South America 2018

From Opera and Fine Arts to Tango

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series South America March 2018

Thursday 15 March 2018
We started the day with a tour of the seven-story Teatro Colon, a world-class center for opera, ballet, and classical music. The majestic Opera House hall seats 2500 and has standing room for 1000. The interior is absolutely beautiful, featuring mosaics, painted ceilings, incredible chandeliers, gilded panels, and plush furnishings. We were fortunate to hear a cellist rehearse for a Sunday concert, experiencing the wonderful acoustics considered to be equal to that of the top 5 Opera Houses in the world. At the National Fine Arts Museum, I was interested in seeing works depicting the settlers in Argentina, and in particular, rural life.

The day ended with an insight into the Tango, a way of life for many Argentinians. The dance originated in the brothels and tenements of late 19th century Buenos Aires when Spanish, Italian, African candombe and gaucho music melted together. This style became popularized by legendary performers like Carlos Gardel, and then gradually spread to the middle classes and elegant salons.

We opted for a 4-hour Tango show and dinner at the historic Astor Piazolla Theater, designed by Francisco Gianotti in the early 20th century, and named after the tango composer and musician, Astor Piazzolla. As an introduction, we were treated to a free lesson that demanded intense concentration and provided much mirth. I managed to try out a few steps with a German fellow before the floor got too crowded.

Then, we were led into the iconic Guemes Gallery with its intricate wall designs and bronze sculptures for a traditional dinner of Argentine empanadas, homemade ravioli, delicious desserts such as coconut pudding, and of course, Argentinian beef again, washed down by water and fine local wine.

We then enjoyed a spectacle of dance and music featuring works, amongst others, by Piazzolla, Pugliese, Gardel and Mores Discepolo while learning about the history and culture of tango in Buenos Aires. The dancers swept us along, alternating abundantly wild and seductively slow tango rhythms. The small orchestra consisted of a keyboard, percussion, two violins, accordion and double bass, very typical of this music.

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