Saturday, 24 December 2016

Teatro y Tango

When civilisation as we know it, ends, there will still be music -  there will still be tango.

Teatro Colon is Buenos Aires' premier theatre. Using the search facility at the side of my blog, readers will be able to see what I have written about this wonderful building, and my previous visit.

Michael informs us that he will procure tickets for a 'rehearsal performance' at the theatre. Each Wednesday, the theatre is opened for Portenos to attend the 11 am final rehearsal of the week's programme for which tickets are free if collected the day before.

We set off on collective 59 for Teatro Colon, disembarking at Obelisco Norte in the city centre. With the recently introduced Metrobus, travelling uninterrupted along the centre of 9 de Julio, the journey is quick, efficient, and economic at a 6.5 peso fare.

Our early arrival affords us the opportunity to savour the atmosphere and architecture of the auditorium - horseshoe shaped, its huge splendor with circle balconies above cascading in tiers, every section dressed with rich brocade curtains held back on brass arms. At each level clusters of Art Deco lamps - 7+4 at the first level, 5+3 at the next, and so on to 'the Gods'. Above us, illuminated by countless lights, the famous 318  square meter dome decorated by Raul Soldi, on which a choir can be seated as if to sing from heaven. 

But today is an orchestra rehearsal, hence the free invitation, so no heavenly choir. The musicians are dressed in day clothes, some wearing jeans and tee shirts, others in bright summer dresses. They start to tune up and the sound amplifies. French horns find their pitch, the flautists practice their arpeggios, the second cello wriggles his toes in his sandals. 

The leader arrives promptly at 11 am and the orchestra instantly subdues. It is as if  'teacher' has entered the room. There is silence whilst he secures unity of pitch, without oscillation to disturb perfection. And now the conductor arrives. He too is dressed casually in polo shirt and chinos. He glances briefly at the audience filling the auditorium.

We start with Webers "Oberon". This is a play-through piece, uninterrupted by the conductor, but it concludes with his directions, in which various sections and phrases are re-defined to his style. Even to my non-professional ear, the alterations bring a significant change of mood and emphasis, a new palate of musical colour.

The orchestra reconfigures with part of the brass section leaving. A short, inconspicuous man wanders onto the stage and chats briefly to the orchestra leader before walking over the conductor for a hug. He holds an instrument, similar to that of the first violins, but with an ageing patina that sets it apart. He glances across at a double bass player and smiles in recognition. And the performance of Tchaikovski's Violin Concerto in D commences.

The morning rehearsal has an informality about it; and yet an energy, helped by the fact that the audience are here because of a love of music rather than a social grace. The soloist starts his cadenza which winds, turns and tumbles, capturing everything that is Russian, Argentine and Classic. The violas smile, the first violins gape at his virtuosity. This is a brief but significant gift to both orchestra and audience.

Later we sit together at De Querusa milonga. The early dancers are giving way to the experienced tangueros. Beautiful - sensationally beautiful women, and handsome men dress the floor. The Pugilese tanda draws a new expression.

Amongst the dancers one couple stand out. He is tall and leads strongly with fluidity. She dances exquisitely from the hip, her feet precise and expressive. They are perfectly connected.

Stephanie and I glance at each other. Without words we realise that this is a replay of the concerto and cadenza. He - the soloist - she the priceless instrument. Other dancers, like the orchestra, fade from view.  Here a sacada, now a colgada - virtuosity in dance.

Approaching midnight, we leave De Querusa. Outside the rain falls in torrents, the gutters filled like streams, lights reflecting from huge raindrops as cars splash along the street. Tonight it is 'no' to the colectivo and 'yes' to the taxi. We clamber aboard and tear through a drenching city back to the safety and protection of Casa Luna.