Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

The best ice-breaker for someone in a foreign place is to listen to live local music. I was fortunate enough to come across the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian last week, host to a range of cultural experiences. The first evening I visited the venue was to watch an adaptation of Jonathan Dove’s opera O Monstro no Labirinto. The production was spectacular, with both the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir performing, as well as operatic guests singing the protagonists’ parts.

Although I can’t understand Portuguese, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur is a familiar one, and of course, one doesn’t need to speak the language to enjoy the music! With over 300 members in the choir, french director Marie-Eve Signeyrole had a mammoth task coordinating the piece, but it was all pulled off well — lighting, stage design, choreography as well as the actual music. The audience were additionally encouraged to participate during the performance, by folding origami boats and lifting them in the air to signify the boats carrying the children chosen to sacrifice to Minotaur on the island of Crete.

As I was so intrigued by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, I decided to go back again a couple of days later. The foundation is built upon four focus areas: the arts, charity, education and science – which result in a full and diverse program of activities. Not only does the foundation have several auditoriums built for performances, but it also has a fascinating museum with beautifully designed gardens surrounding the buildings.

During my second visit, I entered the museum for a promenade performance by the Costa Brothers (nothing to do with the coffee!). On piano and cello, the twin brothers gave an amazing and heartfelt concert with pieces from Johannes Brahms, Gaspar Cassadó and Astor Piazzolla. It was quite an overwhelming afternoon in the stunning location of in the museum, among the ornate tapestries, rich paintings and gold-gilded historic furniture – tickling both the senses of sight and sound. It was particularly enjoyable, as a fellow musician, to see the joy and passion on the faces of the brothers as they performed, fully embracing and getting lost in the music.

Following the concert, I continued to look around the museum before entering the maze of gardens that have been designed impressively well. Large square slabs provide a pathway or graduating stairs in places, large circular shallow pools of water provide additional geometric aesthetics in other areas, as well as large lakes and streams hidden behind a bamboo forest and other vegetation… Basically, if you are visiting Lisbon, I can recommend this fantastic venue if you are looking for some music, art or nature away from the touristic crowded areas!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Anne DSilva says:

    Sounds like a fun place to visit. xxx

    Sent from my iPhone

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