Seguindo os Passos da Chiquinha Gonzaga/ On the Chinquinha Gonzaga Trail! (Portuguese with English Translation)

Quando cheguei no Rio de Janeiro no dia 11 de agosto de 2013, depois de uma semana no antigo Ouro Preto, sinceramente, tinha esquecido do meu propósito original da viagem—para pesquisar mais sobre Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga e explorar as partes da cidade que ela conhecia durante sua longa vida. Porém, o meu professor de escrita, o Paulo, me lembrou direitinho da minha motivação de etnografia musical.

Recém-chegada em sua casa, estava conversando com ele e sua vizinha, Cecilia.  Falamos sobre a vida e a música de Chiquinha. Curiosamente, Cecilia era atriz de teatro e trabalhava na SBAT, Sociedade Brasileira de Autores Teatrais, organização fundada por Chiquinha Gonzaga. Além de convidar-nos para visitar a SBAT no dia seguinte, Cecilia ligou para sua amiga Edinha Diniz. Ela é a mais recente biógrafa de Chiquinha Gonzaga.  Cecilia e ela tinham ido ao teatro juntas esse mesmo dia! Eu li dois dos seus livros e me senti honrada de ter a oportunidade de falar com ela.

Durante a semana, segui um roteiro que me levaria para o que restava do Rio de Janeiro que Chiquinha conheceu e para lugares modernos que mantêm ou divulgam sua obra. A apropriada culminação deste “passeio” pelo tempo e espaço foi assistir à ótima apresentação de “Forrobodó” no 17 de agosto de 2013. Apreciar a peça teatral mais famosa e bem sucedida da maestrina foi a maneira perfeita de vivenciar e encarnar o espírito de Chiquinha – através da sonoridade da sua composição musical e o humor da revista no palco. Nesta moderna versão de Forrobodó, representavam-se fiel o carioca contemporâneo e o seu antepassado do Rio do Belle Époque.

A continuação — fotos do roteiro! 

English Translation: 

When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2013, after a week in old Ouro Preto, I had actually forgotten my original purpose for the trip–to research about Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga, and explore the parts of the city that she would have known during her long life. However, my writing teacher, Paulo, immediately reminded me about my ethnomusicologist motivation.

Soon after getting to his home, I was speaking with him and his neighbor, Cecilia. We spoke about Chiquinha’s life and music. Curiously, Cecilia is a stage actress and works at SBAT, the Brazilian Society for Theatrical Authors, which was founded by Chiquinha Gonzaga. In addition to inviting us to visit SBAT the next day, Cecilia telephoned her friend Edinha Diniz, the most recent biographer of Chiquinha. She and Cecilia had just gone to the theatre together that very day! I had read two of Diniz’s books and I felt honored to have the opportunity to converse with her.

During the week, I followed an itinerary that showed me what was left of the Rio de Janeiro that Chiquinha would have been familiar with, and also modern sites that maintain or divulge her work. The culmination of this excursion through time and space was to attend the excellent performance of FORROBODÓ on August 17, 2013 FORROBODÓ is Chiquinha’s most famous and most successful musical. . It was the perfect way to live and incarnate her spirit — by way of the sonority of her musical composition, and the comedy happening on stage in the musical review. In this modern version of FORROBODÓ, the contemporary “carioca” (Rio dweller) and the his/her ancestors from the Belle Epoque were well interpreted.

Forthcoming: photos of the Chiquinha trail! 

The Art of Conversation: Making History Come to Life in Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Minas Gerais, Brazil.  In the last two decades, according to locals, the monuments in the city have been better taken care of. Residents cannot change the exteriors of the buildings. Since my last visit there is much more commercial business–more stores, banks and more TRAFFIC.  One Ouro Preto resident declares that a plan is needed to ha(ndle the number of vehicles on busy Rua Direita (formerly known as Rua do Conde de Bobadela).  One can spend days exploring the many decorative churches, original art by crippled sculptor, Aleijadinho, eating in local restaurants and learning in unique museums.

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Conversing with Ouro Preto residents is a fundamental part of the cultural experience. Unlike my current city of Philadelphia, there are no professional storytellers or costumed historical interpreters wandering the streets, eagerly waiting to ´enhance the visitor experience.´ (Part of Historic Philadelphia, Inc.´s mission statement). So before heading out I wrote out a list of questions in Portuguese that I would ask locals in order to enhance my own experience!

The houses, churches–all of the buildings, the cobbled streets, the stone slabbed sidewalks–are all examples of great art and architecture.  Some of them are unique to the region (such as the Portuguese blue tiles in the Church of our Lady of Carmo) and historical testimonies. They nd the people tell the story of this early mining town, once known as Vila Rica–Rich Village.  An actual conversation with the residents here is an inspiring manifestation of love and pride for their city and its treasures.  Visiting Ouro Preto is to experience its history, the living art of centuries, by way of its architecture, its people and its stories:

–Ouro Preto is where many historical events happened in Brazil.  It influenced the entire country and the world.  The Industrial Revolution in England could not have occurred without Ouro Preto.

–I love living here.

–Yes, people still make oratories (portable altars with a saint inside). These are still special but often now they are much smaller.

— The most important person from Ouro Preto, in my opinion, is Tomas Antonio Gonzaga because…

— This is the oldest opera house still used for shows in South America. I wanted to be a musician myself. (Shows us a photo of himself at the piano in the empty opera house). I studied for 4 years at the university but then changed my major since it is hard to make a living as a musician.

GHOST OR DRUNK?

My first night on this trip to Ouro Preto, I fell into bed after 24 hours straight of traveling from the USA–Philly, Miami, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto–then a walk around the city and tea at the Pousada across the street. I awoke with a start due to the loud ramblings  of a drunken man in the street–or so I thought. His words were as if amplified but they were unintelligible.  They made no sense in Portuguese or in any language that I was familiar with.  His verbal performance was repeated at least 10 times with an interval between each.  How long was this monologue going to continue? First verse was the incomprehensible yelling, the second was a short pause–then he would howl! This squeal did not sound human at all! Bizarre. What was it?  Following a few moments of silence, he would start again. The howl was animal like at best, at worst OTHERWORLDLY. I don´t know for sure if he finally stopped or if I´d fallen back asleep.  While awake, I wondered why the military police didn´t come get him off the street.Why didn´t anybody say anything to stop him in his tracks? Why didn´t anybody complain? Was this for real?

The next morning I awoke and had an epiphany! Perhaps it was not a drunk after all but a a ghost! Ouro Preto is 4 centuries old and there must be some haunted places and spirits with unfinished business roaming about.  Surely there are many ghost stories in its oral tradition.  I decided to ask at the hotel reception after breakfast.

— Yesterday I heard some weird noises. At first I thought it was a drunk but then I wondered. (I described the sounds). I don know quite how to ask this in Portuguese, but is this place haunted? Do you think that was Curupira ou Saci, or an Ouro Preto ghost?? (The manager and bellhop burst out laughing! )

–Here there are no ghosts, Miss. Don´t worry…Just drunks!!