Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Take A Tour Of Spain Based On Birthplaces Of Great Sopranos

Deciding where to travel in a foreign country can become a daunting task with all the landscapes, museums, architecture, restaurants, and concert halls. It seems natural to put an operatic twist on the itinerary when looking for adventure. Why not let the birthplaces of famous sopranos (and some mezzo-sopranos) dictate the destination? Let's start in the country of Spain. With all the flamenco dancing, bullfights, and beaches, this culture is muy caliente! "Spain has an extraordinary artistic heritage. The dominant figures of the Golden Age were the Toledo-based artists El Greco and Diego Velázquez. Francisco de Goya emerged in the 18th century as Spain's most prolific painter and he produced some wonderfully unflattering portraits of royalty. The art world in the early 20th century was influenced by a remarkable group of Spanish artists: Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, ambassadors of the artistic culture in Spain. Spain's architecture ranges from prehistoric monuments in Minorca in the Balearic Islands, to the Roman ruins of Merida and Tarragona, the decorative Lonja in Seville, Mudéjar buildings, Gothic cathedrals, castles, fantastic modernist monuments and Gaudí's intricate fabulist sculptures in Barcelona. They are all representative of the culture of Spain. Another example of culture in Spain is the invention of the Spanish guitar, which was invented in Andalusia in the 1790's when a sixth string was added to the Moorish lute. It gained its modern shape in the 1870's. Spanish musicians have taken the humble guitar to dizzying heights of virtuosity and none more so than Andrés Segovia (1893-1997), who established classical guitar as a genre. Flamenco, music rooted in the cante jondo (deep song) of the gitanos (gypsies) of Andalusia, is experiencing a revival. Paco de Lucia is the best known flamenco guitarist internationally. His friend Camarón de la Isla was, until his death in 1992, the leading light of contemporary cante jondo. In the 1980s flamenco-rock fusion (a.k.a. 'gypsy rock') was developed by the likes of Pata Negra and Ketama, and in the 1990s Radio Tarifa emerged with a mesmerizing mix of flamenco and medieval sounds. Bakalao, the Spanish contribution to the world of techno, emerged from Valencia." [Source] So why not add opera to the highest cultural contributions in Spain? Time to see the country as the famous opera singers would have experienced it while growing up. The tour begins after the jump.

TOLOSA: Aïnhoa Arteta: (Born on September 24, 1964)
Located on the bank of the river Oria, Tolosa is a town with a great historical importance that admires its past, but it is also adapted to the present times. The former capital of Gipuzkoa was an important passage for traders that linked up Navarre with ports of the Bay of Biscay. For centuries it benefited from numerous privileges. From that glorious past Tolosa inherited a valuable historical old quarter marked by buildings and monuments of different styles. The urban centre is situated in a plain formed in the confluence of the rivers Oria, Araxes and Berastegi, and can be divided in two: the medieval centre and the new "ensanche". Narrow streets in parallel and separated in many squares make up the old quarters. It is remarkable the parish church of Santa María dating back to the 17th century. It is the main sample of the Basque Gothic, with three high naves, ribbed vaults and a baroque facade of considerable beauty. The church and the convent of Santa Clara, the baroque town council, the Idiakez, Atodo, and Aramburu palaces, the council, the provincial archive and the plaza Euskal Herria square ýthat reminds us of the Plaza de la Constitución square in Donostia-San Sebastián- are just a few samples of Tolosa's rich heritage. The Basque contemporary art has its place in Tolosa, in the shape of outdoor sculptures on some streets and squares. On the outskirts of the urban area it is worth visiting the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Izaskun, located in the nearby Ibarra, by the Uzturre Mountain (730m), from where beautiful panoramic views of Tolosaldea are visible. Tolosa is flooded with cultural activities and keeps its traditions with great care. There are many celebrations and festivities throughout the year, such as its famous carnival ýone of the most ancient in Gipuzkoa-, San Juan patron Saint festival ýwith the "Bordon Dantza" dance- and the bonfire as interesting samples. We cannot forget the Zumardi conferences on nature, the international choral mass contest and its marionettes. As for gastronomy, first we must mention its weekly fair. Tolosa organises significant livestock, cheese and sweets fairs at the Tinglado market and other squares to offer autochthonous products of high quality. Besides, the town is home to a patisserie museum where utensils used by the Gorrotxategi family from 1680 to make delicious sweets are put on show. We cannot forget its famous ox chops and the numerous spits (a tradition in the area) or Tolosa Beans, the famous fine-skinned legumes typical in the area. For dessert we will have chillies from Ibarra, with an outstanding flavour, cigarettes, the "tejas" (tiles) as well as the "Xaxus", typical sweets from Tolosa. [Source]

VALENCIA: Lucrezia Bori (Born on December 24, 1887)
There are few cities like Valencia, able to harmoniously combine the remnants of its farthest past, dating to the year 138 BC, with the most innovative and avant-garde buildings from the new millennium. Valencia is trade and culture, cinema, theatre, museums, magic, business. It is the centre of international and avant-garde design, and one of the most active cities in Europe regarding fairs and conferences. Thanks to its location, Valencia has historically been Spain’s Mediterranean port and has that special charm of cities that are also seaports. And the fine sand and clean water, the vastness of the sea and the closeness of the coastal mountains make the Valencian coast uniquely attractive. There are outstanding beaches and dunes at Canet d’En Berenguer, where the coastline becomes leisurely and residential, as it does to the north of the Valencian capital, where small tourist town (La Pobla de Farnals, Alboraya, and El Puig) have emerged where only a few years ago fruit and vegetables were grown. In addition, still within the city of Valencia, the beaches of La Malvarrosa and Levante offer a wide variety of places to dine and enjoy a quiet evening by the sea. To the south, nature becomes predominant at Saler Beach and in the L’Albufera Nature Reserve, where the sun can be enjoyed in unique surroundings. The beaches of Cullera, Gandía and Oliva combine beautiful landscapes with a number of sporting and recreational facilities. Interesting routes await you inland, such as the one defined by the course of the Turia River, or charming towns like Buñol, Requena and Xátiva. [Source]

BARCELONA: Montserrat Caballé (Born on April 12, 1933), Conchita Supervía (Born on December 8, 1895), and Victoria de los Ángeles (Born on November 1, 1923)
The first human settlements in Barcelona date back to Neolithic times. The city itself was founded by the Romans who set up a colony called Barcino at the end of the 1st century BC. The colony had some thousand inhabitants and was bounded by a defensive wall, the remains of which can still be seen in the old town. For over 200 years, Barcelona was under Muslim rule, and, following the Christian reconquest, it became a county of the Carolingian Empire and one of the main residences of the court of the Crown of Aragon. The fruitful medieval period established Barcelona's position as the economic and political centre of the Western Mediterranean. The city’s Gothic Quarter bears witness to the splendour enjoyed by the city from the 13th to the 15th centuries. From the 15th to 18th centuries Barcelona entered a period of decline, while it struggled to maintain its economic and political independence. This struggle ended in 1714, when the city fell to the Bourbon troops and Catalonia’s and Catalans’ rights and privilegeswere suppressed. A period of cultural recovery began in the mid-19th century with the arrival of the development of the textile industry. During this period, which was known as the Renaixença, Catalan regained prominence as a literary language. The 20th century ushered in widespread urban renewal throughout Barcelona city, culminating in its landmark Eixample district, which showcases some of Barcelona’s most distinctive Catalan art-nouveau, or modernista, buildings. The Catalan Antoni Gaudí, one of the most eminent architects, designed buildings such as the Casa Milà (known as La Pedrera, the Catalan for stone quarry), the Casa Batlló and the Sagrada Família church, which have become world-famous landmarks. The freedoms achieved during this period were severely restricted during the Civil War in 1936 and the subsequent dictatorship. With the reinstatement of democracy in 1978, Barcelona society regained its economic strength and the Catalan language was restored. The city's hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games gave fresh impetus to Barcelona's potential and reaffirmed its status as a major metropolis. In 2004, the Forum of Cultures reclaimed industrial zones to convert them into residential districts. An example of the renewed vigour with which Barcelona is looking towards the 21st century. [Source]

GRANADA: Maria Galvany (Born on June 8, 1875)
Granada is a mid-sized provincial capital in the Andalucia region of Spain. Rich in history and culture, Granada is arguably the single most worthwhile city in Spain for visitors. In addition to a rich multicultural history, the Alhambra and other monuments, a student-driven nightlife, and skiing and trekking in the nearby Sierra Nevada, Granada offers a break from the summer heat of other Andalusian cities such as Córdoba or Seville. Spring and autumn are also both excellent times to visit. With much more cultural interest than other cities like Malaga, Granada is never overcrowded (although you should still book tickets to the Alhambra at least one day in advance). Granada has been continuously inhabited by humans for at least 2500 years, originating as an Ibero-Celtic settlement prior to the establishment of a Greek colony in the area. Under Ancient Roman rule Granada developed as an economic centre of Roman Hispania, with the construction of aqueducts, roads, and other infrastructure. With the fall of the Roman Empire the city was ruled by the Visigoths before being reconquered by the Byzantine Empire, all the time being maintained as a strategic military and economic hub for the region. The Moorish conquest of 711 brought Islamic rule to the Iberian Peninsula and Granada was quickly established as one of the main cities of Al-Andalus, the Muslim name for the region. New agricultural practices were introduced as the old Roman infrastructure was put to use for irrigation, leading to a major expansion of the city as it grew from the river valley up to the hills currently occupied by the Alhambra and the Albayzín, with a major Jewish settlement, the Realejo, existing within the town. Following the fall of Córdoba in 1236 to the Christian Reconquista, the city became the capital of the Emirate of Granada, and for the next 250 years Granada stood as the heart of a powerful and self-sufficient kingdom with the construction of the royal palace and fortress, the Alhambra. Skirmishes continued between the Emirate of Granada and the Crown of Castile, and in the late 15th century the Christian Reconquista set its sights on Granada. Following a military campaign led by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, which included a siege of the walled town, King Boabdil of Granada was ultimately forced to surrender the town in 1492, bringing an end to Moorish rule in the Iberian peninsula and marking the end of the Reconquista. The fall of Granada came at a crucial moment for Christian Spain, as it was that same year that Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas, bringing back reports of the wealth and resources that could be gained there. Flushed with the success of the Reconquista, Spaniards conquered much of the Americas and brought great wealth to the new Spanish Empire. In the case of Granada, the Christians soon forced the existing Jewish and Muslim residents to convert and began making significant changes to the appearance of the city in an attempt to hide its Muslim character, including replacing the city's primary mosque with the massive Cathedral and constructing a large Christian palace in the heart of the Alhambra. Persecution against the Muslims and Jews took its toll, and over time the city began to suffer economically as these populations abandoned their homes in the area. Granada remained a largely medieval-style city well into the 19th century, going through many economic slumps and seeing much of its architectural heritage destroyed. However, the last half of the 19th century saw Granada incorporated into the national rail network and the first stirrings of tourism thanks to reports of sites like the Alhambra to a global audience. However, the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s sunk Granada's economy, and it persisted largely as a bureaucratic and university town until the late 20th century, when the city underwent a massive period of modernization and development which brought new business and visitors to the city. Today you can still see this modernization in the reconstruction of old buildings in the city centre and expansion of the town along the edges of the city. Most places of interest are with walking distance of central Granada. Plaza Isabel La Catolica is just a block west of Plaza Nueva and marks the intersection of Gran Via de Colon (the main drag heading north) and Calle Reyes Catolicos (the main drag heading southwest to Puerta Real, where it splits into Calle Recogidas and Acera Del Darro, heading west and south respectively). The cathedral and royal chapel are just to the northwest of this square. The Alhambra and Albayzin (the Arabic quarter) are on opposite hills on the east side of town with Carrera del Darro and a small river separating them. [Source]

VALDERROBRES: Elvira de Hidalgo (Born on December 28, 1891)

Its City Hall and the castle, connected by a raised bridge to the church of Santa María la Mayor, form one of the finest collections of Gothic buildings in the province of Teruel. Valderrobres is the most outstanding town of Matarraña. Entry is gained over the medieval bridge of San Roque, held up by pointed arches. Its urban layout is composed of narrow, winding little streets which creep up the hill in search of the two most emblematic buildings: the castle from the 14th century (without a doubt, the most spectacular and artistic of all the province's castles) and the church of Santa María la Mayor, from the 16th century and declared to be Historic-Artistic Heritage, whose tower is connected to the castle by a passage. The church is a fine example of Teruel's Gothic style, whose façade is decorated with a magnificent rose window. There are also a great many civil buildings worth mentioning: the gate of San Roque or the Gate of the Lions (14th century); the door of Bergos (13th- 14th centuries), above which there is a house; or the City Hall (16th century), a Renaissance building with a huge Aragonese gallery of semicircular arches, declared to be a National Monument. [Source]

ZARAGOZA: Pilar Lorengar (Born January 16, 1928)
Come to Zaragoza, one of Spain's major cities. The capital of the Region of Aragon is located on the banks of the Ebro River, halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. There are many reasons to come to this open, friendly city. With over 2,000 years of history, you will find a stunning legacy of monuments in the streets of the city, vestiges of the Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian communities who left their mark on the place: Roman ruins such as the Circus; Aljafería Palace; Mudejar-style churches, with the UNESCO World Heritage designation; Baroque gems like the Pilar Basilica; the work of brilliant artist Francisco de Goya. If you like art, then Zaragoza is the perfect destination for you. Theatres, cinemas, exhibitions, concerts, festivals, fairs. In Zaragoza a spectacular year-round cultural programme awaits you. The cultural life of the city is intense. See for yourself in the city streets or at venues like the Auditorium, the Principal Theatre or the Aragon Conference Centre. You can find all the different artistic styles in this city. Savour typical regional dishes and, of course, take part in one of the city's great traditions - going out for tapas: small gastronomic creations that delight all those who try them. Zaragoza has a range of shops to suit all tastes. From pedestrian areas to large shopping centres, not forgetting the street markets. Stroll through the streets of the city and feel their bustle and vitality. Night-time entertainment.Enjoy Zaragoza nights. Pubs, nightclubs, bars and terrace bars open their doors until the early hours of the morning. Fun is assured in a city with wonderful nightlife at any time of year. You will see for yourself when you explore the main areas for going out. You will want to come back for more. Zaragoza is a city that is always ready for a fiesta. You can see this, for example, during Easter week. The processions bring over one hundred thousand visitors to the city each year. Most important, however, are the El Pilar Fiestas in October. Come and take part in events that fill the streets with happiness and bustle: vaquillas (bullfights with young bulls), concerts, sports, religious processions, regional folklore. Going for a stroll around Zaragoza is a traditional activity open to all. Dress comfortably and explore the streets. This city is compact, ideal to wander on foot, and its boulevards, avenues and pedestrian areas are perfect for a stroll. This is also the best way to admire its monuments. Routes and outings in the surrounding area.Discover the area surrounding Zaragoza, with a wealth of landscapes, villages, spa resorts, cultural routes and countryside. From Fuendetodos, the birthplace of brilliant artist Francisco de Goya, to Calatayud, where you will find the Piedra Monastery nature area. Follow the Moncayo Route, to the province's highest mountain, just a few kilometres from Tarazona, a Mudejar town packed with art. We would also recommend a visit to the Cinco Villas region, with its medieval atmosphere. These are a few outings that you will enjoy, less than an hour and a half away. [Source]

MADRID: Teresa Berganza (Born on March 16, 1935)
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a cosmopolitan city that combines the most modern infrastructures and the status as an economic, financial, administrative and service centre, with a large cultural and artistic heritage, a legacy of centuries of exciting history. Strategically located in the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula at an altitude of 646 m above sea level, Madrid has one of the most important historic centres of all the great European cities. This heritage merges seamlessly with the city's modern and convenient infrastructures, a wide-ranging offer of accommodation and services, and all the latest state-of-the-art technologies in audiovisual and communications media. These conditions, together with all the drive of a dynamic and open society –as well as high-spirited and friendly– have made this metropolis one of the great capitals of the Western world. It has been populated since the Lower Palaeolithic era, although it was not until 1561 that King Philip II made Madrid the capital city of his vast empire. The historic centre, also known as the "Madrid of Los Austrias" (in reference to the Hapsburg monarchs), and the spectacular Plaza Mayor square –inaugurated in 1620 and one of the most popular and typical sites in Spain– are a living example of the nascent splendour of the city in the 16th and 17th centuries. Near the Plaza Mayor is the area known as the "aristocratic centre" where the jewel in the crown is the Royal Palace, an imposing building dating from the 17th century featuring a mixture of Baroque and classicist styles. Beside it is the Plaza de Oriente square, the Teatro Real opera house, and the modern cathedral of La Almudena which was consecrated in 1993 by Pope John Paul II. The Puerta del Sol square is surrounded by a varied and select area of shops and businesses, and the "Paseo del Arte" art route –whose name derives from its world-class museums, palaces and gardens– are further elements in an array of monuments which includes particularly the Bank of Spain building, the Palace of Telecommunications, and the fountains of Cibeles and Neptune. Art and culture play a key role in Madrid's cultural life. The capital has over 60 museums which cover every field of human knowledge. Highlights include the Prado Museum, one of the world's most important art galleries; the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, with over 800 paintings ranging from primitive Flemish artists through to the avant-garde movements. And the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, dedicated to contemporary Spanish art and containing works by Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Juan Gris, among others. Madrid's extensive and beautifully maintained parks and gardens –like the Retiro park, formerly the recreational estate to the Spanish monarchs, the Casa de Campo and the Juan Carlos I park– offer inhabitants and visitors the chance to enjoy the sunshine, stroll, row on its lakes or feed the squirrels, in one of the greenest capitals in Europe. The importance of its international airport, which every week receives over 1,000 flights from all over the world, its two Conference Centres, the modern trade fair ground in the Campo de las Naciones, and over 80,000 places in other meeting centres make Madrid one of Europe's most attractive business hubs. But if there's one thing that sets Madrid apart, it must be its deep and infectious passion for life that finds its outlet in the friendly and open character of its inhabitants. Concerts, exhibitions, ballets, a select theatrical offering, the latest film releases, the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of the best Spanish and international gastronomy, to savour the charms of its bars and taverns... all these are just a few of the leisure options on offer in Madrid. There is also a tempting array of shops and businesses featuring both traditional establishments and leading stores offering top brands and international labels. Madrid's lively nightlife is another key attraction of Spain's capital, due to its variety and the exciting atmosphere to be found in its bars, pubs, clubs and flamenco halls. Other daytime entertainment options include traditional outdoor dances, popular festivities and the San Isidro bullfighting festival, regarded as being the most important in the world. [Source]

FITERO: María Bayo (Born on May 28, 1961)
Fitero stands on the banks of the river Alhama on the border with La Rioja not far from Tudela- The town combines mediaeval and modern features in its centre. Let yourself be captivated by the mediaeval beauty of El Cortijo, a small neighbourhood with narrow streets in a T-shape around the Monastery of Santa María, the first Cistercian monastery in mainland Spain. You will discover more modern architecture in Fitero's wider and straighter streets in the newer part. There are few noble houses because the Monastery prohibited the construction of large buildings and the use of coats of arms on facades. Leaving Fitero towards the spa where the poet Bécquer stayed you will find a 16th-century roadside cross, where the new abbot was received an escorted in procession to the monastery. That moment has been recorded for ever, as it was carved in stone in a the cloister of the church. The old spa of Fitero was founded in 1600 by the viceroy and bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza; one of the spa's hotels is named after him. According to the tradition, a maid was about to follow the orders of Juan's mother and throw him into the river Alhama because he was illegitimate but she was surprised by the local mayor, who undertook to take charge of the young boy. There are several walks starting from Fitero, such as the one to the cave where -as Bécquer wrote- every night the disconsolate soul of an Arab princess appears every night looking for water for her Christian lover who lies wounded inside the cave. The festivities of Fitero start on the Sunday after 18th September, in honour of the Virgin 'de la Barda'. [Source]

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