The press conference in which the details of the 2014 Colón season were made known was well organized, and the press had its own privileged sector, close to Pedro Pablo García Caffi, the theatre´s director. To create suspense, he produced a parade of directors of different areas, each one giving some inklings of what would happen in their area. And finally, García Caffi referred the grand lines of the two main things: a new concert subscription series called "Abono estelar" and the opera season. Followed a question and answer session, and then a well-catered food and drink aftermath.
Big news: the Berlin reunion of Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim will have its "porteño" repeat. With his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra Barenboim will accompany Argerich in Beethoven´s First Concerto, and he will team up with her in another concert offering two-piano music. That subscription series will also have pianist Lang Lang, the splendid Bavarian Radio Symphony under Mariss Jansons with the long awaited debut of pianist Mitsuko Oshida, and a strange contraption: Barenboim will team up with Les Luthiers in Stravinsky and Saint-Saëns.
Barenboim and his orchestra will also be in the opera season, in what will be both a great concert and a wrong inclusion: for we are not going to have Wagner´s "Tristan and Isolde" whole, but only the Prelude, the Second Act and Isolde´s Love-death. Granted, it will be a star-studded cast: Waltraud Meier, the debuts of Peter Seiffert and René Pape and the return of Ekaterina Gubanova. But for the second consecutive year we will have piecemeal Wagner, when such fundamental operas as "The Mastersingers" and "Parsifal" are still waiting: the former was last offered in 1980 and the latter in 1986.
The main objection to this season: it is much too short (as happened this year) for a theatre that wants to be considered one of the main in the world: the building is, even if unfinished, but the season isn´t. Only eight operas when in the Sixties we had from eighteen to twenty is pretty miserable for a theatre with more than 900 people and fully integrated production; the fact that the workshops are still separated between the Colón and a place called La Nube in Belgrano is one of the problems, derived from the concealed fact that the Colón isn´t finished and there are no plans to do what is necessary. A low budget is also a culprit, productions are expensive though by far the main item is salaries. The Colón must do a minimum of twelve operas in the big season, plus at least one in the Summer.
So of course the logical turnover in the repertoire is enormously delayed; that means that no opera should be offered more than in one season per decade, and that fundamental works remain unpremiered in our midst. So each choice must be examined with a scalpel for any mistake involves lack of proper information for the audience. Our youth has had no parameters in many basic operas, especially in those that can´t be assumed by private companies in smaller theatres. It would seem that the only ways are to have a good DVD collection or be able to travel a lot.
I agree with the concept of having two premières; 25% is a good proportion if the other 75% also includes exhumations of titles long neglected (not the case this year) but of course they must be very carefully chosen. Frankly I don´t know if García Caffi´s enthusiasm for Detlev Glanert´s "Caligula" is warranted, maybe I will have a pleasant surprise; but I do know that it is nonsense to be still waiting for any Hindemith or Henze opera or Britten´s "Billy Budd". Or for that matter much older masterpieces, such as Glinka´s two operas. The other première is a Colón commission, in principle a good idea; can Oscar Strasnoy´s "Requiem for a nun" (on Faulkner´s novel, in English) erase the bad impression of the same composer´s "Cachafaz"? Perhaps...
Repertoire: "The Barber of Seville", completely unnecessary, we had a good one this year from Juventus Lyrica (anything offered in this city is competition, and sometimes better than the Colón). "Falstaff", warranted because of the frustration we had when it was put on stage for only one performance two years ago due to strikes, and we will have a much praised protagonist, Ambrogio Maestri. "Elektra": done in 2007, a
much better choice would have been "Der Rosenkavalier" (1998) to celebrate the Strauss year, but it will have a good female trio: Linda Watson, Iris Vermilion, Manuela Uhl. Back to Puccini with "Madama Butterfly" (last, 2000), with the interesting debut of Patricia Racette, producer Hugo De Ana, conductor Ira Levin. Finally, "Idomeneo" (2003), Mozart´s admirable "opera seria", has the important return of producer Jorge Lavelli and the debut of tenor Richard Croft. No French nor Russian opera (the deal with Maryinsky´s director Gergiev didn´t jell).
Ballet: the main item will be the première of "Rodin", the great sculptor as seen by his muse Camille Claudel, choreography by the Russian Boris Eifman. The usual Tchaikovsky ("Swan Lake", "The Nutcracker"), "The Corsair" again, and the welcome recovery of Macmillan´s "Romeo and Juliet" on Prokofiev´s music after a 17-year absence, with Paloma Herrera. The Ballet needs more repertoire renovation.
I will deal with remaining items, especially the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, in another article.For Buenos Aires Herald