A definite must-do for visitors to the university town of Coimbra, Portugal is see a fado show. Fado is a traditional genre of music similar to opera. The Coimbra style of fado is performed by men who are current or former students of the university, while the Lisbon style is most often performed by women.
The show we saw featured a fado trio. The singer was excellent and the lyrics were melodic, making the music engaging despite not being able to understand Portuguese. The two other performers played string instruments: one had a Portuguese guitar designed Coimbra-style and played quick, intricate melodies over the other’s slower standard guitar notes. All three wore their black university robes during the show, and they were tattered at the bottom because of a long-held tradition that a student’s friends, family, and girlfriend will cut into the fabric (when the couple breaks up, the ex-boyfriend has to sew up her cut using the colors of his field of study).
I’m not a huge fan of opera, but I really enjoyed the show. It was an interesting cultural experience, and the musicians were very talented. If you ever find yourself in Coimbra, try listening to fado. It’ll make you feel truly Portuguese.