5 Brazilian Dishes You Should Try

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
February 6, 2016

Brazilian cuisine is extremely rich and diverse, being influenced by Portuguese colonizers, African slaves, Brazilian natives and immigrants from all over the world. Below, we have compiled a list of some of the best dishes the country has to offer.

1. Feijoadafeijoada One of the most traditional Brazilian dishes, feijoada is a stew of black beans, beef and pork that is as delicious as it is caloric. Depending on where you eat feijoada, different parts of the pork are used. One can find feijoadas with pork ribs, ears, tails, sausages and much more. Some common additional ingredients are rice, farofa, oranges and kale, but one can find an enormous variety of ingredients in feijoadas from different places. This tasty stew is not only simple to make but also makes for a true feast. For those that enjoy a hearty meal and are not worried about the calories, I would recommend jumping at the opportunity to try feijoada.

2. Farofa Another staple from Brazilian culinary, farofa is a mixture of toasted cassava flour that is eaten through all the country. By itself, it doesn’t have much to offer, but it can be fried with many different ingredients. It also goes extremely well with rice and beans, which are the essential Brazilian foods. Some common ingredients to be cooked with farofa are sausages, eggs, bacon, onions and olives. Some also like to put in ingredients such as chopped bananas, raisins or nuts, but the farofa offers limitless possibilities of mixtures. Whether you are eating a feijoada, a fish fillet or a Brazilian-style barbecue, farofa has a lot of flavor to bring to the table. Moqueca

3. Moqueca One of the most traditional dishes in the northeast of Brazil, moqueca is a seafood stew to make any mouth water. Usually served in a clay pot, moqueca is a mixture of seafood, diced tomatoes, onions and coriander. In the state of Bahia, it is usually cooked with palm oil, peppers and coconut milk. For the complete experience, moqueca should be eaten with rice, farofa and piro, a spicy mixture of manioc flour and fish. If you are a seafood lover that is willing to experiment with new flavors, then moqueca is definitely for you.

4. Arroz carreteiro (Wagoner’s Rice) In the south of Brazil, a “carreteiro” was someone who transported goods across the country. This dish was created by these travelers using ingredients that could be preserved without refrigeration, so as to provide a tasty and nutritious food that can be prepared during their journeys. It is consists of a mixture of rice, beef jerky and onions, with some other vegetables or spices being used sometimes as well. This tasty dish quickly spread through the rest of Brazil, and is now enjoyed through all the country. While it is quite good on its own, the arroz carreteiro is at its best when served as a side dish, offering a delicious alternative for the plain rice that is usually served in Brazil.

5. Virado a Paulista While the state of So Paulo is not well known for its culinary, it is the home of this deliciousness known as the Virado a Paulista. Traditionally, this dish was made from a mix of food leftovers. Nowadays, the virado is a full plate that mixes rice, cooked beans, kale, cassava flour, sausages, pork chops and eggs sometimes. This combination is a force to be reckoned, and should leave anyone satisfied. In the city of So Paulo, it is usually served on Mondays at a fair price in restaurants and bars through the city.

Paragliding With Basir Up in the AIR

By Laura Ferreira January 11, 2016 On the western end of the beach city of Santos, there is a hill that rises sharply, one hundred and eighty one meters above the sea. A paved but neglected road winds up the hill, through a small favela, ending abruptly at what is arguably the most gratifying vista for miles around. There – surrounded by views of white sand beaches and high rises – is a small restaurant, a flight center, and a grass field used for takeoff by paragliding and hang gliding pilots. That is where I met with Prem Basir and Maria A. Petit, the international paragliding experts behind Basir Up in the AIR. We had all left So Paulo early that morning and made the hour and a half drive to Santos with hope that it would be a good day for flying. When we convened at the top of Morro do Itarar, the sky was clear with gentle tufts of clouds, and a soft wind was beginning to pick up. I had never paraglided before, but the day seemed too perfect not to amount to something. Prem Basir and Maria explained to me that we would need to wait for the wind to pick up to ensure a longer flight, but that it did, indeed, look like a good day for flying. They suggested that we have a coconut water and chat at the restaurant next to the field while we waited for the perfect wind. While we took in the view and had our drinks, Basir told me his history with Paragliding. He began paragliding years ago with a tandem flight and lessons at a site called Fuyang in China. His first experience was very positive. Basirs piqued interest led him to continue training on the Wasserkuppe – the birthplace for various types of flying (located in Germany). He then spent four years working for Papillon – the largest paragliding school in the world, and moved on to instruct and conduct guided paragliding trips across Europe and Latin America. Basir explained that he is a DHV certified paragliding instructor and tandem pilot. All this information worked to calm my first-time nerves. Maria – who met Basir in Brazil, and spent time paragliding with him in Europe as well as Brazil – helped Basir to explain the physics of paragliding to me. They talked me through the weather conditions that create an enjoyable and lengthy flight, and the basics of preparation, flight, and landing. By the time the windsock was full, coming from the right direction, I felt confident and excited for the flight. We walked to the flight club and registered, and Maria walked me through the process of checking equipment and practicing for our takeoff while Basir got set up. In just a few minutes, I was hooked to Basir, Basir was hooked to our parachute, and we were ready to run. The takeoff was an adrenaline rush, but so momentary that it didnt define the experience. It was being in the air that left a lasting impression. We soared on thermal air pockets, high and low, back and forth. It was serene and beautiful – something you can only have an inkling of in a small plane. Birds glided past on the same wind that we used – giving me the impression that we were part of their private club. Moreover, there were many other paragliders around us, snapping selfies and waving to each other as they passed – engaging in a culture that is friendly and thrilling – cultivated through brief shared moments, high over the beaches and hills of Santos. Basir encouraged me to loosen my white-knuckle grasp on my harness and enjoy the flight, and after a few minutes, I was taking photos of the city and sea, and marveling at the feeling of quietly floating through the air. After we had seen the sights, and I felt I hadnt missed a thing, we headed down towards the beach. Basir pointed out the landing field and asked me to identify the windsock and the direction of the wind. For the final act, we passed over the ocean, and turned to fly along the line of buildings on the beach. Basir explained landing one more time, and we came down towards the field. In a split second, we touched the ground – smoothly and relatively gracefully. I highly recommend the experience of paragliding. Particularly to those who, like me, want to enthusiastically explore, but arent interested in adrenaline overload. It is an unexpected experience that will push you just far enough out of your comfort zone that you gain new knowledge and incredible perspective without feeling over the proverbial edge. And, if youre in or headed to Brazil, Basir Up in the AIR is exactly who you should look up to get you started. A video of Laura landing at Basir Up in the Air’s Facebook page. Basir Up in the Air’s website: www.basirair.com

Personal Documents in Brazil: The Basics

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
January 9, 2016


If you are a foreigner that wants to live in Brazil, you should know a few things in advance. One of these things is what sort of documents you will need in order to live, work and drive here and how to get these documents. The first document you will need is the CPF, which stands for "cadastro de pessoa fsica". This document is a tax identification number linked to the Federal Revenue of Brazil. This CPF is needed to purchase many goods and services such as a car, a health insurance plan and a house. This document can be obtained through a Brazilian embassy or consulate, or from the Brazilian Receita Federal, which is the local Tax Authority. Getting it through a diplomatic mission requires more work, costs more and takes weeks before you get your number, so doing it through the Receita Federal is recommended.

Another essential document is the CIE (Cdula de Identidade de Estrangeiro). This is a card that contains your RNE (Registro Nacional de Estrangeiro), which is your proof of ID in Brazil that is the equivalent of the Brazilian ID card, the RG (Registro Geral). Important note: this first requires you have an appropriate visa e.g. permanent. In some places you can also use your passport as an ID, but there will be many situations where your RNE number will be needed such as when opening a bank account, buying a car or getting a mobile phone plan. To get this document, you need to fill a form and apply for it at the <a href="http://www.dpf.gov.br/">Federal Police website</a> within 30 days of arriving in the country. It is important to be aware that although some bank workers will tell you that they only accept an RG number they are wrong, as the RNE number can be used as a substitute for the RG in any occasion according to Brazilian law.

You should also have a proof of residence, which may be required when doing things such as getting a job or an internet plan. There are several documents that can serve as a proof of residence, and different institutions might ask for different documents as proof. Some of the documents that are most commonly accepted are condominium bills, electricity bills, bank statements, lease agreements and traffic fines. If you dont have any of these documents in your name, you need to present them along with a document that proves your relationship with the homeowner.

If you want to work here, you also need to get a CTPS (Carteira de Trabalho e Previdncia Social). This document will give you access to labor rights and record information about your employers, jobs and wages. The CTPS for foreigners is issued at the Regional Offices of Labor and employment, and requires you to present a series of documents. The only different between the CTPS for Brazilians and for foreigners is the color of the cover, which is blue for locals and green for foreigners.

As for driving, you will need a CNH (Carteira Nacional de Habilitao), which is the Brazilian drivers licence. If you have a license from the United States, European Union, Australia or South Africa, you can exchange it without having to take a driving test. In order to do this, you need to find an official translator, submit your license to them and wait for it to be returned. If you dont have a license from these regions, you need to contact DETRAN (Departamento Estadual de Trnsito) and go through the process of acquiring your license, which includes a psychological test, classes and a test in driving theory, and practical classes with a final practical test.

Of course, other documents might come handy, but with the ones listed above you should have no problem living in Brazil. We will cover in more detail how to get the aforementioned documents in other articles. As for your stay in Brazil, we hope you enjoy it!

Come Taste the Wonders of Mineira Cuisine

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer January 9, 2016 Minas Gerais is a state in the southeast of Brazil marked by rolling hills, mountains and a sky that is said by some to be the bluest in the country. Minas has played an important part in the history of Brazil, playing a role akin to the Wild West in the United States when gold was discovered in the depths of its mountains. Nowadays, the gold is all but gone, and all of the misery and riches it has brought has gone with it, with the exception of the gold-adorned churches of Ouro Preto. But the inflow of people that occurred in these times has not only made it the second most populous state in the country, but also one of the most culturally rich states. Among these riches, is a culinary tradition amazing in its diversity and richness of flavors. In Brazil, the cuisine from Minas is known as the epitome of home-cooked food, and some even go as far as calling it “the soul of Brazilian cuisine”. From the Portuguese colonizers, it has inherited elaborate pastries and thick broths and stews. From indigenous culture, it inherited the use of many local spices and plants such as manioc. And from the African culture that came to Brazil with the slaves it took its ingenuity and capacity to create and adapt recipes with whatever resources available. The trademark of mineira cuisine is the wooden stove and the assortment of rustic pans and pots made of clay or stone. Whether in Minas or not, any mineiro restaurant that prizes itself still used this setup. One of the things that is most notable in mineira cuisine is the abundance of thick broths and stews. These usually have a lot of meat, specially chicken and pork meat, and are as caloric as they are delicious. It also uses a lot of native vegetables and roots, such as kale, cassava, and okra. Two staple dishes of Minas are the Feijo Tropeiro and Tutu de Feijo, which are broths elaborated from cassava flour, beans and a mix of other ingredients. Pork is used with no restraints in Minas, and can be found prepared in a variety of ways. There are pork stews, broths, roasted pork and fried pork. One of the most popular pork recipes from Minas is the torresmo, an appetizer that is made from fried pork skin and fat. Minas is also notorious for its variety of cheeses, which are very popular through Brazil. Its staple cheese is known through the country as “queijo mineiro” (Minas cheese), which is a whitish cheese with a soft texture that is often served as a dessert together with goiabada, a guava-based candy. From Minas also comes the “po de queijo” (cheese bread), a cheese flavored roll that might be the most recognizable Brazilian snack. To top it all, Minas is known for its cachaa, a distilled spirit made from sugar cane that is known outside of Brazil for its use in preparing caipirinhas, a notorious Brazilian fruit cocktail. Although cachaa is popular through the whole country, the cachaa from Minas is reputed to be the best. It also goes down very well with the mineiro dishes, especially the heavy pork-based ones. If you are a fan of eating and drinking well, you shouldnt miss the opportunity to try some authentic mineira cuisine washed down for some cahaa. But be warned: if you are wary of caloric meals, this experience might not be for you.

Applying for a Brazilian Tourist Visa

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer December 12, 2015 Important Note: Although this information should be correct at the time of publishing, you should always check immigration information with your local Brazilian consulate.

After all you heard about Brazil you have decided it is finally time to pay a visit and enjoy what the country has to offer. But before you get onto the plane and set out for Brazil you should check whether you need a tourist visa. Some countries are exempt, as per this list at Wikipedia, based on recopricity. If your country is not exempt the process for tourist visa application is quite straightforward, and involves applying at your local Brazilian consulate with all the required documents and sending a filled internet application.

The first and most important document you need to bring is your passport, which shouldn’t be torn or significantly damaged. Remember that it needs to be valid for the next six months, and it should have at least two blank visa pages for the stamp. You should also bring a 5 X 5 cm photo of yourself taken within the last three months and printed in high quality paper. The photo must display a full frontal view of your face. Your expression must be neutral, and glasses and headgear aren’t allowed, except for religious purposes. Also, the photo should not be affixed to your application, and it shouldn’t have evidence that it was taped or glued anywhere. Another document that is required is your driver’s ID if you have one, so don’t forget to bring it!

Next, you should fill and print the online visa application, which can be found in the following address: scedv.serpro.gov.br. The page that will open will be in Portuguese, but you can choose a language of your liking by clicking on one of the flags on the left side of the screen. When filling out the application, you should fill all fields in it. Remember to write your full name exactly like it is in your passport. Towards the end of the process, you will be given a code number, which you should include as well. After you are done with the application, you should sign it and send it to the Brazilian consulate within 30 days.

When going to the consulate, you will be require to present a proof of your travel arrangements for the full trip. These arrangements must include a copy of an itinerary or an e-ticket with your entry and exit dates and location. If you are bringing any minors, some additional documents need to be brought for their application. These include an attached minor authorization form, a letter of consent from both parents or legal guardian, a birth certificate and a copy of both parent’s photo IDs. If that minor has a guardian, a legal proof of guardianship is required as well. All of these extra documents needed by minors have to be notarized.

After you have sent the application and gathered the necessary documents, all you need to do is go to the consulate and apply for your visa. After going through the process, you have to leave your passport at the consulate, and after a few weeks it will be returned to you with your tourist visa. Once it gets back, you are all set to visit Brazil and enjoy your stay over here.

The Gringoes Guide to Dating Brazilian Women

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
December 12, 2015

So you have heard quite a lot about Brazilian women before, and maybe you have dreamed about finding yourself a Brazilian babe. Now that you are here, it is time for you to spring to action. However, if your image of Brazilian women comes from watching videos or looking at pictures of semi-naked women dancing in the Carnaval, you might be in for a reality check. First, Brazilian women are not as easy as foreigners often seem to think, and many girls will be wary of tourists. That being said, Brazilian women tend to be quite direct when it comes to showing interest, they usually play less games than American or European girls.

One thing that is important to have in mind is that Brazilian women usually have a two-sided perception about foreigners. On the one side, foreigners are often seem as exploiters and sex-tourists, and many tourists do in fact act in a way that reinforces this stereotype. Because of this perception, girls might take it very personally if you are rude in your approach. On the other side, many Brazilian women are highly interested in dating foreigners, and will be very open and willing to be approached.

The first thing you should pay attention to when looking for a girl is the venue. In expensive places, you will find plenty of beautiful girls, but they tend to be less approachable and harder to get. In more accessible places, girls tend to be more down-to earth and friendly, and are usually more open to approaches. You should also be aware that the more accessible a venue is, the least likely it is that you will find girls that speak English. Sometimes, this is not a problem, and many girls will attempt to communicate with you using broken English. Using some hand gestures and basic Portuguese if you have any, you should be able to understand each other fairly well. That being said, many girls will be out of your reach if you don’t speak at least some Portuguese.

If you are lucky, you will also find women that speak fluent English. Many of them have studied in International or British schools, and some of them have studied or lived abroad. This is the best type of women you can find, not only because of the language, but also because they are usually used to dealing with foreigners, and will have much more common ground with you.

Women in Brazil tend to dress very well, and they will pay attention to how you dress. Unless you plan on going to an alternative venue such as a rave or a reggae concert, you should be well dressed. When it comes to the approach, you should be direct but not forceful. Brazilian women usually decide quite fast whether they are interested or not in hooking up with someone. If things don’t seem to be going anywhere after a few minutes, you should change your target. If the woman you are talking to is showing interest on the other hand, make your move. If you take too long she might lose interest and look for someone else.

When it comes to starting a relationship, things tend to move fast in Brazil. If you have enjoyed hooking up with your beau and got her number, it is normal to call her and schedule a date for the next evening. Unless you are dating a fancy girl, I recommend keeping it simple. Take her to the beach, go watch a movie or share some beers at a street bar. Now that you have a girl, the rest is up to you. Enjoy her company, treat her well and don’t try too hard to impress her. And last but not least, don’t forget to have fun!

8 Tips For Beginners Learning Brazilian Portuguese

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
November 13, 2015

So you are thinking about spending some time in Brazil but you feel the language to be a problem. In fact, Brazilian Portuguese is not the easiest language to learn, and things get even trickier when dealing with spoken Portuguese, which is full of slangs and expressions that sounds a lot different from written Portuguese. With that being said, some dedication and time will get you through these obstacles. Below, we have compiled 8 tips for bginners learning Brazilian Portuguese.

1. Get yourself a English-to-Brazilian-Portuguese dictionary: If you are serious about learning Brazilian Portuguese, this one is a must have. When trying to read in Portuguese, you will be coming across many unfamiliar words and expressions. With a dictionary, you will not only be able to understand and learn these expressions but also learn how to pronounce then, which is something you will need in the future.

2. Read something in Portuguese as often as you can: Reading is one of the most important activities for you to build your vocabulary and become familiar with the language. There are plenty things to read, from books, blogs, news websites and much more. A suggestion is to read the news in Portuguese at least a few times a week. Some of the most popular news websites in Brazil are <a href="http://www.estadao.com.br/">Estado</a>, <a href="http://www.folha.uol.com.br/">Folha</a> and <a href="http://www.uol.com.br/">Uol</a>.

3. Keep a language notebook: One practice which can be really helpful for beginners is keeping a language notebook. In this notebook, you should write new words and expressions that you have learned. Studies have already shown that writing down things help to consolidate them in your memory, even if you never read what you wrote down again. And if you need to check what you have learned, you will have it written down.

4. Watch movies and series in Portuguese: Brazilian Portuguese sounds a lot different when spoken. One way of getting familiar with it is by watching movies and series in Portuguese. Brazilian cinema has a wide array of excellent movies, and are a great choice if you want to get familiar with Brazilian culture while you learn the language.

5. Seek out someone who you can speak Portuguese to: This tip is essential if you want to train your conversation skills. The best thing you can do is find someone who you can speak Portuguese to in real life, or at least through skype. If this isnt possible, you can find many places where you can interact with Brazilians on the internet. One option is debating in forums and facebook groups in Portuguese. You can also look for a Brazilian pen-pal with whom you can hone your skills. For those that enjoy computer games, a good option is to play a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) in Portuguese. Many games such as Ragnarok Online, The Duel and World of Warcraft have a Brazilian Portuguese version, where you can find plenty of people to talk.

6. Listen to Brazilian music: Brazil not only has its own musical styles but it also has many vibrant music scenes. Delving into Brazilian music is a great opportunity to improve your vocabulary while you enjoy yourself and expand your musical repertoire.

7. Learn the jargon of your topics of interest: Once you start to understand the basics of Brazilian Portuguese, try learning the jargon of your fields of interest, or you might find yourself in trouble when trying to talk about these topics.

8. Be consistent: Last but not least, be consistent with your learning. Try to work on your skills constantly, and do not go for long without practicing, and review the things you have learned by using them as often as you can.

The Beauty of Capoeira, a Martial Art Disguised as a Dance

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer November 13, 2015 In the streets, parks and beaches of Brazil, one often sees groups of people gathered in a circle, playing instruments while two people inside the circle sway, kick and dodge to the rhythm of the music. This is capoeira, a Brazilian martial art practiced through all of Brazil, especially in the northeast of the country. No one knows exactly when capoeira originated, but it is believed that it was created by slaves in the 16th century. At that time, slaves were forbidden from practicing martial arts and their cultural traditions as well. They were also constantly subjected to torture and violence, and those that tried to run away were chased by “capites-do-mato”. In order to learn self-defense, it is said that the slaves created a new form of martial art and disguised it as a dance. The movements of capoeira are characterized by the way fighters sway and by the wide variety of kicks that they employ, as well as the acrobatic quality of the movements. Elements of diverse African cultures were also mixed in capoeira, making it a matter not only of self-defense but also of cultural identity. Training sessions usually took place near the “Senzala”, which was the building where slaves were kept. But fights would sometimes take place in fields with small shrubs which were called “capoeira” at the time. This is where the name of the sport came from. In 1890, Deodoro Fonseca, who was the president at the time, signed a law that made capoeira illegal, as it was considered subversive and violent. Later on, a capoeira master known as Mestre Bimba created a new style of capoeira known as “capoeira regional” (regional capoeira). Bimba would present his style in 1930 to Getlio Vargas, who was the president of Brazil at the time. Vargas enjoyed it so much that he made it legal and turned it into a national sport as well. Bimba also created the first capoeira gym in 1932 in Salvador and named it “Academia-escola de Capoeira Regional”. His teaching method and style represented an important step in the development of capoeira. He began the tradition of training in an enclosed space, introduced a course curriculum and a systematic training method. He also fixed a defined instrumental arrangement to be played in a capoeira “roda” (circle). The arrangement consisted of a berimbau, which is an instrument composed of a bow and one string, and two pandeiros, which are hand-framed drums very popular in some Brazilian styles like samba and pagode. But his greatest contribution was probably the idea that capoeira should be disseminated and made widely accessible through the use of legal institutions. In fact, he contributed enormously to the popularization of the sport. Once capoeira gyms became a thing, they spread like mushrooms after the rain, being found all through Brazil and even in many foreign countries. Because of his contribution, many practitioners consider Bimba the father of modern capoeira. His style is also the most widely practiced form of the sport worldwide. Training capoeira is a great way to improve cardio, strength, flexibility and learning self-defense. At a capoeira gym one also learns discipline and gains confidence as his skills are honed. Last but not least, training capoeira is extremely fun, as well as being a great way to make friends. Whether youre looking to get in shape, lose some weight, learn to defend yourself or just have some fun, capoeira is a great choice and well worth a try.

Brazilian Franciscans Celebrate 25 Years Missionary Work in Angola

By John Fitzpatrick November 3, 2015 (Header Image: Celebrating 25 years of missionary activity in Angola) An exhibition has just been held in So Paulo to mark 25 years of missionary work in Angola by members of the Brazilian Order of Franciscans. The event was held in the historic So Francisco church and attracted hundreds of visitors, including worshippers and tourists. The Brazilian Franciscans began their mission to Angola following a call made in 1982 by the global leader of the Franciscan Order, John Vaughn, an American, for them to go to Africa as missionaries. The Brazilian order chose Portuguese-speaking Angola and the first missionaries – brothers Pedro Caron, Jos Zanchet and Plinio Gande da Silva – arrived in September 1990 right in the middle of the civil war that followed the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975. (Image: A home is being built in Luanda for trainee nuns.) Despite the hardships, the Brazilian missionaries established a presence in four different provinces – Luanda, Malange, Quibala and Viana – where they preached the Gospel and looked after the spiritual and physical health and education of the local people. Some of their buildings were damaged during the fighting. They were joined a few months later by Frei Odorico Decker who is a familiar figure to anyone who knows the So Francisco church. Frei Odorico spent 10 years in Angola during which he travelled the country from north to south on foot or bicycle accompanied by his faithful harmonica which won him many friends. “I went everywhere dressed in my cassock and playing my harmonica and visited families and old people who could not leave their homes. I brought comfort and the Eucharist and prayed with them. The war was going on and life was very hard for these people who welcomed me. Often I was the only outsider who had visited some of these places,” he recalled. (Image: Frei Odorico spent 10 years in Angola during the civil war.) Frei Odorico was a keen photographer and many of his pictures were on show at the exhibition. He also wrote a book about his African experience. The Brazilian venture into Angola was not a one-way process. The Franciscan lifestyle attracted many Angolans who decided to study to become brothers and nuns. There are currently around 100 Angolan students in various stages ranging from beginners to ordained brothers. An exchange program was set up for Angolans to come to Brazil to finish their seminary education in Santa Catarina and Rio de Janeiro. One of these is 28-year-old Ermelindo Francisco who has been in Brazil for eight years and was won over by the work of the Franciscans. “The Angolan people identified with the Franciscans because they were made up of simple people. The Franciscan ethic was very important. There is no difference between being a Franciscan and an Angolan because they are both a simple, happy and humble people,” he said. The Franciscans are currently building a new home for aspirant nuns in Luanda. The project is being funded by donations from individuals and parishes. If you would like to make a donation, contact pvf@franciscanos.org.br. John Fitzpatrick 2015

Brazil: Get Me to the Church on Time – Prokofiev Style

By Larry Ludwig October 18, 2015 Sergei Prokofievs Opera “Monastery Weddings” is sheer JOY! He composed this work at the onset of World War II, in 1940. Think perhaps to escape for but a brief few hours into a delightful comedy with which to forget the doom and gloom of Stalin purges and the horrors of war. Yes, it is a comic opera, featuring some eight-lead roles, yes, eight principal singers. More than likely the key reason why this work is rarely performed. Wikipedia mentions “recent” performances in only England, Scotland and Spain, in 1989, 2006 and 2008. It was first performed in 1946 in St. Petersburg. Well to be added to that list is the August-September 2015 production of Theatro So Pedro in So Paulo, Brasil. Also called “Betrothals in a Monastery” (“Bodas no Monastrio” in Portuguese), the plot is a convoluted, complex scenariao much reminiscent of a Shakespearean “Comedy of Errors” mixed in with a Verdian “Falstaff”. At times seemingly too complex to follow, but in the end, as the saying goes, “alls well that ends well.” Yes, an opera with a happy ending. Nobody dies! Hopefully the Wikipedia plot summary below will help clarify the confusion. The 600-seat Theatros production was superb, excellent. Not a single fault could I find. A friendly semi-abstract set with its mix of a curtain drop and multi-purpose plastic blocks that for once “worked”, which with varying degrees of multi-colored lighting, allowed for quick scene changes (of which there are many in this opera) clearly evoking the required plot setting. Beautiful period Costumes (the opera seems to take place in the 1700s-1800s), good makeup, wonderful wigs, great choreography, great acting, and of course, excellent singing. Not a weak link in the entire eight singing lead roles (contralto, bass, tenors, baritones, soprano, mezzo-soprano), two principal secondaries and an exemplary chorus. Not to mention, excellent conducting and outstanding performance of the orchestra. Sung in Russian, a Russian speaking Brasilian friend pointed out, the singers Russian diction was more than passable, a testament to both the Russian language coach and the linguistic talents of the mostly Brasilian cast. And for the record, the Portuguese subtitles were excellent. Besides the myriad of plot surprises, Prokofiev worked in a few subtle, not so subtle surprising moments. For instance, what seemed like pure walk-on non-singing supernumerary roles for some of the servants, servants who pretended to be talking and gesticulating… well appearances can be deceiving. Two of them turn into secondary singing roles, with the maid suddenly becoming, after what seemed like half of the opera, one of the two top lead, and most applauded singers. Never had occasion to experience that role-reversal in an opera heretofore. Then there was the subdued, but quite classically balletic dancing by some of the servants, done in quite confined spaces. Difficult but done beautifully, elegantly. More like a side-bar action to main events elsewhere on stage… sometimes feeling like a three ring circus. Also featured was a three-piece trumpet, drum, clarinet combo on stage, as well as cast members walking onstage up from the audience. Than the big WOWer, well one of two big WOWs of the night… a super rousing rambunctious well staged chorus of drunken, rapacious, yes very greedy monastery monks. Felt like a scene out of Karl Orffs “Carmina Burana”, perhaps the inspiration for what was one of the more powerful scenes of this opera. The monks brought the house down, as that saying goes. The other “WOW” moment was during the concluding moments of the opera, with Don Jerome, tenor Giovanni Tristacci, while singing at full volume, put on a virtuoso performance playing musical-bottles non-stop, at a presto high-velocity pace. A true musical “tour de force”, one of the evenings many memorable highlights. Prokofievs music is much like that of his ballet, “Romeo and Juliet”. The music melodies, tender or be it martial, flow, seeming seamlessly, without pause, leading one easily from one scene to the next, from one emotional moment to the next. There are very few solo aria or duet or quartet like moments common to more traditional operas, no real place for the audience to express delight with applause and bravos. That has to be saved for the end of each act, and especially at the end of the opera itself. And applause and bravos, bravas and bravis were aplenty with the standing ovation, this one, in my view, truly earned and very much deserved. If you get the chance, do go see this work. Its an opera evening as noted earlier of pure JOY. You wont be disappointed. By the way, the cast list follows, along with the Wikipedia plot-summary synopsis. A Duenna Lidia Schffer, Mendoza Svio Sperandio, Don Jerome Giovanni Tristacci, Don Ferdinando Johnny Frana, Louisa Laua Duarte, Don Antonio Anibal Mancini, Clara DAlmanza Marly Montoni, Dom Carlos Erick Souza…and honorable mention on secondary, the two chief Monks, Padre Elustaf and Padre Augustin, Mar Oliveira and Educaro Fujita. This is in addition to eight other minor secondary roles. Conductor Andr Dos Santos. Coral Lrico Paulista and Orquestra do Theatro So Pedro Synopsis: Act 1 Don Jerome intends his daughter Louisa to marry the vain, wealthy and ugly fish merchant Mendoza. However, she loves instead Antonio, who is poor, though noble in spirit. Furthermore, Don Ferdinand, son of Don Jerome and prone to fits of jealousy, wants to marry Clara dAlmanza, who is a virtual prisoner of her stepmother. Act 2 Don Jerome locks up Louisa in her room to force her to marry Mendoza. Louisas nurse (the Duenna) provokes the fury of Don Jerome by pretending to be a messenger between Antonio and Louisa. Jerome dismisses her – but the Duenna exchanges clothes with Louisa who makes her escape in this disguise. By the quayside – where fisherwomen are praising the quality of the fish caught in Mendozas boats – Louisa encounters her friend Clara, who has also run away from home and intends to seek sanctuary at the monastery. Louisa asks to borrow Claras name for a day – Clara assents. Enter Mendoza and his courtly friend Don Carlos. Mendoza is recognized by Louisa but he has never seen her. She therefore approaches Mendoza claiming to be Clara and asks him to take her under his protection and find Antonio with whom she is in love. Mendoza is attracted by this idea as a means to rid himself of his rival Antonio by marrying him off to Clara. Don Carlos escorts Clara to Mendozas house. Mendoza visits the house of Don Jerome to meet Louisa (the Duenna in disguise); whilst Louisa is not as young and beautiful as Mendoza had been led to believe, her dowry is sufficient attraction. they agree to elope that evening. Act 3 The mystified Antonio arrives at Mendozas house; while he is offstage meeting Clara, Mendoza and don Carlos congratulate themselves on their cunning. Still unwitting, they agree to help the pair get married. Don Jerome is rehearsing some amateur musicians (A trio of trumpet, clarinet and bass drum). He receives two messages- one from Mendoza saying he has eloped with Louisa, which delights him, and another from the real Louisa, which he does not read carefully, asking for his blessing on her marriage. He sends back his consent with both messengers and arranges for a great feat later that evening to celebrate. At the monastery, Clara meets with Antonio and Luisa and laments her apparent loss of Ferdinand. Enter Ferdinand , who mistaking Clara for a nun exclaims that he is chasing his false friend Antonio who has run off with his beloved Clara. Clara is secretly overjoyed at this demonstration of Ferdinands passion. Act 4 The act opens with a drinking song for the monks in the monastery where the marriages are to be performed. The monks then switch to a hymn that extols fasting and abstinence, to a tune that is a slower variant of the earlier drinking song. Enter Mendoza and Antonio who by lavish bribery gain the monks consent to marry them to their loves. Enter Ferdinand who challenges Antonio to a duel, but the genuine Clara arrives and Ferdinand now understands the true situation. The three marriages are agreed. At Don Jeromes feast, the host is increasingly amazed, exasperated and infuriated as the successive arrival of the newly-weds makes it clear that his plans have gone completely awry. He is slightly compensated by the likely size of Claras dowry. He sings a drinking song, accompanying himself on a set of tuned glasses.