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Posts Tagged ‘travelogue’

Finding your way in Tokyo is not easy – addresses are hard to make out, you have to make a thorough research of the kanji in the area map before you venture out in the spot and asking around might be an adventure if you have microscopic knowledge of Japanese language such as I have. But I haven’t given up on finding my way here.

I have established some field-explorings. The first series naturally involves CD stores. As I am staying in Shibuya, I had the luck of having both HMV and especially Tower Records nearby. Those are the classical CD stores in Tokyo everybody outside Japan is supposed to know – but this project involves further investigation. In the pre-Internet days I used to buy via fax from Yamano Music, which I imagine to be somewhere in Ginza. But before I try my luck in Ginza, I have discovered Disk Union – Tokyo’s answer to Academy Records in New York. As almost everything in Tokyo, the Japanese version tends to be more sophisticated than the original. Again here – the classical music second-hand CD store has a very large collection of both CDs and LPs. I had the impression that they convert LPs to CDs – but I really had to speak real Japanese to confirm that. Their range of prices varies according to the item’s state – “like new” would be therefore a bit more expensive than “somewhat worn out” and so on. I confess I expected to find more rarities, but instead I did buy really low-priced “not-so-easy” titles.

As a matter of fact, on browsing around these three stores I’ve started to suspect that the days when Japanese catalogues had thousand of riches of unheard-of and long-deleted titles are over. There are still those “Böhm in Japan” treasures here, but the gap between Japan and Germany, for example, seems a bit narrower – what is good for the mankind, but a bit disappointing for me, who was waiting to show off some hidden treasures back in Brazil… :-)

In any case, my personal favour to visiting foreign classical CD-buyers in Tokyo is to explain the little map Disk Union offers in their website. When in Shinjuku station, look for the central east exit (look for the first kanji in the name of China, then there is a very similar two-legged one, then the first one in the name of Tokyo and then a square). Cross the street and go to your left until you are in a large avenue (Shinjukudori). Cross the street to the left sidewalk and go straight ahead. Look for the Kinokunya Bookstore, then it is the next building. You have to go to the building’s lobby and take the lift to the 8th floor. In the lobby, you’ll find the advertisement of Disk Union.

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New York, Rio, Tokyo

Not in this order and I should include Salvador in the list – but that was more or less my week. My final destination (from where I am writing) is Tokyo, where I’ll be staying for a while. Naturally, I have some good tickets for concerts etc  – and I’ll let you know. In any case, I have just arrived and all I can say is that so far I am truly impressed.

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Washington

As you could see, I was in Washington too, a city I had last visited in 1985! I’ve had a great time there – the National Gallery is a must-see: their Da Vinci is lovely, their Bronzinos are amazing, their Pontormo is probably the best one I have ever seen, the Vermeers are a classic, their collection of Impressionists is a very important one. I could also visit a tiny museum named Phillips Collection, where you can see Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. I should also mention the National Portrait Gallery, where you can see the only existing portrait of Pocahontas. Although there are only a few true masterpieces, the historical aspect involving those whose portraits hang there is of great interest. For example, I could discover there the story of the great African-American Shakesperian actor Ira Aldridge (an excellent theme for a movie, isn’t it?)

 

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I’ve had bad luck with the weather in Boston – rain and more rain – and taking pictures was quite challenging! If you are in the area, I strongly recommend a visit to Cambridge in order to take a look at Harvard University. It is such a beautiful place and houses so many interesting museums – it is really worth the visit. I had a tight schedule and could only walk around, see the Carpenter building (Le Corbusier’ s only work in America, if I am not mistaken) and the fabulous Fogg Museum, where you can find a rich collection including paintings by Boticelli, Bronzino, Rembrandts, Rubens, Ingres, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Whistler, John Singer Sargent etc.

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I have just noticed that my previous post lacked this piece of information. I am visiting my cousin Leila here in Massachusetts and took the opportunity to see some concerts and visiting again the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum, this amazing collection of masterpieces masterly disposed as a sort of prototype of what would be later called “installation” as an independent work of art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, which is unfortunately for me (but fortunately for everyone, including me the next time I am here) being renovated and partially closed. On the other hand, there is a most interesting exhibit of Spanish painter and sculptor Antonio Lopez Garcia, who is probably the man who proved that there is still lots to explore in naturalism.

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I don´t know how Americans feel when they visit England for the first time, but I have to say that the first visit to Portugal by a Brazilian is a very special experience. I often dream of Rio, but in an idealized form, in which favourite places take larger proportions or look renewed or something like that – that is why I couldn´t resist the sensation of being in a dream while visiting Lisbon. It looks like an idealized Rio, with its homogeneous architecture and the impression of being a glimpse of a place in the past.

It is also a place that has resisted bravely the airport-lounge-inization that afflicts many European cities – you will find an Armani or a Prada store in Lisbon, but instead of imposing its own style on the city, it is the city that impose its small-scaled cozy atmosphere on them. Take for instance, the opera house, Teatro São Carlos, a tiny jewel of a theatre at a small square typical of an Italian provincial town, suggesting nothing of the glamour a place like that generally does, but instead a sense of intimacy and calm. On the other side of the square, there is a building with photos of the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. He was born there and the building has this verse written in one window “I was born in a village with an opera house”. And that was exactly what I was thinking while having lunch on that square in front of the opera house.

I also profited of my staying in Lisbon to visit the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II, the Portuguese official venue for the dramatic arts. I cannot really say I had information about this theatre, only bits of stories from friends, actors in general, who had been in Portugal and described the place as a sort of Portuguese version of the Comédie Française, where classical plays receved highly traditional and maybe outdated stagings . Looking at the building and seeing the name of Neil LaBute made me think that maybe not so traditional… In any case, I bought a ticket for Goldoni´s The War, as staged by José Peixoto. Although the actors´ biographies showed that they were trained in some of the best schools in Europe and USA, the style of acting required from them was impressively artifficial as if classical meant “cute”.  As a result, the text, which is not one of Goldoni´s most brilliant works anyway, seemed muted, drowned in lack of spontaneity and convention. Timeout magazine had already suggested that, but I wanted to see with my own eyes.

A curious observation involves FNAC. I visited their shops both in Barcelona and Madrid and found their classical music section a shame to music-lovers, but the Lisbon store (at least the one in Armazéns do Chiado) was definitely better than average. I found good discounts and all the new releases I haven´t found in Spain.

Lisbon was the good surprise of my trip – I thoroughly enjoyed its nonchalant charm and intend to go back soon.

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Madrid

There are countries where there is some sort of rivalry between two cities – Los Angeles and San Francisco, Sao Paulo and Rio, Milan and Rome etc. In Spain, it is Barcelona and Madrid. Before I took my flight, many Madrid partisans and Barcelona partisans have tried to convince me that I would find their favourite city better. I have to confess that, in the short run, Barcelona has a clear advantage: it is an extremely sophisticated and cultured place that still exerting influence both for domestic and international purposes. Madrid is more stately and traditional and also a bit more decadent, in the Viennese sense of the word.

I have the impression, though, that in the long run one would finally feel more at home in Madrid. Behind its impressive imperial boulevards, there are hidden charms, but they are actually really hidden and without the help of local friends you won´t really find it. But I´ll write more about Madrid when I get home. This is my last day here, I still have to see Véronique Gens and there is also Lisbon ahead.

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I have just arrived from Santiago, a city I had never visited before. The whole idea was to take a look at the Teatro Municipal, their opera house, which was presenting Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. As the Chileans are keen on repeating, Santiago is not a touristic place but if you have two days before visiting the beautiful destinations in the countryside, it might be worth the time spent there. The old city center has some beautiful neoclassical building and if there were some charming cafés, nice restaurants or interesting shopping, I am sure it would have an interesting atmosphere. As it is, the Chilean seem to prefer other neighbourhoods. They seem to have a fondness for the Miami-fied Las Condes, but Providencia is one of the most beautiful residential areas I have ever seen. But nothing has caught my attention so vividly as the opera house – it is a small exquisite theatre and their season is certainly interesting. It seems that there is a strong German influence in Santiago and German opera has a special presence in their calendar.

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