He is highly-gifted, internationally-acclaimed and was practising for a charity piano recital for victims of last summer’s killer fires – but Sintra police weren’t listening to any of the mitigating circumstances when they arrived at Thiago Tortaro’s door.
According to the book, the baby-faced 11-year-old musical protegé was “making a noise”, and that level of sound – even at 6pm when most people are awake – is prohibited.
As one of Thiago’s teachers has commented, legislation governing noise levels should be to able to differentiate between noise and art.
Fernando Sêrro gave an eloquent example, dropping a book on a table, and telling journalists: “That’s noise. You cannot read it, you cannot write it”. He then turned to his piano and played a few notes from the sheet music in front of him: “That’s art. You can read it, you can write it”.
But eloquent examples appear to jar with authorities which insist that they asked Thiago’s mother to ensure the noise stopped, and as she told her son he should keep playing, she opened the door to an infraction.
Ascenção Carvalho’s determination to encourage Thiago eventually saw her slapped with a €502 fine – ironically from the same council that handed him first prize in a musical competition not long ago.
Said Sandra Brito, director of the council’s legal department, Thiago’s mother may be able to appeal her fine, but Brito doubts it, as by law an infraction was committed.
As for Thiago, he is just “sad”. “I am proud to be Portuguese”, he has told reporters. “But I feel betrayed”.
Some papers even allude to the child who started playing piano at the of two wondering whether he should change nationalities (his father is Italian) – not that this would make much difference to his mother’s whopping fine.
Meantime, Fernando Sêrro is organising a concert to try and raise the money to pay the fine – and Thiago’s mother has sounded the alert that her son is not the only victim of sledgehammer noise legislation.
“There are lots of other pupils that go through the same thing”, she told Visão magazine. “The law (on noise) impedes training. There is a collision of rights”.
It remains to be seen whether the cacophony now being generated elevates Brahms and Liszt from a “racket going on in the upstairs flat”.
Thiago’s parents have been at pains to try and quieten the sounds coming out of their apartment by constructing a noise-proof booth round their son’s piano, but as he told reporters, he feels a bit constricted playing in such a confined space.