Didem Doğan

Teatro Municipal, old town

Rio’s old city, ‘Centro’ is the city center. All the historical buildings of the old city are here. The cobblestones of black and white stone along the beaches are the same. The business centers which are packed in the daytime turn into desolate streets where you cannot come across anybody at night. One night I chanced upon a flamenco troop from Spain performing a show called Carmen at Teatro Municipal. If we imagine the cultural life here which was more vibrant in the second half of 19th century when Rio was the capitol city, we may get an idea why in that period they built such a flamboyant theatre building with columns in the Greek style at the entrance, domes green on the both sides, paintings that adorn the walls and magnificent stairways inside, and wooden seats for more than a thousand people. I was lucky to watch the performance of the famous flamenco group from Spain in this amazing theatre where today mostly ballet and classical music concerts are performed. The outfits of those who came to watch the performance are as smart as that of the European audience. The enthusiasm of the crowd confirmed their unique sense of admiration and joy of life, which they are never shy to express, two traits of the Brazilian people which impressed me the most. When the president of the United States, Obama, gave a speech here, in this amazing theatre during his Rio visit in 2011, his first words were ‘pais tropical’—the tropical country. It is an amusing antic of history that, as is the case with the history of all other Latin America countries, the United States started to support democracy in Brazil only after all the dictatorships supported by the selfsame super power for decades expired.