Life of Hardin in Paraguay

Laugh as you travel through life with Josh Hardin.

Location: Spring Hill, TN, United States

Josh Hardin began writing in high school and published his first novel when he was twenty-two. He won an EPPIE award for his mystery novel "The Pride of Peacock." His non-fiction work includes "The Prayer of Faith", a book aimed at making personal prayers both powerful and effective. He has traveled widely and taught a summer philosophy course at the International University in Vienna. Hardin grew up in Tennessee and moved to Paraguay in 2006. He moved back to Tennessee in 2008.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Life of Hardin Vol. III, No. 5

A Night at the Opera?

There is a club here in Paraguay called Club Centenario. It is somewhat kin to a yacht club, but it is not on the water; and it is also a cousin to a golf club, but it has no course. However, it is extremely prestigious and apparently exclusive. Someone asked me what I did the night before, and when I said I had visited Club Centenario, they hid their face as though I had just come down from Mount Sinai and could not be looked upon.

Each Wednesday night the club hosts concerts to better advance the arts and culture in Paraguay. I went to the first one a few weeks ago, armed and ready with the name and membership number of a friend so I could get in. I found out immediately just how exclusive a club it is. The guards held me in such little regard that they found it beneath themselves to look at much less talk to me. I passed through the gates unimpeded.

That first concert was Spanish jazz music. I went again this past Wednesday. The guards and I were old friends by then. They let me in to hear selections from Paraguayan opera. I have seen "Falstaff" performed in Europe. I watched "La Boheme" in Vienna and walked out after the first three hours, a.k.a. Act I, of "Tristan and Isolde." I viewed firsthand "The Barber of Seville" in the Vienna Staatsoper, the very hall where the works of Mozart were first performed. But I have never witnessed an operatic spectacle as was performed that Wednesday in Paraguay. It wasn't even a full opera, but only the performance of selected songs.

The small orchestra first tuned up to a note played by the oboe. The oboe never quite got to the note. Everyone else somehow tuned up fine. Maybe they were warned beforehand. But that oboe lagged behind the whole show. Had we given him another week, he might have made it. The strings did an excellent job, however, of keeping time. This was due mainly to the fact that they never once looked up at the conductor. He waved his arms the best he could, but he never once hit a downbeat where it should have been, nor an upbeat in the right place. I believe must have been swatting mosquitoes because they nearly carried me off.

Then the show began. The tenor came out to sing. This was Cesar Antonio Gonzalez. He had taken a Nazarite vow. A blade had never trimmed his beard, and rarely his head. Once Cesar finished throttling the song, we were all ready to lend hands to his rapid assasination.

Then came the soprano for a solo. This Lilian Rodriguez de Zaputovich had married a European for his name. It gave her instant operatic credibility in the eyes of the audience. She sang well, but I am certain she stood too close to the bow of the cellist because her eyes popped out once in a while and she teetered forward as though about to fall off the stage. Her pink dress did nothing to help her stability.

During one song the audience was allowed to clap in time. This lent so much fun to the evening I wondered why those European halls hadn't introduced it before, until the orchestra sped up and we had the poor Zaputovich woman running around the stage to catch us. Of course after this we had to clap during the next song so as not to leave Cesar out of the fun.

The end for me came when Cesar sang opera in Guarani, the native indian language. If you can imagine Tonto donning a tux, riding into town and serenading the local pub with "The Barber of Seville" in Cherokee you will almost have it.

I think I will go back next week, as long as the guards will stop me at the door.