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Thread: The vitality of opera in the Brazilian jungle: Teatro Amazonas

          
   
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  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The vitality of opera in the Brazilian jungle: Teatro Amazonas

    My son got back today from his internship in the Amazon Forest (he is majoring in Urban and Global Development and was there with the United Nations, working with refugees from Haiti and Colombia). So, knowing his father's love for opera, he brought me as a gift a coffee table book about this amazing theater in the middle of the Amazon jungle, called Teatro Amazonas, in the city of Manaus. The book celebrates the 15 years of their opera festival, since 1997. I can't believe the depth and breadth of their productions. We keep talking about the vitality and survival of opera; how to engage younger audiences and so forth; and then in this remote location they have a festival with this amazing diversity of opera; my jaw dropped!

    For your appreciation, I'll list their repertory in these 15 years; you'll be as surprised as I was. It starts slow... but with some big surprises along the way. I'll place the letter M to signal the occasions when the staging was modern and visually striking, and the letter T for a traditionalist staging.

    Opera

    1997
    La Traviata - Giuseppe Verdi - T
    Carmen - George Bizet - T

    1998
    Tosca - Giacomo Puccini - T
    The Merry Widow - Franz Lehár - T
    Alma - Claudio Santoro - M

    1999
    Madama Butterfly - Giacomo Puccini - T
    L'Elisir D'Amore - Gaetano Donizetti - T

    2000
    Il Guarany - Carlos Gomes - T
    La Voix Humaine - Francis Poulenc - M
    Le Nozze di Figaro - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - M

    2001
    La Bohème - Giacomo Puccini - M
    Die Dreigroschenoper - Kurt Weill - M
    Manon - Jules Massenet - T
    Die Zauberflöte - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - M

    2002
    Die Walküre - Richard Wagner - M
    Don Giovanni - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - M
    Condor - Carlos Gomes - M

    2003
    Siegfried - Richard Wagner - M
    La Cenerentola - Gioacchino Rossini - T
    Pagliacci - Ruggero Leoncavallo - M

    2004
    Götterdämmerung - Richard Wagner - M
    Die Zauberflöte - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (different production from 2002) - T
    Norma - Vincenzo Bellini - M

    2005
    Das Rheingold - Richard Wagner - M
    Die Walküre - Richard Wagner - M
    Siegfried - Richard Wagner - M
    Gotterdämerung - Richard Wagner - M
    (Two complete runs of the four operas in two consecutive weeks)
    Il Barbiere di Siviglia - Gioacchino Rossini - T

    2006
    Otello - Giuseppe Verdi - T
    Otello - Gioacchino Rossini - M
    Gianni Schicchi - Giacomo Puccini - T
    Fosca - Carlos Gomes - T
    La Gioconda - Amilcare Ponchielli - T

    2007
    Der Fliegende Holländer - Richard Wagner - M
    Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District - Dmitri Shostakovich - M
    Poranduba - Edmundo Villani-Côrtes - M

    2008
    Ça Ira - Roger Waters - M
    Ariadne auf Naxos - Richard Strauss - M
    Hänsel und Gretel - Engelbert Humperdinck - M
    Maria Golovin - Gian Carlo Menotti - M
    Turandot - Giacomo Puccini - T

    2009
    Samson et Dalila - Camille Saint-Saëns - M
    Carmen - George Bizet - T
    Les Troyens - Hector Berlioz - M

    2010
    Yerma - Heitor Villa-Lobos - M
    Guerras de Alecrim e Manjerona - Antonio Teixeira - T
    Roméo et Juliette - Charles Gounod - M
    Lo Schiavo - Antonio Carlos Gomes - T

    2011
    Suor Angelica - Giacomo Puccini - T
    Dialogue des Carmélites - Francis Poulenc - T
    Tristan und Isolde - Richard Wagner - M

    ------

    Musicals

    Boi de Pano - F. Cardoso, P. Marinho & D. Almeida - 2001 - T
    Magdalena - Heitor Villa-Lobos - 2003 - T
    Pierrot Lunaire - Arnold Schönberg - 2004 - M
    A Lenda do Guaraná - Grupo Guaranaués & Comunidade Mauesense - 2004 - T

    And several concerts, including Verdi's Requiem

    -------

    I don't know what they had for 2012 since the book was published in 2011.
    But I mean, it's amazing! I respect any opera company that stages the entire Ring and Les Troyens, and they also went beyond the standard repertory, presented contemporary opera, and opera by Brazilian composers. Rather courageous programming, in the middle of the jungle! Some of the production pictures are amazing, with visually striking settings. Bravo, Teatro Amazonas! Not to forget that their opera house is beautiful:









    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 1st, 2012 at 04:01 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I found out what they had in 2012:

    In the main theater,

    Lulu
    Tosca
    I Puritani
    Die Zauberflöte

    In two neighboring villages
    Carmen
    La Bohème

    Also got their website (in Portuguese): http://www.amazonasfestivalopera.com/index.php
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 1st, 2012 at 04:05 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #3
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    They staged more Bellini than Verdi so far. EXTRAORDINARY CASE.

    Edit, my mistake, only as much Bellini (and Rossini) as Verdi.

  5. #4
    Schigolch
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    This Opera House was created by the rubber barons at the end of the 19th century, and tried to attract the best singers of the world, by paying them generous fees to travel so far, into the heart of the Amazonian rainforest.

    During some time, even operas as famous as La Bohème were given their Brazilian premiere in Manaus. But soon it was no longer sustainable.

    There is a movie inspired by this, Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo:



    The Amazonas Opera Festival is indeed a brilliant initiative.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Yes, I saw Fitzcarraldo, great movie.
    I looked up more info on the theater - it was inaugurated on December 31, 1896. 701 seats. Material for its construction came from Alsace, France. The stage is 10.5m W x 6.4m H x 11.97m D.

    They have also presented outdoors opera in the plaza in front of the theater and in other locations in the city. The pictures are nice, showing the simple men and women from this remote and poor Brazilian state, mesmerized by the spectacle of live opera. I had goosebumps browsing the book; it's very touching.

    It's good to see that economic crisis or not, decline in audiences or not, opera is such a vital force and so important as an art form capable of addressing the core of what it means to be human, that it survives in full force in the middle of the South American rain forest.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #6
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    That is a deliciously gaudy roof.
    And I must say I'm very impressed! Staging an entire Ring and Les Troyens isn't easy for any house.

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  9. #7
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Yep, the roof recovers the colors of the Brazilian national flag, and adds a nice tropical touch to the building, as a wink to the local culture. This is an incredible venue, you should see the production pictures for the Ring and Les Troyens, they look amazing. I'd love to visit one day. Their festival is held annually in April and May, and not only shows the runs of the operas they pick for the festival, but also a number of symphonic concerts, musicals, street theater, other cultural events, and so forth. The book quotes the names of the principals who direct the house; I'll try and contact them, to see if they'd like to place announcements on Opera Lively and share with us their experience of staging opera in a tropical jungle. This is something that deserves to be better known, outside of their country. We should interview the company's director.

    I like their ideas - they staged Verdi's Otello, *and* side by side Rossini's Otello. They paired Dialogue des Carmélites with Suor Angelica. Clever!
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 1st, 2012 at 12:31 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The more I read about this initiative, the more impressed I am. They started in 1997 by renting settings from elsewhere, bringing in foreign singers and stage directors, and even a full orchestra from the Minsk opera house. Then they realized that if they wanted to survive indefinitely, they needed to develop local talent and expertise. So they started their own orchestra, their chorus and ballet corps, got two youth orchestras below it, opened a free and public school for the arts with degrees in music, voice, ballet, opera production, etc., which has by now reached 45,000 local students counting enrolees, alumni, and outreach programs in the local communities. This allowed them to open a production center for costumes, scenery, etc. Now they are fully independent and able to stage an opera like Les Troyens with entirely locally made scenery, props, and with their own orchestra, chorus, and dancers. It's remarkable, and reminds me of similar initiatives in Venezuela (in the book we see pictures of young local kids, all ethnically diverse, playing violin in the youth orchestra, etc.). They were able to stage the complete Ring with a budget of 1.5 million US dollars for the entire festival that year (meaning, not only for the four Ring operas, but also the other opera they staged that year (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), plus all the outdoors concerts, lectures, stage plays, dance spectacles...

    I mean, it's incredible, they commissioned a world premiere - Poranduba by Villani-Côrtes, and presented such avant-garde material as Roger Waters' Ça Ira. Also, they seem to have quite audacious productions (some nudity, some really striking visuals). And in the fashion of the vibrant Brazilian culture, they presented thematic Carnival parades with the topic of opera, including in Rio's famous parade.

    They also take opera and symphonic concerts to the surrounding villages and perform it live on plazas, either in concert version or fully staged. Some of these outdoors opera performances have gathered 20,000 people in the audience. They allow visitors to attend for free all stages of the production, from seeing the work of the technicians in their Production Center, to open rehearsals. They also hold workshops (also free for anybody interested) during the festival, with topics like Opera Production, Lyric Singing, Operatic Stage Directing, etc.

    So, while we the so-called developed countries struggle to keep opera relevant and we see budget cuts everywhere, emerging nations like China and Brazil are fully embracing it and developing local talent and local resources. This bodes well for the survival and vitality of the art form in the 21st century.

    I couldn't be more admirative of this opera company. I got the names of the general director and the artistic director/principal conductor (respectively Robério Braga and Luiz Fernando Malheiro), and will try to contact them for interviews.

    Festat, would you be willing to interview them?
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 1st, 2012 at 04:10 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Good news: Maestro Luiz Fernando Malheiro, the artistic director and principal conductor of the festival, has agreed with an interview with Opera Lively, coming soon. This should be interesting.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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