San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Amphitheater Notches Up Music in Monteverde

COSTA Rica’s musical stars arestalling their tours of the smog and glamourof Costa Rica’s premier concert venuesfor a backwoods respite in Monteverde, inthe north-central region of the country. Theconstruction of the Monteverde Amphitheaterat Las Bromelias has anchored thisNorthern Zone town to the band circuit.Not that it would have taken so much. Inthis hill country, booted legions of biologystudents, researchers and touring wildlifeaficionados have long laid claims. But artgalleries and music festivals also have achapter in Monteverde’s history book, rightafter the one on pines and poison dart frogs.The new amphitheater, coupled withnostalgia for music festivals past, hasdrawn capacity crowds from among thesampler platter of residents and visitors –people such as the Quakers who dodgedthe U.S. draft in the early 1950s, backpackers,entrepreneurs, hippies, Englishteachers, jungle guides, the gamut ofartists, birdwatchers, zip-liners, cheesemakers, hoteliers, novelists, naturalists,pacifists, host families, clod-footed salsastudents, their hip-shaking teachers,masseuses and college grads dodging thereal world.Not to mention the entourage of CostaRica’s elite musicians and dancers. OwnerPatricia Maynard inaugurated the stagewith an invitation to the internationallyacclaimed instrumental trio Editus, whichplayed a tireless full week of nightly concertsto sell-out crowds.ARCHITECT Georges Yazbeckdesigned the amphitheater that looks like aflower cocooning the stage – like a cementbulge – elegant and colored ruddy orange,with concrete petals clinging at the edgesand the whole configuration swooping to apoint high above the stage.From inside, the stage is notched into apointed arch and surrounded by flutedwalls that might lend the theater whateveracoustic powers it has.The terraced seats can accommodate200 people and are bared to the imminentforest, the trees quaking in the seasonalstiff winds just feet from the spectators.They are protected under five steeplypitched, steel-framed arches stretchedbetween with vinyl sheets like crackedhang gliders. Before the sun sets on theearly evening concerts, you can see thetrees and crinkled hills around the theaterthrough the wide gap between the roof andthe dome above the stage.Maynard said she’s “dreamed of buildingan amphitheater for several years now,”frustrated as she was with the lack of anadequate facility for concerts in the area.The seats are cement and hard – visitorsrecognize the regulars by the blanketsand cushions they bring for the show.“THIS place has always supported thearts,” Kay Chornook, one of the eventorganizers, said. “The Quaker settlers held monthly familynights where families would alternatelytake turns entertaining each other,” sheadded. A tradition of public performancehas extended from those sunny early years.It’s enhanced now with soaringacoustics, amplification, and beer, wineand specialty coffees within arm’s reach.As if trying to match the crowd’s variety-pack style, the list of headliners hasbeen just as eclectic, including the moderndance group, Diquis Tiquis; the saxophonequartet with a drummer, Sonsax;Caribbean crooner Luis Ángel Castro; andCeltic-music group Peregrino Gris, andothers are yet to come.THE third performing group and secondmusical act to follow Editus, Sonsax(269-8309, 385-9104, a jazzy, danceable set of mambo,salsa, funk and Latin jazz-tinged tunes,with a little bit of hooing and bluesy throatclearing, to a robust crowd of about 50,which filled most of the seating tiers andleft shake room for dancers.After the show, they agreed the soundfar surpassed anything they had played inthe area before.Maynard’s towheaded teenage sonMark mans the lights in a sound boothperched on the back row with a bird’s-eyeview of the theater. His work doesn’t gounnoticed; one jazz fan commented thatthis is one stage where the performers’faces aren’t hidden in the shadow of anamateurish light tech.This is the latest of Maynard’s musicalventures. The former cellist for theNational Youth Symphony Orchestradirected the Monteverde Music Festivaland other events, produced the album“Symbiosis: Piano and Rainforest” byinternationally acclaimed pianist ManuelObregón, and is nearing completion of“Nativa” with Carlos “Tapado” Vargas,drummer for Editus and the nationalsuperstar band Malpaís, and AlexVillegas.The theater is butted against the LasBromelias boutique of music, clothing andnatural soaps and oils, featuring some ofCosta Rica’s and Central America’s greatestand hardest-to-find recordings. Belowthe boutique, and perhaps more importantto concertgoers, the Moon Shiva restaurantserves Mediterranean and Mexican feastsand drinks, and offers discounts with ticketstubs (645-6270).Tickets cost ¢2,500 ($5.50) for CostaRicans and residents, and $15 for visitors.For information, call 645-6272 or 645-6093, or e-mail

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