El Teatro Colón

Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Teatro Colón (on the right) on the Avenida de Julio. I took this photograph in 1966

No Argentine who has lived or lives in Buenos Aires can ever claim ignorance of the Teatro Colón. It is one of the world’s best known opera houses. Vast sums of money were used to build it, improve it and restore it.

My Rosemary, our granddaughter Lauren, 14 and I were given a guided tour of the Teatro Colón by the incredibly prepared (she has a degree in art curating) Romina Fabbretti. I only heard half of what she said as I was constantly avoiding the group of people we were with to take photographs of the lavish house.

Romina Fabbretti

The Teatro Colón has been in my memory since I can remember knowing I was an individual. Because of my youthful ignorance I divided the music of Buenos Aires into two. One was the música popular which I called música de radio and the other was música del Teatro Colón by which I meant, without knowing, classical music. Perhaps it was because my mother would tell me that they played that kind of music at the Teatro Colón.

I would have been 8 or 9 when my mother and father took me to the Colón for a concert featuring pianist Arthur Rubinstein. It was my first time there.

Lauren Stewart

The man appeared; he recognized us and sat down. He lifted his coat tails so they would slip outside his bench. As he was about to play there was a sudden and loud (and collective) bout of audience coughing. It must have been in the dead of a typical cold and humid winter. He waited and when he was about to begin again the coughing continued. He stood up to face us. From his inside pocket he produced a pen or pencil and told us in an impeccable Spanish, “Todos juntos, tosan.” (everybody together, cough). He turned around and sat to play. That is when I heard my mother whisper to my father, “He is drunk.”

It seems at the time that Argentines would voice their displeasure by throwing coins. This they did. Rubinstein left the stage. We waited. Some time later he returned (he must have been sober by then) and played exquisitely.

I was not to return to the Colón until 1966 when my new Argentine girlfriend Susana told me that I was an uncouth man who needed culture. She added, “I have purchased two tickets to the Colón. You and I are going to the opera.”

I was worried and ashamed that I would have to wear the only suit I owned at the time. It was a Botany Bay heavy wool suit I had bought in Austin, Texas around 1961. This particular opera was going to open in the middle of a sweltering Buenos Aires summer.

I sweated but I enjoyed my first opera. It was Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel.

I did not return again until this past March 2017. I had sad memories of the Teatro Colón.

It was in a cold winter afternoon of 1967 when Susy called me and told me, “You are still uncouth and you have no future. Don’t ever call me again. I have a new boyfriend. He plays the violin for the Sinfónica del Teatro Colón.”

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.

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Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:http://t.co/yf6BbOIQ alexwh@telus.net

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