The politics of culture. The Fitzcaraldo carried through the Amazon. The Opera House built from many colours of wood showing amazing craft skills and beautiful decorative features – for who? This city has history and the sense of inequality that a building like this symbolises is interesting to think about as we are taken round by a guide who speaks a little English and is helped by Agatha, a woman from San Paulo who comes round with us.
The décor gets simpler as we ascend to ‘paradise’ or as we call it n the UK, the ‘gods’. The ceilings lower and the chairs harder.
It was built in 1869, I guess at the height of the rubber boom. What Operas were heard here? How culture is forced into new surroundings.
Vinicius at lunch talks about wanting to go back to his music school and teach them Samba and Bossa and question the continual focus on Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. What relevance have those composers to a man in Belem?
The theatre is beautiful even though……
As we walk back downtown to the river we pass the hammock store where we bought gifts 20 months ago from a lovely shopkeeper. He recognises us and calls us in for a brief chat. I wonder how many more times in our lives we will visit here and whether we will buy hammocks from him again? The market streets are very full and noisy but we don’t feel any danger. We talk intensely as we walk, through shoe shops, herb stores and a lovely restored market until we reach the river where we stop for a beer. Friday night and the place is busy with pedlars selling the usual mix of oysters, watches, chewing gum, cheap toys, barbequed meat and jewelery. Yet again after a little while we catch eyes with a man who invites us to join him for a drink. We spend some time with him and his ‘papa’.
Toca a Toninhos
Our last night in Belem is in the bar with Vinicius and friends. The music moves from bossa classics to Ella Fitzgerald and Beatles songs and I play trumpet with the band!
It is fun and we feel very much part of the place. Toninhos says as we leave that the place is never as full as when we are here. I am sure that isn’t true !