domingo, junio 29, 2008

The Colon's sad centenary

As you know having read earlier articles in the Herald, the Colón situation is anything but bright. My latest on the subject was published on May 24: "A brilliant trajectory – A harsh present". Just one day later, May 25, was originally the day in which the reopened Colón was to put on stage Verdi's "Aida", the opera seen on the theatre's inauguration, May 25, 1908. I am writing this account of the centenary celebration on June 26 and the general sutuation has hardly changed. There's only one bit of news worth mentioning: the bid for the adjudication of the "new" Master Plan has been won by SYASA, a big concern that has done some ample jobs such as the recent transformation of Ezeiza Airport but has had no experience in the restoration of historical monuments. Up to now they haven't appeared at the Colón, where a skeleton structure of the earlier Master Plan still remains. The bid's almost 160-page description of the conditions puts a definitive date for the completion of the job: December 31, 2009; and it contemplates severe sanctions in case of delays. Will it work?

As to the Autarchy Law, it has met with severe opposition at the Legislature and has had at least three more versions, but there's no consensus and again the uncertainty is total. Some think it won't happen and believe it is out of place when the theatre's works are still paralyzed.

Meanwhile, the theatre has done a celebration long in quantity and rather low in quality. No less than 22 shows of diverse character took place between May 23 and June 6. Macri was absent from all of them. One important organism was left out, I believe intentionally: the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. The unfortunate idea of putting the Orchestra out of the Colón's structure has surfaced again, as it does periodically . The Center for Experimentation was also silent.

Maybe metaphorically, the celebrations started with the presentation of a book written by Amalia Pellizzari called "Francisco Saverio Pellizzari, builder of the Teatro Colón". The constructor that built under three architects during the twenty long years the theatre was in process (Tamburini, Meano and Dormal) certainly merits a recognition; why metaphorically? Because , as a prelude to numerous similar episodes during the following hundred years, he had a lot of trouble to be paid in time and correctly. Symbolically, the ceremony took place at the Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires.

The true celebration took place on the 25th, and as was Sanguinetti's desire, took place partially at the Colón. The main hall is off bounds, but for the occasion both the foyer and the Golden Hall (Salón Dorado) were used. The foyer for a Spanish adaptation and condensation of Rossini's "Barber of Seville" (the same production being offered at the Ciudad Cultural Konex) with young singers who had to contend with constant traffic of parents and kids and the subsequent noise. It was also the venue for a splendid exhibition of Colón photographs by Arnaldo Colombaroli. As to the Golden Hall, if it could be used for this occasion, why is no activity in it planned for the next months? As it was, the miniconcert of operatic music was preceded by numerous speeches, one of them to present a commemorative stamp. And the concert was good enough when Luis Lima sang ; the semiretired "Cordobés" tenor is still able to do ringing work. But unfortunately Ana María González should retire; she was certainly a valuable Colón singer two decades ago, but now almost nothing of her voice remains. Her husband, Enrique Ricci, accompanied beautifully both singers, but this was no way to celebrate.

After 5 p.m. the Teatro Ópera was guest to a marathon succession of arias without any discernible plan; no ensembles to vary the menu, except Verdi pieces by the Children's Choir (Valdo Sciammarella) and the Mixed Choir (Salvatore Caputo). The purely orchestral scores were mercifully excised (even without them the concert lasted three hours). No foreign stars or Argentine international singers such as Giménez, Álvarez, Cura or Bernarda Fink. What we heard ranged from the awful (Cassinelli in R. Strauss) to the splendid (Torres in Bellini, Almerares in Donizetti, Gaeta in Leoncavallo). Before the concert, outside a group gave out pamphlets denouncing the Autarchy Law; inside, a spokesman for the Orchestra said that this was a sad occasion, for they couldn't celebrate on their historical building.

There were other lyric concerts; I attended one consecrated to young singers accompanied by Enrique Ricci at the Auditorio de Belgrano. I would single out Gustavo Feulien, a true Verdi baritone of uncommon power and dark color. The Ballet performances were attacked for diverse problems and had a very partial success; the Ballet Director, Guido De Benedetti, said that there was no money for a stabilized floor and that the contract with the Opera was signed only 15 days before the performances.

The Instituto Superior de Arte presented scenes from Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" at the Teatro del Globo and the Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón gave a concert at the Facultad de Derecho (UBA). The celebrations also included poor performances of Haydn's "Il Mondo della Luna" by the Colón Chamber Opera using a bad orchestration instead of the original ; this was at the Theatre of the Sociedad Hebraica because the announced one, the Teatro 25 de Mayo, refused the Colón's presence...

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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