This time, rather than talk about an outstanding CD or DVD, I thought I would review some of the options for Good Listening live in Rio de Janeiro. There is a tremendous variety of options, in a wide range of musical styles – and these are tips about various things I have enjoyed and would expect to do so again, without being a comprehensive survey of what’s going on.
Samba and Choro
As we come up to Carnival time, the city gets ready to divide itself into two – those who indulge in days of festivities (when the social fabric is turned upside-down) and those who flee from Rio in search of peace and quiet. The major event, always impressive, is the parade of the Special Group of the Samba Schools in the Marquês de Sapucaí – this year on the nights of 18th and 19th February, Sunday and Monday. The beat and complex rhythms played by the “Baterias” are just hypnotic – can you really resist moving your feet, swaying your hips, holding your arms aloft when they go by? Extra perks are spectacular floats, beautiful bodies dancing with supple grace, and everybody singing along, in a sort of mass catharsis. If you’re not up to the heat, sweat, tiredness and cost of that, you can still dance to the rhythm of the Baterias at their rehearsals before Carnival. This year, Mangueira is at the Scala Rio (in Leblon) on Fridays, and at the Patio Lounge (in the Jockey Club) on Tuesdays. Portella is at the Hebraica in Laranjeiras on Fridays, and Grande Rio can be found at the Monte Libano. You can go to the Cidade de Samba in Gamboa, or the Passarela de Samba itself, in the Marques de Sapucaí, where one two schools per night have a technical rehearsal on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and you can watch for free. Check out the “Calendário” in www.rio.rj.gov.br/riotur.
Away from the Carnival season you can always find samba and choro in bars – many are around the Lapa district. This is a much gentler samba, but still engaging. Choro is really instrumental music, bandolim, cavaquinho, guitars, flute, plus a pandeiro and other rhythm instruments. But a group like this may back a singer, or sing themselves too. A great site for checking the options at any moment is http://www.lanalapa.com.br/. There you can choose by the day to see what’s on (and get a description of the group playing) or you can choose a place, and see who’s there. The place best known to tourists is probably Rio Scenarium, with its intriguing decor of antiques and very varied clientele. My favourite is the Centro Cultural Carioca, which has an artistic, clubby atmosphere, and I hear good reports of the Trapiche Gamboa. I find practically all the groups of choro and samba to have an amazingly high musical standard – they play and sing for hours without written music, without apparent effort, and with that irresistible rhythm. Watch out for singers Teresa Cristina and Mariana Baltar, a group called Toque de Arte who sing in four-part harmony while they play instruments, and first-class guitarist Zé Paulo Becker.
Jazz and MPB
There is good jazz in Rio, but not so easy to find. José Rua’s splendid Big Band UFRJazz appears all too infrequently, but you can get EMail notification from email@example.com. Visiting jazz artists of good level appear upstairs at the Mistura Fina, on the Lagoa (as well as well-known musicians of MPB). For me a great option is to go to the bar downstairs on Friday or Saturday night to listen to Oscar Milito, with his piano trio playing a mixture of jazz standards and bossa nova. When I came to Rio in the 70s it was full of piano bars – but Mistura Fina is one of the few survivors of that tradition…. luckily media stores like the Armazen Digital Leblon and Letras & Expressões in Ipanema also offer small groups playing jazz and MPB, at modest prices.
The big scene of MPB is really active in Rio: the site http://www.revistampb.com.br/ lists artists, Casa de Shows and has a listing of events. You can check out the newspapers, and the valuable magazine Programa of the Jornal do Brasil on Fridays. One of the icons of MPB, Chico Buarque, played at the Canecão during January 2007 – did you manage to get a ticket? Big names appear at the Claro Hall in the Barra – and now Vivo Rio at the Museu de Arte Moderna downtown promises to be a good option. Apart from Chico Buarque, I would make an effort to hear Maria Bethânia, Caetano Velloso, Gal Costa, Paulinho de Viola, Toquinho and (of a younger generation) Marisa Monte, Ivete Sangalo, Leila Maria (who sings jazz and MPB), Maria Rita….. but this is a very personal choice.
As if this were not enough, Rio also has a lot of Classical Music concerts – many of them free or low-price. The premier concert hall is the Teatro Municipal, and the leading orchestras the OPS (Orquestra Petrobras Sinfônica) and the OSB (Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira). But here perhaps the choice between hearing live or hearing on CD tends more to staying at home. In hearing samba and MPB in Rio, you are right at the centre of the genre, being able to hear the best artists, watch out for those on the way up, pick up the new trends. But in classical music we are not going to listen live to a standard equivalent to the leading orchestras of Europe or the US. But with distinguished conductors and steady patronage from Petrobras and CVRD respectively, OPS and the OSB are on the way up. Both sell season tickets (check out their sites) which guarantee a seat at concerts throughout the season (March to December). In 2007 I’m going to keep my options open, choosing individual concerts, particularly those of romantic or modern music, which I believe are much closer to the Brazilian spirit.
Apart from the Teatro Municipal (concerts, opera, ballet), there are concerts at the Sala Cecília Meirelles in Lapa, and good programs at various SESCs and Museums. (Next year the Cidade de Musica in the Barra promises much, as the home of the OSB and a music centre). The site for keeping up with classical music in Rio is http://www.vivamusica.com.br/ – the difficulty is how to choose from the multiple offerings!
In making your choice, remember the distinguished musicians linked to our community – Carol McDavit, David Chew, Harold Emert, Philip Doyle, among others – and the SCM Choir, which I presided for 20 years and is now led by your Editor, Chris Hieatt. The SCM Choir is based on Christ Church; is an amateur choir conducted by Ruy Wanderley, and gives concerts of Sacred Music thrice yearly with an interesting repertoire and lots of commitment from the members. Entrance is free, and good value for money too, is what I say….
However, I am sure to have missed some really interesting options, so let us know and share in Rio’s…..