Teatro Colon and La Bocca
03/22/2017 - 03/22/2017 74 °F
The day I arrived, I'd made a short stop at Buenos Aires' world famous Teatro Colon. Known throughout the world for its acoustics and gorgeous interior, I planned to come back for one of their English language tours. The overcast morning was starting to show signs of sun when I arrived in time for the 11 am tour. There were about two dozen people in the group, and everyone was polite and well mannered. Out tour guide was a young, Argentine lady who was charming and honest. She talked about the problems they had building the theater, its mishmash of styles, and how it's acoustics were poor when it opened. She kept us moving without being demanding, and politely ignored it when we wandered a bit off to rake photos.
The theater was built in the late 1800s in a mix of Italian and French styles. The statues, gold leaf paint, columns, and other classical decoration were stunning. The glass windows with their colorful, floral decorations were beautiful. Our guide pointed out the columns decorated with stucco to look like marble and the parts that were genuine marble. She explained the purpose of each of the chambers, and brought to life what attending the theater as a social event would be like back then.
When we moved into the theater itself, she pointed out each area and level of balcony, and explained what its purpose was back then and now. It was interesting to hear about how each social class had their own area, and how in some levels men were even segregated from women because the seating was too close together. She pointed out the Presidential box, as well as that of the mayor. My favorite story was about the secret area at the top of the ceiling, next to the great bronze lamp fixture. There was a tiny area where musicians or other performers could hide to create special effects like thunder coming from above, or angels or birds singing. The acoustics were indeed perfect -- it was voted #1 in the world awhile back -- as she barely had to raise her voice and all of us could hear clearly.
I was glad I visited, and it was worth the $16 or so that I paid. The guide also told us about practices that people can buy tickets for, if they can't afford the actual performances. I probably won't do that, but others may be interested. I have to admit that I'm not a fan of either the symphony, theater plays, and definitely NOT opera! Still, it is a beautiful building and deserves its acclaim.
Next was a subway ride to the stop closest to the La Bocca (which was still almost a mile from the part of the neighborhood I was heading). I probably should have taken a taxi, but I figured I would see more walking. As it turned out, I took a taxi back, but for different reasons! La Bocca is where many European -- especially Italian -- immigrants first settled. Bocca means mouth, which stands for the river mouth where many of the port facilities were located.
The homes in La Bocca are garishly painted in a wide variety of colors. The story is that they used the paint from ships, thus the non-matching colors. They also moved several families into the sprawling mansions that had been abandoned by the wealthy during the yellow fever epidemic. Nowadays, many of these century-old buildings have been haphazardly repaired with corrugated steel, wood, or whatever materials were on hand. They are still brightly colored. What's more, murals and carvings decorate the walls depicting families, ordinary people, tango dancers, and more. These are brought into 3-D by larger than life statues of Argentinians such as Pope Francis, soccer star Maradonna, and caricatures of everyday life in La Bocca along the streets or projecting from facades of buildings.
It is a bit touristy, of course. You can tell that by the touts trying to talk you into their cafe (with musical performance or tango dancing). Also, every other building appears to be a souvenir shop or gift store. It is a colorful visit, though. I stopped to photograph buildings repeatedly, and enjoyed the artistic effort taken by the residents to make their surroundings beautiful. I saw more than one house being spruced up with a fresh coat of paint. Of course, the residents are no longer limited to the paint they can scrounge from incoming ships. They use the full pallet -- so I saw lavender walls, bright green, yellows, and more.
After lunch, I took taxi back because of the demonstration going on downtown (where my subway route would have to pass through). On the walk to La Bocca from the subway, I'd seen hundreds of demonstrators carrying signs and chanting slogans marching down one of the main thoroughfares. At lunch, I saw television coverage showing thousands packing the Plaza Mayor, where I'd done my sightseeing on Saturday when I arrived. That explained why all the subway cars had been packed going towards downtown! I never did find out what the demonstration was about. Maybe I'll ask Florencia when we meet later this week.
It had been good, art-filled day. The first part had been high brow art, and the second definitely low brow. Both had been beautiful, though, in their own way.