miércoles, mayo 21, 2008

The Colón's brilliant trajectory and harsh present

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 Latin America's most important lyric theatre, and the purpose of these lines is to give an inkling of what it has meant to many generations of music lovers. On May 25, 1908, it was inaugurated with Verdi's "Aida" after a long 20-year period of construction. Three successive European architects had a decisive hand in the wonderful building. Francesco Tamburini was the creator of the original plans based on the best Italian tradition (we also owe him the admirable Rivera Indarte Theatre at Córdoba City, now renamed Libertador, and the amplification of the "Casa Rosada"). After his early death in 1892, his project was taken over by his collaborator Vittorio Meano (who planned our National Congress) with great technical and aesthetic capacity. Unfortunately, he was murdered in 1904, so the final stages were taken over by the Belgian architect Jules Dormal, who added Gallic touches to the ornamentation , with "Belle Epoque" influences. The result was an extraordinary theatre where its sheer beauty was complemented with admirable acoustics and vast capacity: really one of the numerous great buildings of those times that believed in a world-class Argentina.

Those were the times of the boat. There were no European Summer festivals, and Buenos Aires was the logical place for an important season during our winter. A whole company, including the orchestra, studied with their maestro during the more than two weeks of travel the operas included in the year's programme, and they were offered in close succession during about four months, great singers taking on a profusion of roles. By the time they finished their season here, they could go back to Italy , where operatic activity was starting after the summer recess.

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 "La Mer". There were also premieres of operas by Argentine composers (Arturo Beruti, Constantino Gaito). Such players as pianists Artur Rubinstein, Wilhelm Backhaus and Edouard Risler. Singers of the prestige of Claudia Muzio (11 Colón seasons ) , Beniamino Gigli (8 seasons ), Miguel Fleta, Ezio Pinza, Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Ebe Stignani and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi. In 1920, the exceptional presentation of Richard Strauss conducting 16 concerts and premiering five of his tone poems, and Felix Weingartner presenting Beethoven's Choral Symphony. They would be back with no less than the Vienna Philharmonic in 1922 (Weingartner) and 1923 (Strauss), with the premiere of "Elektra". Weingartner also presented the first integral Wagner "Ring". A very great conductor, Arthur Nikisch, offered 15 concerts with the recently founded Asociación del Profesorado Orquestal (premieres of such fundamental scores as Brahms' First Symphony and Tchaikovsky's Sixth); Ernest Ansermet did valuable cycles premiering great modern works. In 1924 there was a season of Russian opera in that language, for the first time here. The great conductor Erich Kleiber started his long liaison with our city (13 seasons) and another prestigious maestro, Fritz Reiner, conducted five operas in his lone season here. An important premiere in 1926: Puccini's "Turandot". Institutionally, something very important happened: the creation of the Colón's Orchestra, Choir and Ballet, and the corps of technicians, represented the transition to a fully municipal theatre, although the concession to an impresario persisted until 1931. And something else: the foundation in 1925 of Radio Municipal , installed at the Colón with the specific purpose of broadcasting the theatre's productions.

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 "La Campana Sommersa". Five years later he gave us "La Fiamma". 1930: Arthur Honegger conducted many of his scores. 1931: Ildebrando Pizzetti conducted his symphonic scores and was present at the premiere of his opera "Fra Gherardo", one of seven that have been staged at the Colón. Our city witnessed the operatic debut of the great conductor Otto Klemperer. Great singers came for the first time: Georges Thill, Lauritz Melchior, Lily Pons, Frida Leider. Michel Fokin presented his ballets. 1933: Another admirable German conductor, Fritz Busch, began his association with the Colón , prolonged in another eight seasons. He premiered Bach's St Matthew Passion and Strauss' "Arabella". Other important operas were offered for the first time here: Mozart's "Cosí fan tutte", Gluck's "Alceste". There were big zarzuela seasons under Moreno Torroba both in 1934 and 1935. The great violinist Fritz Kreisler gave his only concerts in Buenos Aires (1934). 1936: a fundamental visit: Igor Stravinsky conducted and played his works. Alexander Brailowsky gave a cycle of the complete Chopin piano music. He would visit us in many other seasons. Two brilliant players made their debut: Joseph Szigeti (violin) and Emanuel Feuermann (cello). And the great violinist Nathan Milstein came back in 1937. More talented singers: Tiana Lemnitz, Marjorie Lawrence. 1936: a new Russian season (conductor, Emil Cooper). A famous chamber group, the Kolisch Quartet, offered six recitals. Two important institutional news: the creation of all the necessary workshops for the production of opera and ballet made the Colón totally self-sufficient, and the School of Opera and Ballet was inaugurated (it will become eventually the High Institute of Art).

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 1956 a precocious pianistic talent. 1955 brought us for the first time the enormous talent of soprano Birgit Nilsson (as Isolde); she would be back in another six seasons. Guenther Ramin with his Thomanerchor offered a transcendent account of Bach's St John Passion. 1956 : debut of the Budapest Quartet, probably the best of those years (in 1962 they offered the integral Beethoven quartets). Pianist Alfred Brendel was heard in 1956 and 1963, violinist Leonid Kogan in 1956 and 1979. Our great pianist Manuel Rego played in 1956 for the first time at the Colón. Prestigious voices were heard that year: Antonietta Stella, George London, Léopold Simoneau, Lisa Della Casa, Boris Christoff. Ferdinand Leitner was the conductor of the German season; he would be back in eight other seasons. Paul Klecki led several concerts with the National Symphony in the first of his six Buenos Aires visits. The city had that year the unusual experience of the Peking Opera; they would pay a return visit in 1980 with their utterly different brand of musical theatre. 1957: two world-class conductors performed at the Colón: Antal Dorati and Willem Van Otterloo. Other high points: guitarist Narciso Yepes, the Paganini Quartet, the Quintetto Chigiano, the Zimbler Sinfonietta, Aram Khachaturian conducting his works. But the dominant news of that year was bad: a conflict with the Colón Orchestra determined the cancellation of the opera season, for the first time in the history of our great theatre. However, it was partly compensated by the visit of the Milan Chamber Opera, offering no less than three premieres. From 1955 to 1960, unforgettable concerts of twentieth-century music by Juan José Castro and the National Symphony.

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 "La Atlántida" completed by Ernesto Halffter and Mozart's "Idomeneo" conducted by Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. Debut of such singers as Jon Vickers, Elisabeth Gruemmer, Waldemar Kmentt, Geraint Evans, Raina Kabaivanska, Franz Crass, and of the conductor Bruno Bartoletti, who would give his art here during eight seasons. First visit of the Philharmonia Orchestra under John Barbirolli. It came back in 1965 as New Philharmonia. Great chamber music from the Trio di Trieste. Rousing success of the Ballet of the XXth Century led by Maurice Béjart. 1964: world premiere of Ginastera's "Don Rodrigo" with Carlos Cossutta. Premieres of Dallapiccola's "Job", Busoni's "Turandot". Great singers new to the Colón: Christa Ludwig, Renata Scotto. Admirable Bach Mass from the famous Robert Shaw Chorale. First visit of I Musici , brought by the Mozarteum Argentino, an institution of steady growth. Contemporary music from conductor Bruno Maderna, and premiere of Schoenberg's "Gurre Lieder" led by Horst Stein. 1965: a world of Medieval and Renaissance Music is revealed by Noah Greenberg and his New York Pro Musica. Wonderful return of the Vienna Philharmonic led by Karl Boehm. Premiere of the two-act version of Berg's "Lulu". Great singers came to us for the first time: Montserrat Caballé, Gabriel Bacquier, Evelyn Lear, Ingrid Bjoner. 1966: transcendent visit of the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Eugene Ormandy. Great new players: trumpet player Maurice André, pianist Ralph Votapek; singers : Teresa Stich-Randall, Elena Suliotis, Renzo Casellato, Heather Harper. Premieres: Britten's "War Requiem", Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius". Presentation of the famous Zagreb Soloists under Antonio Janigro. Amigos de la Música, a marvelous institution responsible for a deep renovation of repertoire, and creator of the Bach Festivals with Karl Richter, presented an International Festival of Chamber Music with pianist Hephzibah Menuhin, cellist Maurice Gendron, our violinist Alberto Lysy and violist Ernst Wallfisch. They also presented the recital of the year: Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten in scores by the latter. Premiere of Debussy's "Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien" with Ludmila Tcherina. 1967: Instrumentalists of the first rank came for the first time: the Quartets Juilliard and Endres, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, cellist Christine Walevska. Premiere of Pizzetti's "Murder in the Cathedral" conducted by Oliviero De Fabrittis, produced by Margarita Wallmann. A great interpretation of Wagner's "Ring" with such artists as Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, David Ward, Erwin Wohlfahrt, conductor Leitner, producer Roberto Oswald. Splendid singers made their debut: Alfredo Kraus, Teresa Berganza, Fiorenza Cossotto, Gwyneth Jones, Graziella Sciutti. Big stars of the dance had an impressive success: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.

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 la Música. Other debuts: Grace Bumbry, Martina Arroyo, Hermann Prey, Robert Merrill, Sandor Konya, conductors Georges Pretre and Francesco Molinari-Pradelli (who did a lovely Wolf-Ferrari opera, "I quatro rusteghi"). 1969: important premieres: Mozart's "La clemenza di Tito", Busoni's "Doktor Faust", Cherubini's "Medea". Illustrious new singers: Leontyne Price, Piero Cappuccilli (both with Bergonzi and Cossotto in a marvelous Verdi "Trovatore"), Joan Sutherland, and Sena Jurinac as one of the best "Rosenkavalier" Marschallins (with no less than Ludwig and Berry, and the magisterial conducting of Erich Leinsdorf). 1970: debut of the Moscow Philharmonic conducted by Kyril Kondrashin, the Amadeus Quartet, the starry Trio Istomin-Stern-Rose, pianist Gyorgy Cziffra, violinist Uto Ughi, the Deller Trio. Premieres: Schoenberg's "Moses and Aaron", Cavalli's "L'Ormindo". Many premieres of contemporary symphonic music. Valuable ballets by Georges Skibine. New singers: Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, Jaime Aragall, Gundula Janowitz, Tom Krause, Reri Grist. 1971: Extraordinary level in the concerts of the Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Bernard Haitink. Premiere of Handel's "Serse". Two great singers were new: Nicolai Ghiaurov and James King; and a most valuable conductor: Gianandrea Gavazzeni. A brilliant "Nutcracker" with Nureyev. 1972: new orchestras here: the French Radio Television Orchestra under Martinon and Constant, the Israel Philharmonic led by Zubin Mehta (it would be a frequent visitor later on). Premiere of Ginastera's "Bomarzo" (it had been prohibited in 1967). A fundamental debut: that of Plácido Domingo.

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 "La Boheme") with the ill-advised renovation of the stage (more than a year of closure) as pretext for the real reason, a deep state of unrest of the Colón's unions; and the strikes of three years ago that affected such important events as the Argerich Festival. And finally, of course, the sad conclusion of the Master Plan and the most acute crisis of the Colón's history: the one we are living through right now.

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

1 comentario:

MarioLutz@yahoo.com dijo...

Thanks a lot for resuming a century of history about our Colón theater. Perhaps I can help with very few comments on those places I found mistaken or just forgotten. Being a teenager I could assist to rehearsals thanks to my good fortune and the two of my friend's father worked inside the theater. My first Wagner's Ring was in 1965 but only from "the kitchen", it was two years later when I could assist at the rehearsals and as a member in the audience. Having two Rings cycles in a range of a couple years shows clearly the differences between the past and the present at the Colon Opera House. Be aware that these spectacles have been staged without the technical resources that a new Metropolitan Opera in New York offered at their opening in the sixties! as an example. Nevertheless, Met's new production should wait until later in the eighty's to take place in installments of one opera each season, succeeding Karajan's production imported from Salzburg.
Ernst Pöetgen was the producer in Buenos Aires for those years and Roberto Oswald the set, dress and lighting designer. What a job! I remember him instructing the technicians to pñace different lighting colors WITHOUT A CONSOLE AND COMPUTERIZING SYSTEM and returning to Pöetgen singing or telling the exact words of that passage in the libretto. What a marvelous job he have done! This same team staged in 1972, under Horst Stein's baton the Tristan that Karajan and Birgit Nilsson were longed for... Jon Vickers sung his first Tristan and memorable Tristan and Isolde at the Colon before his recording for EMI & Karajan and his singing on stages at Salzburg, Tokio und so weiter...
About James King, I prefer his visit in 1981 as Siegmund than his erratic traveling in the role of Radames in 1971, experienced by the years but with the stamina of his youngest times he gave us the best Valküre we had, at least for the first act along with Janine Altmeyer (I don´t forget Gwyneth Jones in '67)and Matti Salminen: His 30 seconds (by watch)Wälse! Wälse! remains unsurpassed.
Even in bad times as 1975 I would pick up the first and last staging of the polish act complete in Boris Godunov, here the influence of the catholic church seems to me (catholic my self) unavoidable even in the database of the Colon's Opera where its only informed about the staging of the first scene of the last act... For 1969 Mr. Bardin already mentioned the names of conductor and singers in the German season, but I want to rescue Wozzeck and Parsifal tittles (with Windgasen last visit in the part), after Der Rosenkavalier. Last but not least Mr. Bardin review in 1968 concert by Elizabeth Schwarzkoopf pointed out that the audience greeted her with a fifteen minutes applauses before she sung a single note...I think I have an explanation for that in a time were only recordings in LP where the alternative media... many of us years before could assist at the new refurbished COLISEO theather to see various films originated in the german company Unitel, one of them was Karajan Salzburg's staging of 1962 "Der Rosenkavalier" with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Sena Jurinac... a luxury that we can't have in Buenos Aires in current times 2008 when opera in HD (High Definition) surrounds the globe with the Met's stagging operas from Australia to Norway, from Japan to Check Republic. Haven´t dropped out yet such idea on Sanguinetti's head? Perhaps... when he meet Peter Gelb and Macri release the funds for it... Best regards from New York, Mario R. Lutz