As readers may remember, when the Colón-Ring project was announced I roundly panned the project as absurd, and more recently I added some news concerning the press conference given by Katarina Wagner (the producer) and Cord Garben (the author of the reduction to seven hours of Wagner´s "Ring of the Nibelungs"). Last Tuesday Katarina, Wagner´s great-granddaughter and co-leader of the Bayreuth Festival, was briefly at the Colón. She met Pedro Pablo García Caffi, the Colón´s General and Artistic Director, and told him that she hadn´t found in place the required elements to start rehearsing; so, she was returning to Germany and would await there word from the Colón that things were ready.
There followed a stream of repercussions in local and German papers, most with different nuances. What follows is my personal view of the matter based on a conflation and synthesis of a wide array of information. The whole matter has the feeling of ambiguity and half-truths. Items:
1) Over the years Alejandro Cruz (La Nación) has written several pieces on grave problems of the Colón; now he published an interview with García Caffi about this incident, and the least I can say is that I´m flabbergasted by his answers. "The Colón has fulfilled every point stipulated about the production of the Colón Ring. We are going well, happy and contented". However, Katarina told the DPA agency that she found "inadequate conditions to work at the theatre. I couldn´t have rehearsed even one scene with the singers, and there were no costumes or wigs available". Cruz talked by phone with GC, who told him that "only 15% remains to be finished of the stage designs".
2) A couple of weeks before this troubled visit, the Colón announced that two of the four performances were cancelled. According to GC, this was because the City Government had determined a budget cut due to the straitened financial conditions it is going through. But where does this leave the contractual obligations with the host of singers or with the conductor? Said GC: "eliminating two performances the costs were reduced by 43,35%"; but does he think that the artists will meekly accept being shortchanged? Couldn´t it be that the decision was rather the result of very poor advance sale because either the prices are sky-high (stalls $ 3.000) or the public wasn´t interested in the project –or both?
3) An insistent rumor has it that some imported materials for the staging are languishing in the Customs depots beacuse the authorisation to allow them entrance wasn´t granted. I can´t vouchsafe this, but there was a declaration by GC that substitute materials were being sought within our country.
4) GC told Cruz that it wasn´t true that Valentina Carrasco, an Argentine from La Fura dels Baus, would take over. But other informations refuted this in no uncertain terms, saying that mails had been sent to many of the participating singers telling them that Carrasco would be the producer. GC says that he supposes Katarina will come back, and she says the same, as intimated in my first paragraph.
5) However, there´s a moot fact: during the period of rehearsal of her contract with the Colón Katarina has accepted to stage a big presentation of Audi´s half-centenary at Ingolstadt, Germany, on November 11. Josef Öhrlein, of the Frankfurter Allgemeine, has suggested that she may be trying to gain time to prepare the show. She is quoted by Öhrlein thus: "When Audi proposed that I would take over the artistic side of the celebration I didn´t hesitate a second". No ethical pangs from her, apparently.
6) A general rule nowadays is that the producer chooses his stage and costumes designers. If Katarina doesn´t come back, Carrasco would have to forget about La Fura and its often radical ideas and adapt herself to the ideas of the designers: Frank Schlössmann and Thomas Kaiser.
7) A further problem concerns the conductor. Julien Salemkour was here for a previously unannounced "preview concert" in August. Later his name was replaced by that of Roberto Paternostro; then back came Salemkour´s; and finally the choice is Paternostro. GC says that he wasn´t pleased with Salemkour´s conducting. Curious, for this artist has been Barenboim´s assistant for years and will prepare the Scala Orchestra for Barenboim.
8) The original intent was to do coproductions with other opera houses. GC admits that this hasn´t happened. So the business side seems in jeopardy.
9) But there´s another matter. The Orquesta Estable did something it should have done in March: it protested the inhuman physical requirements of playing during seven hours (terrible for the horns, e.g.), asked for monetary compensation, and added that it is known that Deutsche Welle will make a film on this Colón Ring and that it should mean more money for the Orchestra. (In fact, the DW has been in BA since more than a week ago and they want to document the whole process). The Orchestra affirms that they will play and only want to have talks with the authorities, but this, initially promised, hasn´t happened. The logical thing would have been to use both orchestras, the Estable and the BA Philharmonic, but this was never broached. I believe there´s a medical problem using just one orchestra and that the Estable should insist on this factor, but they haven´t.
I will surely have occasion to write again as this affair evolves.
For Buenos Aires Herald