lunes, enero 14, 2008


At the start of November 2006 the Colón Theatre closed its doors for renovation. The so-called Master Plan had started three years previously and had restored vitraux, facades and roofs whilst the Colón remained open. But the turn for stage and hall refurbishing had arrived, and this forced the theatre's authorities (Marcelo Lombardero, Artistic Director) to establish an uncomfortable plan for 2007: operas at the Coliseo, the Philharmonic's concerts at the immense Gran Rex (a converted cinema) and ballet at the much smaller Presidente Alvear.

Under the difficult circumstances, there were logical ups and downs. Sticking to opera, only six titles were presented (two of them in concert guise), all normal repertoire. High points: Virginia Tola as Margherita in "Mefistofele", José Cura as Samson, Jonathan Boyd as Werther, Luana DeVol as Elektra. Lowest: a deplorable "Traviata". The Coliseo has had two periods: a first brilliant trajectory with great international artists (1907-3,7); after a prolonged hiatus the first theatre was torn down and a second along modern lines was inaugurated in 1961. The old big pit now has been recuperated and holds almost 100 players (thus "Elektra").

Meanwhile, the Master Plan has gone through much hesitation and curtailed funds; after solemnly promising that the Colón would be reopened in May 2008 with "Aida", feting the 100th. anniversary of our great opera theatre, the authorities had to admit that there were serious delays and gave as tentative another date, October 2008. Now there are signs that perhaps it will stay closed until early 2010, the year of the bicentenary of the May Revolution which led to independence.

In June 2007 Mauricio Macri was elected Mayor; an uneasy and much too prolonged transition period ensued, six anxious and weak months winding down Jorge Telerman's leadership. Much speculation went on about Macri's cultural team, for he unfortunately discarded a good plan that had been publicized during his campaign and finally settled on a tourism specialist as Culture Minister, Hernán Lombardi; and he named as the Colón's Director an opera amateur, Horacio Sanguinetti. The declarations of the latter were such that initial good will became virulent attacks; but in December he assumed as Director, both General and Artistic.

What was so provoking? Well, at first there were unfortunate aesthetic appreciations that showed a very limited taste; but the bomb was his statement that there would be no season in 2008. His explanations were poor, and many people (as this writer ) think that the decision came directly from Macri. First, Sanguinetti said that Telerman had sent telegrams intimating Colón workers that are over 65 to retire. As the Theatre's personnel has been greying for decades, the affected people were either 250 or 400 (according to different versions) on a total of 1300. This, according to Sanguinetti, meant that he would be left with incomplete orchestras, choir and ballet, thus impeding the season.

After the November 2005 Colón strikes, the Government acted upon a promise: salaries would henceforth count integrally for the calculus of a pension after decades of having only 40 % of the total taken into account. But this would only apply to those under 55, thus leaving a big segment of the Colón's employees in bad relative conditions; there was an unwritten agreement not to force people to retire until this would be corrected, but Telerman broke the understanding . However, there were solutions: one-year contracts to fill vacancies whilst competitions were prepared for a definitive resolution of the matter. Or better a Macri decree reversing the Telerman one (and eliminating hundreds of law suits that are already initiated).

Sanguinetti also stated that he didn't like the Coliseo and wouldn't do opera until the Colón is again available; so he only promises concerts and ballets at different venues. There will be opera from alternative groups: no less than 24 different operas with orchestra will be presented at the Avenida, the Avellaneda Rome and the La Plata Argentino. But they're not the Colón...


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