Grand "City of Music" sparks disharmony in Rio

Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:14am EST
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - At first glance, the "City of Music" appears to be in perfect harmony with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's lyrical capital of Carnival.

The soaring wings of the concert theater, one of the most ambitious architecture projects since the capital Brasilia was built from scratch in the 1950s, mirror the sweep of Rio's mountains and the waves crashing on nearby beaches.

Music is only rivaled by football among the passions of Cariocas, Rio's residents. So how could a majestic shrine to song as big as Rio's Maracana soccer stadium not be a hit?

To many Cariocas, though, the center's opening night last Saturday to the strains of Mozart and Johann Strauss was a source of anger rather than pride.

Supporters say the building, which cost 518 million reais ($220 million) and is still six months from completion, will help reclaim Rio's place as Brazil's cultural capital with an iconic building like Sydney's Opera House.

But budget overruns, a questionable location, and the stark contrast between the grand project and Rio's serious crime, transport and health problems, have turned many otherwise music-loving people off Latin America's biggest concert hall.

In a city where Samba, Bossa Nova and other Brazilian sounds rule, many question the decision to spend the equivalent of five percent of next year's city budget on a center where classical music and opera will dominate.

"The City of Music is a block of concrete costing a horrific amount of money for us Cariocas and which won't bring the benefits that the population needs," said Marcos dos Santos, a 38-year-old fitness and dance trainer.   Continued...