¨POUR ELISE¨: Opera ‘light’

A man walks out and sits down. He begins to riff on an acordion. Other musicians come on stage with their instruments– a bass, a violin. The percussionist sits down at the drums. A white digital piano–a miniature baby grand, stands downstage in the corner. What next?

Having only seen one Brazilian musical before (a revival of Chiquinha Gonzaga’s FORROBODÓ last year in Rio de Janeiro), I really did not know what to expect from POUR ELISE–other than some kind of rendition of Beethoven’s masterpiece, FÜR ELISE, some time during the play. FÜR ELISE is a favorite piece given to any young pianist, and is easily recognized by most classical trained musicians. For sure it evokes romance and longing and all of the drama that we think of when we think of Beethoven.

Cláudio Goldman, the composer of this musical, weaves the musical leitmotiv, based on Beethoven’s piece, into a tightly knit narrative based on his grandparents’ lives.  Elise is a singer and Sbig a pianist. They meet in Poland before World War 2 and later in Brazil, where they are united. Elise is Sbig’s true love. Throughout the musical, we hear some of opera’s top hits.  They are performed either with the original lyrics in Italian, or with Portuguese adaptations which fit the storyline.

Although the opera excerpts do work in this story, it is funny to experience them because they invoke the originals, and the contrasts with Sbig and Elise are not quite what those composers had in mind. For example, the Duke in RIGOLETTO, who sings ‘La donna é mobile¨is a carefree playboy who loves seducing women.  The Don Giovanni of ¨La ci darem la mano¨ in DON GIOVANNI, shamelessly brags about being the worse cad in opera who has ravished hundreds of innocent damsels across Spain. Zerlina, with whom he sings the duet, is a naive country girl he is bent on having. Considering that Sbig is never portrayed as a ladies man,  it is ironic (and almost ridiculous) that he invokes these characters. In addition, ¨La donna é mobile¨ is used when Elise dumps him and returns to her husband. He is the victim in this case, not the woman. Elise is portrayed as a worldly woman and she is the one who is married and having an affair with Sbig. The ¨ Brindisi¨ (Libiamo) from La Traviata is also sung in POUR ELISE, as well as the enigmatic Gynomopedie by Satie, another ‘greatest hit’ of Western art music . Goldman adds Portuguese lyrics to this, which he sings quite poignantly.

The play is very tongue in cheek and you just cannot take it seriously. Elise is portrayed as an absolute caricature until the very end, when she is dying. All of a sudden she becomes a real person. This is an interesting dramatic choice. Is the rest of her performance/characterization, just a memory, therefore the stylization–is it her parting that is so precious and heartbreaking for Sbig, that the way Elise is presented must be transformed to drive the point home?

In addition to this musical montage, there are projections onto a screen, which serve as backdrop, set and character. Visions of war, as well as clips and/or references to films such as CASABLANCA, SCHINDLER’S LIST and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK are made.  If you know these movies and the operas, this musical is a lot of fun. The older Sbig, breaks the 4th wall and speaks to the audience as narrator, recounting his past. Cláudio Goldman plays the younger Sbig, and he shows remarkable versatility with the opera selections and the more popular music of the show.fur elise

If one is not that familiar with the music, POUR ELISE provides a ‘taste’ of opera without the grandiosity of a full orchestra, stratospheric high notes (all the soprano’s parts are transposed down), ears being pinned back by the sound (it is all artificially amplified) or 3-4 hours trying to understand a foreign language.

Kudos to Mr. Goldman and Flavio de Souza for blending the erudite and popular, and serving it up in one hour full of laughs, yet with reverence for the immigrant and Jewish experience.

See POUR ELISE: Um amor inesquecível at Teatro Folha at Shopping Higienópolis. http://patiohigienopolis.com.br/teatro/78-pour-elise

What’s in a Street Name? Brazilian Art Under My Feet

For months I climbed up the long winding hill every day to the apartment building. The trek up the steep slippery incline–Rua Timóteo da Costa in Alto Leblon, took from 10-20 minutes, depending on how tired I was. For sure I was in the best physical shape of my life because of that daily hike. Curiously, I never questioned or wondered who the street was named after. There were streets in Rio named after politicians, nobles, military heroes, and dates–like Rua 7 de setembro (Independence Day), Visconde de Pirajá (Viscount of Pirajá–Joaquim PIres de Carvalho e Albuquerque–aka Colonel Santinho–fought in the war for Independence)and Princesa Isabel (Princess Isabel–responsible for signing the Lei Aurea which freed enslaved Brazilians in 1888).
Yesterday, I discovered the origin of my old street name while in the Pinacoteca Museum in São Paulo, The museum displays a few works by the painter, Artur Timóteo da Costa, including a self-portrait:

Arthur_Timótheo_da_Costa_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project

This painter of African descent, lived a short life from 1882-1923. Born in Rio de Janeiro on October 5, he had an older brother, João, who was also an artist. Artur studied at the ¨Escola Nacional de Belas Artes’ and won a travel prize to study in Europe. He and his brother both worked on the Brazilian Pavillion for the Expo in 1911 in Turin, Italy.

Unfortunately this young artist died when he was only 40 years old. One can only imagine what masterpieces he might have created had he lived longer. Nevertheless, he left his mark on the Brazilian canvass and the Rio de Janeiro grid!

756px-Arthur_Timótheo_da_Costa,_páteo_com_fonte,_1913,_óleo_sobre_madeira,_33_x_40,8_cm,_Photo_Gedley_Belchior_Braga

For more information and gallery of his works:

http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artur_Tim%C3%B3teo_da_Costa
http://www.pitoresco.com/laudelino/arturtimoteo/artur.htm

Mundos diferentes: Museu de Arte de São Paulo

Em apenas uma tarde, e num local na Avenida Paulista de São Paulo, pode-se deslocar por várias épocas e diversos estilos. As exibições atuais de MASP levam o público do romântico de Paris do século 19, até a tristeza de sertão nordestino, passando por uma paisagem urbana brasileira que esconde segredos nos seus cantos, à delicadeza sagrada de Madonnas italianas. Este museu não é gigantesco, nem tem um exterior elegante, mas estas coleções são muito especiais.

Na arte de París encontram-se muitos artistas típicos, como Manet, Monet, Degas, Picasso, etc. Entre estes, há 6 quadros de Amedeo Modigliani. Embora eu tenho visitado museus importantes em várias cidades: Filadélfia, New York, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Florencia, e mais, e a primeira vez que eu vejo tantas obras de Modigliani. Os quadros incluídos são: 1. Renee, 1917, Lunia Czechowska, c. 1918, Madame G. Van Maydan (1916/17), Chakoska, 1917, Retrato de Diego Rivera, 1916, Retrato de Leopold Zborowski 1916/19. O estilo de Modigliani é de corpos magros e longos e bidimensionais.

A exibição de arte religiosa é um colírio para os olhos por causa do estilo realista enfocada na beleza humana. Numa tentativa de exaltar a mãe de Jesus e representar um ser divino nele, esses artistas destacam o mais positivo e atraente em termos de cores e desenho.

As exposições de arte brasileira, ¨Cidades invisíveis΅ e ¨Retirantes e cenas bíblicas de Cândido Portinari’ realmente são espetaculares e merecem ser vistas. ¨Cidades invisíveis¨ é um grupo de fotografias em branco e negro e em cores que mostra diferentes aspectos de cidades como o Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo e Porto Alegre. Porém, não são as paisagens estereotípicas e pintorescas dos cartões postais. São imagens que refletem a beleza inesperada de um momento ou espaço comum e quotidiano.

Uma foto de Gaspar Gasparian de 1943 (sem título em branco e negro) me deu pele arrepiada. Tão sublime era sua visão de uma rua qualquer de São Paulo, visto debaixo de um tunel ou ponte que marcava a cena. O poste de iluminação e o carro ficavam capturados numa luz gloriosa do instante.

Gaspar-Gasparian

Os quadros de Portinari incluem três da coleção ‘Retirantes,’ e alguns de ‘Cenas bíblicas’. As ¨Cenas bíblicas’ ilustram eventos da Biblia e a influência de Picasso é muito evidente. Como seu ‘Guernica’, os quadros têm figuras grandes e não são figuras realistas. As imagens são monocromáticas e bidimensionais. Mas, como as obras de Picasso, estão cheias de emoção e paixão, comunicando suas ideias claramente ao espectador.

Minhas favoritas são as três imagens de ¨Retirantes.¨ Estas são feitas em cores e três dimensões. O grupo mostrado inclui: Retirantes, Criança morta e Enterro na rede. Estes quadros são violentos, tristes e fortes. Aliás são obras maestras de técnica e os sentimentos das suas figuras são palpáveis. Representam bem o sofrimento do povo nordestino que vaga pelo sertão em busca de agua e amparo. A influência dos muralistas mexicanos, Orozco e Siqueiros, é visível, e Portinari tem muito sucesso em comunicar esta realidade brasileira.

retirantes

Em fim, a joia deste museu fica na Avenida Paulista, a espera de você! Junto com seu restaurante, oferece um giro por vários mundos artisticos em apenas uma tarde!