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as a sort of Portuguese version of the Comédie Française, where classical plays receved highly traditional and maybe outdated stagings .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.