BUENOS AIRES (Reuters Life!) - Argentina's famed Teatro Colon, one of the world's great opera houses, will reopen on Monday after a three-year restoration of the country's leading cultural gem.
The ornate, 2,700-seat Colon was built in 1908 and modeled after Milan's La Scala. World renowned for its natural acoustics, the theater is reopening its doors as Argentina holds bicentennial celebrations.
But the gala inauguration is being overshadowed by politics. President Cristina Fernandez is not expected to be in attendance when celebrations kick off later on Monday.
Fernandez announced she would stay away after a recent dispute with a leading opposition figure, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, who publicly criticized her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.
The two men are expected to be among the top candidates in presidential elections slated for next year.
The restoration effort has focused on returning the Colon -- home to a treasure of French stained glass and Italian pink marble stairwells -- to its glory days.
The theater, which hosts opera and ballet performances, first opened when Argentina was among the world's 10 wealthiest nations during the early 1900s. Since then, the country has struggled to recover from repeated economic crises.
The Colon's makeover included restoring the theater's exterior, some of its original floors and chandeliers and the installation of natural air-conditioning system among other changes.
Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Patricia Reaney