sábado, mayo 24, 2008
miércoles, mayo 21, 2008
Readers of the HERALD were informed of the Colón's current situation in three articles I wrote: "The Colón in deep trouble"(Dec. 2, 2007), "The Colón's sad situation" (Feb.21, 2008) and "The Colón through 2011: a fragile planning" (March 4, 2008). Now the "season" is under way, if you can call it thus considering there's no big-scale opera : concerts by the Colón Orchestra and the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, routine ballet performances, chamber opera (Haydn's "Il Mondo della Luna"). Coming up, a series of multitudinous concerts of opera fragments celebrating the Colón's centenary. It's better than nothing, of course, but the closed Colón and the lack of an alternate opera season at the Coliseo are two wounds that don't heal.
But of course current miseries don't erase the immense history of
Those were the times of the boat. There were no European Summer festivals, and
During those early years, although the theatre belonged to the City, it was given in concession to an impresario, who ran the everyday activities and had to make ends meet. There were other opera theatres at the time, such as the Politeama, the Opera and the Coliseo, so there was a great opera tradition built over many decades of intense activity (including the old Teatro Colón, discontinued in 1888 and torn down ; the Banco Nación was built in the same place). Our city was no stranger to the great names of those times and it had welcomed in the last decades of the nineteenth century such artists as Enrico Tamberlick or Adelina Patti. During the first decade of the twentieth Arturo Toscanini led several seasons (1901, 1903, 1904, 1906) with such singers as Enrico Caruso, Giuseppe De Luca, Rosina Storchio, and premieres such as "Madama Butterfly", "The Damnation of Faust" (Berlioz) or Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur". At the Colón in 1912 he conducted 15 operas of the 17 of the season . Caruso, after visiting the city in 1899,1900 and 1901, would sing at the Colón in 1915 and 1917. Other great artists of that first decade: Giuseppe Borgatti, María Barrientos, Hariclée Darclée, Giuseppe Anselmi, Titta Ruffo; many would sing at the Colón. We also had such distinguished visitors as the composers Giacomo Puccini (1905) and Camille Saint-Saëns (1904).
In the first decade of the Colón, 1908-17, there were also symphonic concerts, the visit of the Compañía de Opera Espanola in 1910, strong rivalry with the Coliseo (that theatre pemiered Strauss' "Salome" and Wagner's "Parsifal") and the Opera (premiere of Wagner's "The Twilight of the Gods"), chamber music, such soloists as pianist Ignaz Paderewski, the debuts of great singers such as Lucrezia Bori, Nazareno De Angelis, Tito Schipa, Riccardo Stracciari, Rosa Raisa, Amelita Galli-Curci, Carlo Galeffi, Ninon Vallin, Marcel Journet, Giovanni Martinelli and Felia Litvinne, the enormous success of Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Company in 1913 (with Nijinsky and Karsavina), operatic conductors of the quality of Tullio Serafin (in the first of his nine seasons at the Colón) or Gino Marinuzzi, the premiere of Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier"(although in Italian) in 1915.
1918-27: The Sociedad Italiana de Conciertos under Ferruccio Cattelani presented many important premieres, such as Debussy's "
1928-37: Two essential premieres in 1928: Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro"and Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring". 1929: first presentation of the most famous Argentine opera, Boero's "El Matrero". And Colón debut of our greatest conductor, Juan José Castro. The Russian company Opéra Privé , from Paris, offered five Russian operas, three of them premieres. Ottorino Respighi premiered his opera "
1938-47: Kleiber premiered Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" in 1938, with artists such as Koloman Von Pataky and Emanuel List. In other operas great singers made their local debuts: Elisabeth Rethberg, Rise Stevens and Herbert Janssen. A distinguished French conductor, Albert Wolff, started his long association with the Colón. And Serafin gave Buenos Aires its first taste of Monteverdi's "L'incoronazione di Poppea". Manuel de Falla came to live in Argentina and received the homage of a series of concerts in which he conducted some Spanish scores. 1939: seven recitals by violinist Mischa Elman. 1940: Toscanini made his comeback after several decades in memorable concerts (eight) with the NBC Orchestra. The marvelous violinist Jascha Heifetz gave eight recitals. And Villa-Lobos conducted many of his scores. 1941 and 1943: recitals by the famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin. 1941: Kleiber premieres Mozart's "The Magic Flute". Important new singers in those years: Zinka Milanov, Leonard Warren, Rose Bampton, Helen Traubel, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Set Svanholm, Astrid Varnay, Fedora Barbieri 1941 was also the year in which Balanchine presented some of his ballets. Other valuable players, Ginette Neveu and Henryk Szeryng (violin), William Kapell and Rudolf Firkusny (piano), were heard in our city for the first time in that period. The war naturally restricted some visits but didn't have as much effect as had been feared. Some Argentine singers started their notable careers: Angel Mattiello, Delia Rigal, Renato Cesari.
The end of the war meant reconstruction and gradual prosperity, and for Argentina, the era of the jet allowed artists to come here in less than a day, changing utterly the contractual conditions. In Europe before the war Summer festivals were few (Salzburg, Bayreuth, Verona) but they flourished as the years went by; Argentina was no longer necessary to keep artists occupied, but the country's richness and the well-acquired prestige of the Colón kept the flow of first-rate visitors alive. The Colón , now fully municipal, presented high-quality opera, ballet and concerts year after year.
1948-57: Up to 1953 the seasons were very good; the decline of the economy in 1954-55 took its toll. 1948 was a great year: Kirsten Flagstad sang Isolde and Brunnhild (in "The Twilight of the Gods"), Kleiber premiered Strauss' "Daphne", and the season had singers such as Hans Hotter, Anton Dermota, Ludwig Weber, Bampton, Svanholm. Apart from the comeback of Kleiber and Clemens Krauss, our city came to know great conductors : Wilhelm Furtwaengler and Victor De Sabata. Admirable pianists made their debuts here: Walter Gieseking (he would be back in 1949, 1950 and 1952), Nikita Magaloff, Ernst Von Dohnányi. 1949: eight concerts conducted by Herbert Von Karajan (his only visit) with the Colón Orchestra. Admirable debuts of pianists Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli and Friedrich Gulda and violinist Isaac Stern. Premieres of important operas: Strauss' "Die Frau ohne Schatten", Gluck's "Iphigenia in Aulis", Roussel's "Padmavati". Debuts of great singers: Maria Callas (her only season here), Hilde Konetzni, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Hélene Bouvier, Mario Del Monaco. Karl Boehm took over the German season in 1950 and was at the helm also in the three following years. This was a great time for our theatre. We owe him fundamental premieres: Janácek's "Jenufa", Berg's "Wozzeck", Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle", Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde", Strauss' "Four Last Songs". Three other important condu ctors were known in 1950: Artur Rodzinski, Ferenc Fricsay (premiere of Orff's "Carmina Burana") and Malcolm Sargent (premiere of Vaughan Williams' Sixth Symphony). Carlos Chávez conducted several of his works. The Ballet of the Paris Opera, led by Serge Lifar, offered 15 performances, including "Phaedra" with Tamara Toumanova. Both in 1950 and 195l Tatiana Gsovsky presented with the Colón Ballet her choreographies of "Don Juan of Zarissa" (Egk), "Abraxas" (Egk), "Hamlet" (Blacher). In those years we heard such singers as Victoria de los Angeles, Renata Tebaldi, Carlo Bergonzi, Giuseppe Taddei, Maria Reining, Jerome Hines, Margarete Klose, Kurt Boehme, Christel Goltz, along with comebacks from Lemnitz and Dermota. . Martha Argerich played in 1951 Schumann's Concerto (she was eleven). Violinist Ruggiero Ricci (1951) and cellist Antonio Janigro (1953) were heard at the Colón. Two very different great dancers performed: Alicia Markova and Dore Hoyer (classic and modern). The admirable Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under Karl Muenchinger made its Colón debut in 1953. That same year the theatre premiered Menotti's "The Consul". In 1954 and 1955 our city heard two great violinists: David Oistrakh and Christian Ferras. But the most important thing in 1954 was the presence of Paul Hindemith conducting his scores with the Colón Orchestra. Britten's "The Rape of Lucretia" was also offered for the first time here. Those were seasons where vast amounts of symphonic music were premiered. A teenager Bruno Gelber showed in 1955 and
1958-67: The conflict settled, 1958 was a great year indelibly marked by the presence of the fabled conductor Thomas Beecham in five operas, particularly a memorable "Otello" with Ramón Vinay, Stella and Taddei and a lovely "Magic Flute" with Dermota, Walter Berry and Rita Streich. Other singers made their debuts: Gré Brouwenstijn, Flaviano Labó, Fernando Corena, Inge Borkh, Blanche Thebom. This was a year for conductors: the octogenarian Pierre Monteux led the Colón Orchestra in such works as Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe", Ansermet and Hermann Scherchen did memorable concerts with the National Symphony, Sargent was back. And we had the visit of the New York Philharmonic with Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein. Juan José Castro premiered his opera "La zapatera prodigiosa". 1959: another American orchestra came: the National Symphony (Washington) under Howard Mitchell (it would be back in 1980 and 1984 with Mstislav Rostropovich). Other illustrious visitors: the Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Roger Wagner Chorale. Interesting premieres: Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress", Schoenberg's "Erwartung", Dallapiccola's "Volo di notte" and Prokofiev's "The love for three oranges". These were years before the country club craze provoked the exile of many music lovers for the week-end, so in Saturdays we had the famous sessions of Conciertos Daniel and Conciertos Iriberri, which brought us so many great artists, such as the baritone Gérard Souzay. 1960: an 18-year-old Daniel Barenboim plays Brahms and Beethoven. Great singers make their debuts and will become favorites: Cornell MacNeil, Richard Tucker, Grace Hoffman, Martha Moedl, Anna Moffo, Eberhard Waechter. Conductors: Fernando Previtali and Peter Maag had successful debuts and also came back frequently. There was the memorable visit of the London Festival Ballet. 1961: debut of cellist Rostropovich, who would be a much appreciated visitor in years to come both as cellist and conductor. 1961-2 and 1967: pianist Hans Richter-Haaser offered admirable Beethoven. A very different but just as admirable a pianist was Alicia de Larrocha, a frequent visitor since 1961 and the best interpreter of the Spanish repertoire. 1962: the first of many trips to Buenos Aires by violinist Salvatore Accardo. The Bamberg Symphony under Joseph Keilberth came for the first time; it would visit us again with Witold Rowicki (a notable conductor heard before at the Colón), Horst Stein and (this year) Jonathan Nott, although at the Coliseo. New singers: Luis Alva, Sesto Bruscantini, Amy Shuard, Marga Hoeffgen. Premieres of Fauré's "Pénélope" with Régine Crespin and Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". 1963: premieres of Manuel de Falla's "
1968-72: you may be surprised that this block stops in 1972. The reason is that at the end of that year an ominous thing occurred: the German season was abruptly interrupted and the Colón closed when Mayor Saturnino Montero Ruiz ordered the architectural group of Mario Roberto Alvarez to finish perentorily the construction of the amplification of the theatre started four years earlier, adding thousands of square meters to the Colón's area . Their work was and is controversial and the Government never gave it a final OK. But, as had happened during the early years of the 1960s, this period is remembered as a Golden Age of the Colón, under the successive directorships of Architect Juan Pedro Montero and of Enzo Valenti Ferro: there were exceptions, but by far the greatest part of those years was of very high quality in every sense, a true model of what the Colón should be. Adequate financing and the right artistic aims combined in often ideal ways. 1968: excellent presentations of the Hallé Orchestra under Barbirolli, the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Raymond Leppard and the Quartetto Italiano. Premieres conducted by Vaclav Smetácek: Shostakovich's "Caterina Ismailova" and Janácek's "Katya Kabanova". Finally a Handel opera at the Colón: "Giulio Cesare" with Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Peter Schreier, conductor Julius Rudel. Three magnificent recitals of soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf were presented by Amigos de
I stop here the detailed analysis of the Colón's seasons . In the remaining 35 years up to the present, there were two periods of considerable quality: a second directorship by Valenti Ferro, and Sergio Renán's first tenure, with great renovation of artists and productions and some memorable occasions. Otherwise, there were occasional felicities along with grave mistakes. The artistic aims went awry too many times. Some of them were disasters: the few months of xenophobia and anarchy in 1973-4 (director, Bruno Jacovella); the interruption of the season in 1987 (a few weeks after Pavarotti's debut in "
But there were some interesting premieres, and the seasons of great institutions like the Mozarteum, Harmonia, the Wagneriana and Festivales Musicales, bringing to us so many great artists, including a constant supply of valuable orchestras, certainly were memorable. Some will also recall with appreciation the renovation of repertoire (Senanes, Lombardero) or the good level of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic , especially in the years where Decker was an inspiring presence. We all have our favorite moments, and those readers that have had two or three decades of musical experience will have their own. Some will fondly remember orchestras such as the Cleveland or the Berlin Philharmonic, others will call forth some admirable recitals, still others will think of Van Dam as Simone Boccanegra, or the stimulus of getting to know Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" conducted by Rostropovich. Yes, even with ups and downs, there were still many great Colón nights through the years.
Shall we have them again? There are two battles in the horizon: what will be the substitution of the Master Plan ? This depends on the outcome of a bid at the end of this month searching for a consulting outfit that will take over the management of what is now called a new "Works Plan". And what will be the outcome of the Autarchy Law sent to the Legislature? As it is formulated, it needs great changes to be acceptable. There will be a debate in June over its contents. Just a few final points to explain why I am worried, along with many other people. This project makes everything depend on a Director General with the sole control of the Government Chief; the fundamental department of purchases and supplies would remain outside the general city regulations; public financing would only cover salaries; the technicians' rights aren't assured; there will be ample opportunity for arbitrary behavior with no legislative intervention. There's a movement trying to stop this law and I hope it succeeds.
For Buenos Aires Herald
For Buenos Aires Herald
jueves, mayo 15, 2008
Horacio Pigozzi updated “La Boheme” and accepted the condition for his production: it uses the same scenery as the musical “Rent”, loosely based on it but with an AIDS-centered story. It worked in the first and fourth acts –the garret- but it was ludicrous in the second, the Café Momus, where the ambience was all wrong and there was no street, and in the third, where the illusion of a snowy morning outside a tavern wasn’t even suggested. And of course, if you take the libretto seriously –as I do- that third act happens at one of Paris’ barriers which existed in the 1840s between the city and the suburbs but were later eliminated: one good reason against updating, apart from historical references. I also disliked the Churba overalls that uniformly clad the crowd in the Momus scene, when thay are supposed to be citizens having fun in Christmas. (see picture)
Now to the good things. Pigozzi gave point and humor to the fooling around of the four Bohemians and the singers both sang and acted well. Tenor Carlos Duarte has a beautiful and powerful voice, although there were some fissures in the phrasing. Luis Gaeta was a perfect Marcello; my only cavil is that he looks too aged for the part, some makeup was in order. Both Walter Schwarz (Colline) and Fernando Grassi (Schaunard) were satisfactory, and Fernando’s father, Oscar Grassi, did the character parts of Benoit and Alcindoro with all the wisdom of long experience. Mariela Schemper was expressive as Mimí although she lacks some expansion in the high notes , and María Bugallo, a beautiful Musetta, was a touch too strident. Mario Perusso, an old hand at Puccini, was predictably good conducting a small (29 players) orchestra in the quite acceptable orchestral reduction of . The orchestra was located at extreme left on the stage, for there’s no pit. The choirs were correct enough. I was astonished at the acoustics of the venue, much better than I imagined.
“Norma” is indissolubly associated with the marvelous interpretation of Maria Callas, who gave us both superlative bel canto and enormous dramatic intensity. The Roma (Avellaneda) version tried for another approach, essentially lyrical, but I feel it goes against the grain of the piece. Anyway, this was only apparent in the title role, for Soledad de la Rosa sang very beautifully, with an immaculate register from top to bottom, but there was no inkling of drama in what she did, and for me there’s no Norma without powerful involvement. Juan Borja was precisely what the programme notes said he shouldn’t be as Pollione: a full voice of considerable volume and Verdian character; but he came to grief in the last scene, where his voice simply gave out. Cecilia Arola has a strange voice; she sounds like a rather harsh mezzosoprano but is capable of high soprano sounds and sings with true intonation, though she certainly isn’t the lyric soprano the programme claims Adalgisa should be. Marcos Nicastro was a capable and true Oroveso, Roxana Deviggiano a vibrato-ridden Clotilde and Gustavo Torella a good Flavio.
Sebatiano de Filippi is a well-oriented young conductor, with the right sense of phrasing, but the Orquesta Municipal de Avellaneda just won’t do; the intonation of the violins in particular is horrid most of the time. And the late arrival of a trumpet player forced the use of a deplorable organ in the First Part. The Choir was enthusiastic but faulty. The production by Alejandro Atías was terribly conventional and static.
“I Masnadieri” dates from 1847 , immediately after Verdi’a wonderful “Macbeth”. Based on Schiller’s “The Bandits” (“Die Rauber”) , Andrea Maffei produced a deplorable libretto full of absurdities, certainly far from the original. The composer isn’t always inspired, but there’s enough true Verdi to justify a revival every 30 years or so; and such was the case, for the opera, never seen at the Colón, was offered by the Argentino at the Coliseo in 1979 . The best thing in this revival was the very good work of the orchestra under Giorgio Paganini and the choir prepared by Ezequiel Fautario. The production by Eduardo Casullo was simple and direct, respecting the original ambience, and there were attractive costumes by Mariela Daga. The most interesting feature was the satellital images by Santiago Espeche, quite evocative.
Of the singers only Leopoldo López Linares as the baritone villain and Mario de Salvo as his imprisoned father were up to par. Adelaida Negri had as usual both a dramatic sense of phrasing and evident vocal limitations, and Eduardo Ayas has lost his timbre of yore; his singing now is effortful and arid. In the smaller parts Jorge Bellone (Rolla) was correct, Cristian de Marco dry as the pastor Moser and José Luis Galimidi rather poor as Arminio.
Para el Buenos Aires Herald
jueves, mayo 08, 2008
Our compatriots have, along with a pessimistic strain, a particular resilience that allows them to fight adversity. Events in recent months and years have sorely tried our orchestras, but on the evidence of their current playing, they are reacting positively. I can't refer to the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, for due to a recent illness I haven't been able to attend their interesting cycle of three concerts conducted by young international talents, but last week I witnessed two valuable sessions: the National Symphony (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional) offered the mighty Second Symphony ("Resurrection") by Mahler conducted by our true specialist, Pedro Calderón; and the Colón Orchestra (Orquesta Estable del Colón) gave a concert that featured Beethoven's Choral Fantasia with our great senior lady of the piano, Pía Sebastiani.
Calderón has long been a champion of Gustav Mahler and is certainly an admirable builder of sound. The conductor who tackles a symphony by this master needs two contradictory qualities: he must analyze painstakingly its complex structure and present it with clarity, but he also has to adapt to its enormous emotional contrasts and give us its everchanging moods, almost maniacally detailed in the score. In both counts Calderón is accomplished; now 75, he is in good physical shape and keeps tight control and concentration throughout. He knows the "Resurrection" inside out (I believe it's the third time he does it here) and is unerring in his choice of tempi. True, he has always played safe in the matter of pianissimi: he does them piano to prevent croaks from the winds, but on the other hand the sound comes out firm and satisfying, in always precise blocks. And the phrasing is expressive avoiding maudliness.
The Mahler Second has been a favorite of mine since I discovered it with the Vox Klemperer recording in 1951, and the years have only confirmed my love for it: as the composer wished, his symphony is a universe that goes from the initial funeral march to the glorious affirmation of resurrection of the last movement, with soprano, contralto and mixed choir.
The National Symphony has undergone a lot of frustration (and so has Calderón, its Principal Conductor) these last two years, as an obstinately unresponsive National Culture Secretariat led by José Nun has kept it paralyzed for months on end, but this year the clouds have lifted and it seems the organism will be able to carry out its artistic plans. Not all is well, of course: their venue this season will be the main hall of the
Back to the "Resurrection". Apart from minimal fluffs, the orchestra played very well, with many excellent solos and great discipline. The Coro Polifónico Nacional under Roberto Luvini gave us fine singing, from pianissimo to fortissimo; there are many splendid voices . The weak point was Lucila Ramos Mané, the plummy contralto: her register sounded bruised and her histrionics didn't help in such an intimate song as "Urlicht". Cecilia Layseca's soprano isn't ideally creamy for her music, but she was expressive and accurate.
I recently wrote about a concert conducted by Carlos Vieu, the new Principal Conductor of the Colón Orchestra. Only last December the organism protested in the streets, led by their then conductor, Stefan Lano. Now they seem in good communication with Vieu, who is careful in spotlighting the soloists and the orchestral groups when the end-of-concert bows come. Vieu showed again that he is the best Argentine conductor of his generation with very well-considered readings of such standards as Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" and Dvorák's "New World Symphony". He also gave fine support to Pía Sebastiani in Beethoven's Fantasy.