again in 1980, staying active until, eleven years later, the city council decided to buy it. From then until now there has been more works, some doubts about what use should they give to the theatre and a profound remodelling that, respecting the original structure, renewed the installations and the technical resources of the space.

But as it is now, with over a hundred and ten years on its back, the Campos Elíseos theatre continues to be what it was at the time of its inauguration: a place to perform arts and to keep them alive and kicking. You will not regret paying a visit to it.


Campos Eliseos Theatre

Calle de Bertendona, 3 (bis)
48008 Bilbao
(+34) 944 43 86 10

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