lunes, marzo 15, 2010

The operatic repertoire: a blueprint for renovation

You have read in recent weeks articles on the Colón and you know that the future is dicey; nevertheless, let´s hope for the best: a fully functioning international theatre with an ample repertoire, such as it was and should be. The intent of this article presumes that we shall have a respectable Colón, but also that the La Plata Argentino, the Avenida in our city and the Avellaneda Roma will keep on formulating intense operatic activity. Two of these theatres have big orchestral pits: the Colón and the Argentino; the Avenida should certainly increase its size but is giving no hint that it will happen; the same for the Roma. Here I will try to give a blueprint of what should be seen in BA and nearby opera theatres during the next decade, and I will do it by historical periods. I include many premieres but also operas that have been long absent after ther first local performances. It is, of course, a personal choice. This is a list to select from and to combine with the habitual fare. For reasons of space it excludes operettas and the like.

THE BAROQUE AND CLASSICISM. All the Baroque should be done in historicist versions. We´ve had the three Monteverdi masterpieces and long ago Cavalli´s "L´Ormindo". I would like to see more Cavalli (such as "Ercole amante") and also pieces by Cesti such as "Orontea" and "Il pomo d´oro". In the French repertoire, Lully´s "Atys" and "Phaëton", Charpentier´s "Médée" and Campra´s "L´Europe galante". And an early Alessandro Scarlatti opera, such as "Pirro e Demetrio".

Eighteenth-century, before 1750. In Italian: more Handel operas, such as "Alcina", "Rinaldo", "Sosarme" and "Tamerlano"; late A. Scarlatti ("Il trionfo dell´onore"); Bononcini´s "Griselda"; Vivaldi´s "L´Olimpiade"; Hasse´s "Demofoonte". In French: Rameau´s "Hippolyte et Aricie", a fully-staged and complete "Les Indes galantes", "Dardanus", "Platée", "Zoroastre".

After 1750 we gradually enter into Classicism. In Italian: Jommelli´s "Faetone"; Haydn´s "Lo speziale", "Orlando Paladino", "L´infedeltà delusa", "L´isola disabitata", "Armida"; Mozart´s "La finta semplice", "Lucio Silla", "Mitridate Rè di Ponto", "La finta giardiniera"; Gluck´s "Paride ed Elena"; Johann Christian Bach´s "Alessandro nell´Indie"; Paisiello´s "Il barbiere di Siviglia"; Cimarosa´s "Il matrimonio segreto", "L´italiana in Londra"; Salieri´s "Falstaff". In French: Grétry´s "Richard Coeur de Lion"; Gluck´s "Iphigénie en Aulide", "L´ile de Merlin"; Sacchini´s "Oedipe à Colone"; Salieri´s "Tarare", Cherubini´s "Lodoïska" and "Médée" (the original version); Méhul´s "Le jeune Henri". In English: Arne´s "Artaxerxes".

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. In Italian: Rossini´s "Semiramide", "Mosè in Egitto", "La gazza ladra", "La donna del lago", "Otello", "Il viaggio a Reims", "Il signor Bruschino", "Maometto II"; Donizetti´s "Marino Faliero", "Linda di Chamounix", "Anna Bolena", "Maria Stuarda", "Gemma di Vergy"; Mercadante´s "Il Bravo"; Mayr´s "Medea in Corinto"; Verdi´s "Aroldo"; Cilea´s "L´Arlesiana"; Mascagni´s "Iris". In German: Weber´s "Oberon","Euryanthe" and "Abu Hassan"; Lortzing´s "Zar und Zimmermann", "Undine", "Der Waffenschmied": Marschner´s "Hans Heiling"; Schubert´s "Fierrabras"; Schumann´s "Genoveva", Wagner´s "Rienzi" (and a reprise of "Die Meistersinger" is urgent); Goldmark´s "The Queen of Sheba"; Nicolai´s "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; Flotow´s "Martha"; Wolf´s "Der Corregidor"; Cornelius´ "The Barber of Baghdad". In French: Boieldieu´s "La dame blanche"; Auber´s "Masaniello", "Fra Diavolo"; Adam´s "Le postillon de Longjumeau"; Cherubini´s "Les deux journées", "Anacréon"; Spontini´s "La Vestale"; Rossini´s "Guillaume Tell"; Meyerbeer´s "Robert le Diable", "Les Huguenots", "L´Africaine"; Halévy´s "La Juive"; Berlioz´s "Les Troyens" (complete) and "Béatrice et Bénédict"; Thomas´ "Hamlet" and "Mignon"; Bizet´s "La jolie fille de Perth"; Chabrier´s "L´Étoile", "Le Roi malgré lui" and "Gwendoline"; Delibes´"Le Roi l´a dit"; Gounod´s "Le médecin malgré lui"; Massenet´s "Cendrillon", "Thaïs", "Hérodiade", "Le Cid", "La Navarraise" and "Esclarmonde"; Lalo´s "Le Roi d´Ys"; D´Indy´s "Fervaal"; Verdi´s original version of "Don Carlos" and of "Les Vêpres Siciliennes". In Russian: Glinka´s "A Life for the Czar" and "Ruslan and Ludmilla"; Dargomizhsky´s "The Stone Guest"; Borodin´s "Prince Igor"; Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Sadko", "The Czar´s Bride", "Czar Saltan", "The Legend of the invisible city of Kitezh"; Tchaikovsky´s "Mazeppa" and "The Oprichnik". In Czech: Smetana´s "The Bartered Bride", "Dalibor" and "The Secret"; Dvorák´s "Jakobin" and "The Devil and Kate".

THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. In French: Charpentier´s "Louise"; Massenet´s "Le jongleur de Notre Dame", "Thérèse"; Dukas´ "Ariane et Barbe-Bleue"; Milhaud´s "Christophe Colomb" and "L´Orestie"; Honegger´s "Antigone". In German: Richard Strauss´ "Feuersnot", "Daphne", "Intermezzo", "Die schweigsame Frau", "Die Frau ohne Schatten", "Friedenstag"; Schreker´s "Der ferne Klang"; Pfitzner´s "Palestrina"; Hindemith´s "Mathis der Maler", "Cardillac", "Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen" and "Sancta Susanna"; Schönberg´s "Erwartung", "Von heute auf Morgen" and "Die glückliche Hand"; Henze´s "Der Junge Lord" and "Die Bassariden"; Einem´s "Dantons Tod"; Zemlinsky ´s "Der Zwerg". In Czech: Dvorák´s "Rusalka" and "Armida"; Janácek´s "From the house of the Dead", "The Adventures of Mr. Broucek". In Italian: Wolf-Ferrari´s "Le donne curiose", "I quattro rusteghi"; Respighi´s "La campana sommersa"; Pizzetti´s "Fedra" and "Debora e Jaele"; Montemezzi´s "L´amore dei tre Re"; Malipiero´s "Sette canzoni"; Giordano´s "Mese Mariano"; Alfano´s "La leggenda di Sakuntala"; Zandonai´s "I cavalieri di Ekebù"; Casella´s "La donna serpente"; Dallapiccola´s "Ulisse"; Berio´s "Un Re in ascolto". In English: Delius´ "A village Romeo and Juliet"; Vaughan Williams´ "Sir John in Love" and "Riders to the Sea"; Britten´s "Billy Budd" and "Gloriana"; Weill´s "Street Scene"; Tippett´s "King Priam" and "The Midsummer Marriage"; Menotti´s "The Saint of Bleecker Street"; Ward´s "The Crucible". In Russian: Prokofiev´s "The Gambler". In Finnish: Sallinen´s "The Red Line" and Rautawaara´s "Rasputin". In Danish: Nielsen´s "Masquerade" and "Saul and David". Two Argentine revivals: Ginastera´s "Don Rodrigo" and García Morillo´s "El caso Maillard".

If ten per cent of all this comes about I´ll be a happy man.

For Buenos Aires Herald

The Colón in a haze of controversies

Last week I began a review of recent months at the Colón with a discussion about personnel, directorate and the building´s restoration; this last point requires amplification, and I will also touch on other matters.

THE BUILDING´S RESTORATION, SECOND PART. You may remember that early in 2009 I wrote about the Colón´s restoration plan, referring to the then Executive Director Martín Boschet ill-inspired blueprint sent to the managing company SYASA stressing drastic diminution of production facilities and corresponding increases in meeting places for VIPs and so on. Although the plans were disowned by then Director General Horacio Sanguinetti and by the Minister of Urban Development Daniel Chaín (I wrongly wrote "Emilio" last week) and furthermore a correction to those plans was issued by a small group of independent experts, as time went by it became evident that a less drastic version of Boschet´s plan was indeed being applied.

All during 2009 the City Government stressed that the restoration work was proceeding at full speed and denied that production would be impaired, and a full-scale media fight was on between those that approved of the general direction and those who disapproved. I am with the nay-sayers because the amount of evidence is to my mind irrefutable, even if the Government put all the barriers they could to avoid disclosure of damning facts.

LEGAL PROTECTION. Several members of the Colón´s personnel led by Máximo Parpagnoli as plaintiffs asked for protection of the Colón´s movable and immovable patrimony before Judge Guillermo Scheibler. The judge, accompanied by members of the theatre´s Directorate, plaintiffs, the lawsuit´s lawyers, the Colón´s lawyers, the Master Plan´s Sonia Terreno, the City´s attorney and photographers from the judicature, proceeded to inspect and document in extensive visits the Colón building (acceding to many places that had been off-bound to VIP visitors and employees during the whole year), and with some changes in the accompanying party, the Municipal Exhibition Center (a vast building assigned to the Colón during 2009, close to the College of Law of the B.A. University), the National Library and the Lavardén warehouse in Barracas (about 100 containers). The judge´s sentence unfortunately failed to give a verdict on the immovable patrimony, and will thus be appealed by Parpagnoli and others. But he did order the authorities to adopt urgent measures of protection both of goods and workers; he verified selectively many containers and found many in bad condition; it became evident that the Colón´s Director General Pedro Pablo García Caffi had lied in the Legislature when he said that outside the theatre there was no patrimony: there is and a lot: costumes, photographs, recordings, stage designs, and a big etcetera. The judge also testified to appalling working conditions. After this sentence legislators will require the presence at a meeting of the Culture Committee of García Caffi, Chaín and Minister of Culture Lombardi to explain the situation of the theatre (García Caffi had fled from the Legislature last year when required to justify the transference of almost 400 people).

Fabio Grementieri, as a specialist in restoration and expert for the plaintiffs, declared: "there has been no systematic and correct inventory" (indeed, there are plenty of denunciations of missing goods and a four-page list of disappeared documents concerning great artists´ visits was in Internet some months ago) and "the criterions of conservation and restauration are quite distant from international recommendations on cultural patrimony". "It is urgent to implement a rescue plan impeding the further deterioration of the building and of its chattels".

REPORTS. 1)Parpagnoli presented an excellent report in seven pages about the inspections, quite lapidary (I¨m sorry space precludes quoting it) about the multiple defects found.

2) The City Auditing office presented its conclusions on the period 2005-7 of the Colón Master Plan. Basic points: huge delays on most pieces of work connected with Master Plan-derived bids; and vast price surcharges.

3) New York-based World Monuments Fund has included the Colón in a list of a hundred Monuments and Sites in Danger; a highly esteemed organisation, the WMF is justly alarmed. Architect Juan Martín Repetto of our National Commission of Museums, Monuments and Historical Places, has attacked the WMF claiming that the NCMMH has always monitored the Master Plan and that matters are alright. Grementieri roundly rebukes Repetto and believes the NCMMH has quite failed to condemn the abundant wrongs of the MP.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS. I find it deplorable that the mood of our society tends to support Macri and García Caffi minimizing or ignoring their gross mismanagement of the Colón and revealing hoary prejudices that have little to do with knowledge of the facts or equanimity. The general feeling is that those functionaries will reopen the Colón and that´s the only thing that matters. Ignorance is behind this attitude, but also prejudice and superficiality. When I explain to people details of what has happened with the personnel and the restoration works many seem amazed but diffident, and their old grudge against labor unions comes out. Well, these have made grievous mistakes over the years, but they are completely right now. They want a reopened Colón but not with 400 people transferred arbitrarily or with wrong restoration procedures that will look good …if you don´t scratch the surface. Some things have been done right, of course, but too many haven´t. I predict a difficult year, although warts and all I want a functioning Colón.

The Colón´s troubled opening in 2010

In principle, I, along with anybody else with cultural interests, can only welcome the confirmation that on May 25, 2010, the Teatro Colón will reopen. I might give you the information straight, but there´s a context to the bare facts. As space is tight, I will keep to opera, ballet and some special concerts.

The Grand Gala on the Bicentenary Day will be very short: a selection of the Third Act of Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake" and the barely 18-minute Second Act from Puccini´s "La Boheme". It will of course be an official function with plenty of VIPs and little substance. In fact the big news that day will be ( to the surprise of many of us) that the Colón´s vast restoration works will be finished in time, considering how far behind schedule they are now. True, the Government has given priority (to atone for their long neglect) to finish the basic essentials that allow the Colón to have a season, and as many as 800 people are said to be working these days. Whether the results will be satisfying is a very moot point (there´s plenty of knowledgeable dissenters).

The season starts with the pat choice of "La Boheme", quite unnecessary in every sense. Conductor (C): Stefano Ranzani. Producer (P), stage designer (SD) and costume designer (CD): Hugo de Ana. Singers (S): Virginia Tola, Nicole Cabell, Marius Manea, Marco Caria, Denis Sedov. May-June.

Then, Mozart´s "Don Giovanni", a reasonable revival considering that the last one was cancelled due to a strike. C: John Neschling. P, SD: Michael Hampe (a production from Santiago de Chile´s Teatro Municipal). S: Tola, Norah Amsellem, John Tessier, Juan Gatell, Eduardo Chama, Ernesto Morillo. July.

Massenet´s "Manon" is a wrong idea, it was offered recently (I was told that a much better choice, "Benvenuto Cellini" by Berlioz, fell through). C: Philippe Auguin. P: Renaud Doucet. SD, CD: Doucet and André Barbe. S: Anne Sophie Duprels, John Osborn, Carlos Esquivel, Víctor Torres. August.

I welcome Leos Janácek´s "Kátia Kabanová", a wonderfully expressive opera only seen in 1968. I can´t accept, though, that the Colón´s General and Artistic Director, with no previous experience on staging, will be P and CD; that´s a narcissistic use of power. C: Gyórgy Rath (he came in previous visits as Gyoryvangyi-Rath). CD: Mini Zuccheri. S: Andrea Dankova, Miro Dvorsky, Elena Zhidkova, Reinhard Dorm, Agnes Zwierko. September.

I find brilliant the coupling of two powerful scores in local premieres: Zemlinsky´s "A Florentine Tragedy" and Korngold´s "Violanta". And with the welcome return of Stefan Lano as C. P: Hans Hollmann. SD: Enrique Bordolini. S: James Johnson, Evan Bowers, Deanne Meek, Eiko Senda, Wolfgang Schöne. October.

And finally, Verdi´s marvelous "Falstaff" (a pity that Buenos Aires Lírica also programmes this opera). C: Marco Guidarini. P, SD: Roberto Oswald. CD: Aníbal Lápiz. S: Alan Opie, Svetla Vassileva, Paula Almerares, Darío Schmunck, Graciela Alperyn. November/December.

Only six operas, no Wagner and no Strauss, though as they are starting in late May, it is reasonable. Very few singers of any fame, but at least two baritones of exalted rank, Johnson and Opie, will be heard. Prices will be expensive, European Grade A. Subscribers of earlier seasons keep their rights.

I find the ballet season a marked improvement on this year´s (of course the big Colón stage allows much more space and greater projects than the Coliseo´s). A curious but interesting parallel will be established with the operatic side of 2010´s activity with Kenneth MacMillan´s ballet "Manon", on music by Massenet (not the opera); it was presented by Julio Bocca the last year before his retirement and it is a worthwhile incorporation to the Colón´s experience. C: José Luis Domínguez. June.

It is always a good thing to fall back on George Balanchine, to my mind one of the very greatest choreographers of the twentieth century. We shall see "Theme and Variations" (Tchaikovsky) and "Donizetti Variations". On the same session, Vittorio Biagi´s view of Beethoven´s Seventh Symphony.

C: Francisco Rettig. Dancers (D): Tiler Peck, Joaquín de Luz (New York City Ballet). September.

"The Corsair" had been a project of the Colón Ballet´s Directress Lidia Segni; it was postponed for 2010. With choreography by Anne Marie Holmes, we shall be able to appreciate a rich nineteenth-century ballet. C: Hadrián Ávila Arzuza. SD: Christian Prego. CD: Lápiz. D: Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre). October/November.

Finally, "The Bayadere" is another famous nineteenth-century ballet, and I am glad that Natalia Makarova´s choreography is back; the Minkus music is arranged by John Lanchberry. C: Javier Logioia Orbe. D: Alina Cojocaru (Royal Ballet) and David Hallberg (ABT). December.

The trump card next year will be a very expensive and very good special concert season with some of the greatest names in Classical music, the Bicentenary Subscription Series. Yo-yo Ma, cello; Kathryn Stott, piano (June 11). The long-awaited first visit of a great pianist, Andras Schiff (August 24). The biggest star will be Daniel Barenboim, leading his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Beethoven´s "Choral" Symphony (August 24) and Milan´s Scala Choir and Orchestra in Verdi´s "Aida" (concert version) and Requiem Mass (August 29, 30 and 31). The half-brothers Karin Lechner and Sergio Tiempo will play a two-piano session on September 14. Zubin Mehta will conduct the Munich Philharmonic on October 1st. And a so-called Concert of the Bicentenaries will be conducted by Enrique Diemecke on November 26.