Cine-Teatro Curvo Semedo and Raul Lino
Few local people of Montemor know that the beautiful building that houses the town’s cinema and theatre was planned by one of the most important Portuguese architects of the 20th century, Raul Lino. Therefore, I am going to tell you the history of our theatre and also of the great artist who conceived it.
Before the Cine-Theatre Curvo Semedo there had already been at least two show houses in this small town. Apart from the already mentioned house belonging to the old convent known as Convento de São João de Deus, where there was for a short time an improvised theatre, the construction of a new theatre began in 1874. The Teatro Montemorense used to stand in Rua Nova, located where one can find today the house of the magistrates known as Casa dos Magistrados and Electricidade de Portugal. The initiative was taken thanks to a company formed by a group of citizens such as Álvaro de Carvalho, João Alves Pereira, Francisco da Costa Campos and José Pereira da Rosa, among others. The theatre opened to the public in September 1882 with a show in which the great actor Taborda took part. In the following decades, according to what was registered at the time, “the most glorious performers” stepped on its stage, as well as “many talented amateurs interpreting, with no dishonour, the most notable Classical plays”.
On the night of the 22nd of May 1922, the theatre was destroyed by a fire. As a result, three years later, a large group met in the school known as Escola Conde Ferreira and decided on the construction of a new show house for the town. It would be named after the poet born in Montemor, Belchior Curvo Semedo. A building company was created for this new venture and the Municipal Council was its main shareholder. The architect chosen for this project was Raul Lino “who was back from a long trip abroad and was anxious to build in our country structures that would stand proud in comparison to those he had admired on foreign lands”.
On the 22nd of October 1925, the first stone was set in a plot of land sold by the Municipal Council. There were 385 shareholders, some of which were builders who would pay with their work the value of the shares.
The building work went on until March 1927 and from then on stopped, probably due to economic reasons, but only the foundations were laid and some of the walls built.
Before the national celebration of 1940 – commemorating the centenary of the Independence and the Restoration – there was a new movement to finish the building of the theatre, with the support of the Municipal Council. A request for sponsorship was presented to the Minister for Public Works, who was at that time Duarte Pacheco. One of the reasons given for restarting this project was to minimize the unemployment crisis. But the Minister issued an unfavourable opinion, arguing that the Municipal Council should “only undertake such a major project with that purpose once it has taken care of the public improvements needed to improve the lives of the local population”.
It was only from 1956 onwards, with the issue of sponsorship by the government, that the work started once again, according to the initial project. The responsibility of directing and orienting technically the conclusion of the theatre was given to Architect Raul Lino, then 77 years old, and to Engineer José Ribeiro de Carvalho e Silva. In 1959, when the work was practically concluded, Raul Lino took on the total supervision, due to the arrest for political reasons of Eng. Carvalho e Silva.
Finally, on the 17th of January 1960, the Cine-Theatre opened to the public. To celebrate this event, shows were put on for three nights running. According to the programme, the theatre company of Amélia Rey Colaço put on the play “O Processo de Jesus”, by Diego Fabbri. On the 18th, the comedy “O Baile”, by Edgar Neville, was put on by the theatre company of Teatro Monumental, from Lisbon. On the last night, the movie “O Grande Industrial” was shown and there was a session of variety acts and folklore.
Shortly after its opening, the Cine-Theatre was handed over to a private company to manage.
Regarding Raul Lino and his work in Montemor, there is still more to say. The house known as the magistrates’ house - Casa dos Magistrados - on the street named Rua Nova, situated where the old theatre of Montemor (Teatro Montemorense) once stood, was also planned by this architect who, in November 1926, the Municipal Council decided to invite to work on this project.
In May 1927, it was decided that a tender would be launched for “the construction of a bandstand in the town’s central square, according to a plan by Mr. Raul Lino”.
Published in the newspaper
Folha de Montemor in August 2002.