Much has happened since I last wrote. Tonight I am sitting in the Cafe
Virtual in Santiago, Chile. Itīs rather dark and has pop music playing,
and there are about eleven computers on long tables along the wall that
you can rent Internet access on for about $6.00 an hour. The tables
face huge windows that face the main avenue in Santiago called,
improbably, Bernardo OīHiggins. He was the great liberator of Chile.
The Irish really got around!
We really loved Buenos Aires and didnīt want to leave. We managed to
extend our stay about 7 hours by moving our Tuesday flight to
Montevideo.While in Buenos Aires, in addition to what Iīve already
reported, we took a city tour in the pouring rain and talked the guide
into taking six of us into the Recoleta Cemetery to see Evitaīs tomb.
It was fascinating just to see the cemetery where everything is above
ground, and you walk down streets in what seems like a small town.
Evitaīs tomb has the name Duarte on the top and has several small bronze
plaques on it including one with her profile. We were really glad we
We spent two nights in Montevideo in this luxurious suite which turned
out to only cost $124.00 a night (at home it would have been $400, but I
didnīt tell them). Montevideo is a seaside resort. More Europeans go
there than Americans. Learned the story of the sinking of the Graf Spee
in Montevideo Bay, which I was only vaguely aware of. Turns out the
German captain felt he was outnumbered and sank his own ship and then
went to Buenos Aires and committed suicide. Iīm going to have to look
up the whole story when I get back.
Flew Thursday across the Andes to Santiago, but it was a night flight so
we didnīt get to see the mountains. In fact there is so much smog in
Santiago that we were here for a day before we saw the Andes from here.
A big coincidence occurred about our being in Santiago. I learned
before I left home that the Philadelphia Orchestra would be playing here
one night while we were here. Oh dear, another frantic attempt to get
tickets. The moral of this story is -- do it yourself -- donīt trust
the concierge. The English-speaking guide who met us at the airport
suggested that we get them through the concierge and he even spoke to
the concierge about it before he left us that first night. I mentioned
it again the next morning, because it was a different crew of three at
the concierge desk in the morning. Then we set off for a day of
sightseeing, which included a half-day city tour first. The guide took
us to this fabulous house that was owned by the fourth richest woman in
the world in the 19th century: Isabel Cousino, whose money came from
copper mines (Chile is the biggest exporter in the world) The third
richest woman was Queen Victoria, he said. Dwight and I are still
trying to figure out who the first two were!
After the tour, Dwight and I went to Pablo Nerudaīs house. The guide
spoke good English. Said Neruda spent all of two months in Italy, so
the movie Il Postino is pure fiction, but the characterization of Neruda
was right on, he said.
Back at the hotel in the evening, the concierge had a message that we
had two tickets to the orchestra concert, $22.00 each, and should pick
them up the next day. But we were scheduled to take a trip to Vina del
Mar and Valparaiso the next day, so he said, just have the bellman go
get them. The next morning, gave the bellman money and a tip and set
off for Vina del Mar. When we got back at 5, there were two tickets
there but they were for the very top and cost $2.00 apiece. Turns out
by the time the bellman got to the box office, all the other tickets
were sold out.
The performance was at 7, so we went over to the box office at 6 all
dressed and started pleading with a girl who did not speak English.
"Weīre from Philadelphia" we said. It turned out that the tickets we
had for $2.00 were unnumbered seats with no view. More pleading.
Finally she turned to a man who answered us in English and was quite
sympathetic. Just stay here and weīll see what we can do. Meanwhile,
Dwight went outside to see if anyone was selling tickets. He called me
in a minute and we had two good tickets a fellow who spoke English was
selling. So we even sold our peanut gallery tickets to another couple.
We were in!
The Teatro Municipal in Santiago is a 19th century opera house, built in
1844 according to the older usher I accosted after the performance. It
has three levels and the peanut gallery (Paraiso or Paradise level--the
one next to heaven). It has mostly white facings on the balconies, with
some gold, and red velvet seats and railings. Itīs fairly small, but
very pretty, with a delicate chadelier shaped like a huge lantern.
Our seats were in the third balcony not far from the center and we could
see and hear perfectly. Not all the men in our level had on ties. But
the most astounding thing was that when the concert began, about 30
percent of the seats in the orchestra were empty. I noticed that a lot
of them filled after the intermission, though. Maybe itīs fashionable
to be late.
Itīs quite an experience to see your home town band in a foreign country
and half a world away. I subscribe to the Philadelphia Orchestra at
home and I feel like many of the orchestra members are friends even
though they donīt know me at all. The concertmaster for this South
American tour is William de Pasquale, one of four de Pasquales in the
orchestra (three now, since one retired). These four also have their
own de Pasquale String Quartet. William Stokking has been the principal
cellist forever. And some of the others have been recently hired,
including a South American violist, Roberto Diaz.
Before I left Philadelphia, I saw articles in the Inquirer complaining
about the program Sawallisch had chosen. I have to agree that I think
it was a bit heavy with Middle European composers. The program was:
von Weber Overture Euryanthe
Mendelssohn Symphony No.3 (Scottish)
Dvorak Symphony No. 8
At the end they played an encore which Dwight thinks was a Brahms
Dwight and I both felt the Mendelssohn was a mistake. I think Wolfgang
could have chosen something a little more interesting than that. But
the rest of the program was great. And the audience seemed to really be
enthusiastic with many curtain calls and some loud cheering.
This may be my last report from South America. Tomorrow we fly to La
Paz and then on to Peru. I donīt expect to find Internet access the
rest of the trip. Also I donīt expect to be visiting any more opera
houses on the trip.
Iīve really enjoyed writing to opera-l about my experiences. Itīs
wonderful to have the opportunity. Till next time.
West Chester University
West Chester, PA
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An American in South America