Although I have not traveled to Manaus, Brazil, when I read Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, I felt immediately transported to this exotic city, located at the convergence of 2 rivers and the gateway destination to travels on the mighty Amazon. Ms. Patchett’s writing drew me into a city filled jungle bugs, unbearable heat, and third-world conditions, yet, glaring out with irony and wonder was the majestic classic colonial opera house, the Amazonas Theatre. With a glistening gold leafed interior and Verdi classic being sung, this opera house seems to be quite a contrast to it’s neighboring world of the jungles of the Amazon.
State of Wonder is the story of a drug company’s dilemmas of potentially discovering a miracle drug for the world in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. The impact of bringing a drug like this to market, causes many moral questions– yet besides the overarching plot, which I enjoyed, the books descriptive nature of the location made me want to hop on a plane and head to adventure.
The Amazonas Theatre was built during the area’s rubber boom in the late 19th century. This decadent time was filled with money and extravagance, as Manaus was transformed into a booming city in the middle of no where. The opera house is just one example, with it’s marble, glass, gold and crystal. The European aesthetics and jungle setting seem worlds apart. But an even more ironic tale is about the visiting opera troupe who came to sing there. It seems that nearly 1/2 the troupe lost their lives due to yellow fever, a hazard not common to opera stars! Once the rubber industry proliferated outside of Brazil, Manaus fell into disrepair… yet, the opera house remains.
Traveling to Manaus for a Amazon adventure is definitely on my bucket list, but before I head off, I’ll be sure to check Amazonas’ calendar, so I can catch an opera while there!
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