Eddie Palmieri Brings Flavor to Majestic El Teatro Reopening

Eddie Palmieri told anecdotes between songs. (Photo by Jesús García via El Diario)

Salsa legend Eddie Palmieri brought music and rhythm to El Teatro, the name given to the new theater at El Museo del Barrio, which reopened after a thorough $5 million renovation.

Palmieri got guests to move their feet, and asked them to applaud those dancing in the hallways of the museum. He also made the crowd laugh when he told the story of the day where he admitted he was “crazy.”

“I was thinking about the philosopher Aristotle, who said that a musician, an artist, was an inspired madman. A newspaper in Puerto Rico published [a story that said] I was crazy: ‘Eddie Palmieri Declared Himself Crazy in Puerto Rico.” That caused my mother to call me: ‘Eduard, Eduard, why do you say those things? …You know the family knows it’s true, but you don’t have to tell the whole world,’” recounted Palmieri.

The New York-born musician of Puerto Rican descent praised the new theater, which seats almost 600 people. El Museo Director Patrick Charpenel said that it is the second largest theater inside a museum in the city.

“This is great news for Latinx arts in the city… You will soon learn about our programming, which includes works by artists from several disciplines,” said Charpenel about the facilities, which include a mechanic stage, a state-of-the-art digital film projection system, a new sound system and a dedicated orchestra pit for a live music accompanying dance or theater performances.

The event could not be complete without the presence of Latinx icon Lin-Manuel Miranda, who appeared on a video message speaking about the space’s significance in the preservation of Latin American artistic expression in New York.

Palmieri, for his part, made the crowd burst into applause when he introduced another song by saying: “In the days when slavery existed … they would bring African people… When they arrived, the mix of Spanish and African gave way to Mulattos… And, with their drums, Mulattos have made the world dance.”

The museum’s murals were restored in addition to the new technical updates, and flash photography is now forbidden. According to El Museo’s Artistic Director Carlos Galvez, the paintings depict scenes from classical fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Puss ‘n Boots. Galvez also introduced Palmieri and Miranda’s video message, and also pointed out that two castle-shaped lamps hanging from the ceiling on either side of the stage had been preserved.

The inauguration was led by El Museo President María Eugenia Maury, Manhattan Borough President Gale Arnot Brewer and Harlem representative Assemblyman Robert Rodríguez. Galvez joined them to cut the red ribbon before inviting the guests to a tour of the theater before the concert.

The museum’s renovations were made possible by an investment of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and coincide with El Museo’s 50th anniversary, said Maury during her speech.

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