We were simply out walking, taking a last stroll through the narrow streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter without any particular expectations at all. We had enjoyed a good meal and a few drinks and were bidding farewell to the city. The Middle Ages were shutting up shop. The cathedral, the palaces and the museums were all closed, and either because the temperatures were wintry or simply because we were in luck, we found ourselves quite alone on some of the old streets – deep inside a walk-in painting, gaining fleeting impressions of history, grandeur and brilliance by the light of Gaudí’s street lamps.
And then we heard the music. It emerged from the gloom between two ancient walls. As we came closer, it became an opera. Two professionally trained tenors clad in woolen hats, scarves and warm coats were lustily singing a song into the night that brought tears to my eyes. I’m not well up on arias, but this one was famous. I had often heard it sung in movies, on the TV and the radio, but never as authentically as here, in the opera house of life. Illuminated by faint light from the end of the street, their shadows cast by chance, big voices created immortal emotions. The stage was older than the opera, the song older than the singers, two men singing of everlasting love or the fate of the mortal world or who knows what. Between them lay a small white case ready to receive coins. This is street music in Barcelona: Europe’s cultural heritage at your fingertips, right out in the open. I hardly liked to step away from the wall where I was leaning. Yes, I now intend to visit the opera houses of the world, and yes, I know that a moment like this will never come again.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.