martes, abril 09, 2013

La Plata´s Argentino faces a terrible crisis

             Four years ago a new team took over La Plata´s Teatro Argentino: Leandro Iglesias was the Director General, Marcelo Lombardero the Artistic Director and Alejo Pérez the Principal Conductor.  The first two had teamed at the Colón with good results. Their initial seasons at the Argentino were positive in many senses: audacious and renovated opera and concert programming, a full calendar, a reasonable budget that allowed a certain degree of internationalization, respected chronograms, institutes to form future artists, the first steps towards a system of opera houses that collaborate with each other, etc. There were mistakes provoked by Lombardero´s choice of producers that presented such fiascos as Tambuscio´s "Giulio Cesare in Egitto" (Handel) or Bieito´s "Pepita Jiménez" (Albéniz), though Lombardero thinks they were good! But many presentations were of high quality and firsts for La Plata, such as Lombardero´s own "Tristan and Isolde" (Wagner), or the presentation of a Strauss opera in La Plata ("Salome"). I didn´t like "The Rhinegold", initial opera of Wagner´s Ring, in Lombardero´s conception, but it was still a brave thing to do, as part of a projected complete Tetralogy. And Alejo Pérez presented Mahler´s mighty Eighth Symphony.           
 However, last year things began to come apart, in line with Scioli´s increasing financial difficulties; the first part of the season proceeded as planned, but in the second there were three important cancellations: Bellini´s "I Capuleti ed i Montecchi", "Wagner´s "Die Walküre" and the ballet "Zorba" (Llorca Massine on Theodorakis´ music). It transpired that numerous contracts weren´t honored and that labor unrest grew. By December the situation exploded: Alejo Pérez resigned (I wrote about it in the Herald) and the vague promises of Jorge Telerman  (at the helm of the Instituto Cultural) that in January financial matters would be solved weren´t believed by the employees. Indeed, the annual recess of the theatre came and went and nothing had changed. So by the end of February the situation exploded. Lombardero resigned, and was shortly followed by Miguel Martínez (the Choir´s Director) and Mario Galizzi (the Ballet´s Director). Of the main posts only Iglesias remained.

            Simultaneously the labor situation, still unsolved, led to labor conflict with the Government on a vast scale. A series of demands were transmitted to the functionaries of the Government, the Orchestra declared the status of permanent assembly, there were street demonstrations. Finally, Iglesias reacted by announcing the season, or rather the shrunk skeleton of one. What will really happen is anyone´s guess, but he said that rehearsals of Beethoven´s Ninth Symphony would take place this week, and on Saturday, March 16, the concert would take place under the Chilean conductor Pedro Pablo Prudencio.

            It is interesting that the parting shot was sounded by labor inside the Cultural Institute itself: the Internal Junta of ATE in the Institute denounced (January 25) the deplorable situation of the Argentino and supported the just claims of its employees presented to the authorities of the Government, the Institute and the Theatre: those that won legitimate competitions to enter the theatre as permanent members haven´t received their appointment; annual contracts haven´t been renovated; those under contract last year still haven´t  their payments; and the general condition of the building is bad due to mediocre maintenance (lack of hygiene and security).

            On March 7th I received a press release: "Workers convoke to participate of an embrace of the Argentino and of a street meeting": the latter went to the Administration and the Presidency of the Cultural Institute, to the Legislature and to the Provincial Government. This was decided by the Workers´ Assembly on February 21. Other points: they ask the authorities to carry out an audit that will reveal the real administrative, financial and patrimonial situation of the Argentino; the appointment of directors for the permanent artistic bodies; programming that includes all sections of the theatre; adequate budget; definitive approval of human structures and personnel; the resignation of Iglesias; and a legislative request  of relevant information, including the interpellation of the functionaries of the Cultural Institute.

            There is a new organism in the Province: the Complejo Teatral de Artes Escénicas. It is led by Juan Carlos D´Amico, Telerman´s predecessor at the Cultural Insititute. It includes the supervision of the Argentino, Mar del Plata´s Auditorium, the Comedia Provincial and the Babía Blanca Organismo Artístico del Sur (currently in dire straits). To my mind it is an unnecessary bureaucratic duplication of the Institute, typical of the convoluted functionaries´ minds nowadays. D´Amico and Telerman decided to send money for several matters that needed fixing at the Argentino: air conditioning reparation; installation of water pumps in the cellars; cleaning of the façade; and general maintenance. They also promise the normalisation of the theatre, but Iglesias stressed: we will have 20% more budget than last year, but the basic point is to receive the money when we need it (last year the Argentino got only 29% of the money allotted for productions).

            As to the very recent announcements by Iglesias. a) Appointments: the experienced Guillermo Brizzio as Artistic Director; Darío Domínguez Xodo as Conductor of the Orchestra; Esteban Rajmilchuk as the Director of the Choir; and Mario Silva as the Ballet Director. Except Brizzio, very new artists. b) the  conversations with labor ("paritarias") would start on March 21; c) the ballet announcements are by far the best: the three Tchaikovsky ballets plus Frederick Ashton´s "Birthday Offering" with Iñaqui Urlezaga; also Handel´s "Messiah" in Wainrot´s choreography. Opera: Verdi and Wagner will be programmed in their bicentenary year: "La Traviata", August; and "The Flying Dutchman" (premiere for La Plata: it aborted when announced in 2001), October. Nothing else is announced. Well, it´s better than nothing.
For Buenos Aires Herald

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