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SJOG Travelers

Buenos Aires’ magnificently refurbished Teatro Colón will welcome you this Spring.
By Mort Levine

The rich and varied cultural life which Argentina’s vibrant capital city enjoys has been missing its crown jewel for the past four years but that will be remedied this Spring when Teatro Colón (Columbus Theater) returns to host a full schedule of opera, ballet and symphonic concerts. And the celebrations are expected to be unrestrained. The May 26, 2010 grand gala also marks the 200th anniversary of the country’s May Revolution which ousted its Spanish colonial rulers.

Teatro Colón has 2,487 seats and room for 1,000 standees. It is second only to Sydney’s famed opera house as the largest in the southern hemisphere. Its accoustics are acclaimed as among the finest among the world’s opera venues. Its scarlet and gold decor is enhanced by many sculptures, paintings and an astonishing fresco in a cupola above the hall.

The Teatro has hosted all the world’s leading lights of opera over the years from Caruso, Callas to Toscanini and Anna Pavlova. But Argentina also produces many talented opera performers, conductors, composers and musicians. Much of that is due to the training obtained at Teatro Colón. One alumnus of the house is San Jose’s opera director Daniel Helfgot who staged dozens of operas here and in other parts of this country. When we mentioned to him our visit to the famed opera house, he glowed with pride about his identification with it and how much it meant to him.

Our trip to Buenos Aires this past fall did give us a sampler of the musical life of this most European of South American cities. Our concert going ranged from a standing room only Mozart Requiem with a huge number of outstanding voices to a contemporary chamber concert of 20th century Steve Reich percussion pieces.

Travelers heading to South America this year will find all that richness plus the full schedules of operas at this amazing house. They open with La Boheme in May and June, Don Giovanni in July, Manon in August, Katya Kabanova in September, a double bill of Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and Korngold’s Violanta in October. The year winds up with Falstaff in late November and early December. There are from four to six performances of each. Operas are alternated with ballet presentations.

There are two other local opera companies which perform at the venerable Teatro Avenida. The Buenos Aires Lirica opera company gets underway on April 9 with Fidelio by Beethoven. It will follow with five performances of Madama Butterfly in May and June; Belisario by Donizetti in July and Serse by Handel in September. It also concludes its year with a Falstaff presented just a few days before the Teatro Colón’s similar offering in November, not an unknown contretemps in the opera world.

The Avenida’s second company is Juventus Lirica which offers younger singers a chance to perfect their art. Through the year they will offer Norma, Manon Lescaut, Cosi fan Tutte and La Cenerentola.

Buenos Aires is a remarkable climax of a trip to the many wonders of South America. Our preceding junket to Chile and Patagonia’s astonishing landscape and wildlife proved a delightful contrast to the urban delights such as museums, architectural gems, fine restaurants and historic sites that shape Argentina’s major city.

(SJOG Newsletter February, 2010)

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