domingo, enero 21, 2007

The Colón's difficult year

As you probably know, the Colón closed for restoration on November 1st 2006 and will remain in that condition until May 2008, when it will presumably be reopened with Verdi's "Aida", the opera performed on the day of the Colón's inauguration, May 25, 1908. Marcelo Lombardero, the Artistic Director, and Leandro Iglesias, the General Director, managed to find alternatives for the Colón's activities in opera, ballet and concerts. None of them compares with the Colón, but they will have to do during 2007. This article will refer to opera; ballet and concerts (mainly the Buenos Aires Philharmonic) will be dealt with separately.

There are few venues that can be even considered as replacements of the Colón. Two principal reasons, audience capacity (around 2100 people) and a good orchestral pit, made the Coliseo the most reasonable choice. Let's not forget the not inconsiderable problem of adapting the seating plans of the Colón to the lower and simpler disposition of the Coliseo, which has no loges (subscription renovation was awkward and slow).

A bit of history: the original Coliseo was built in the same plot as the current one, M.T. de Alvear between Cerrito and Libertad, not far from the Cervantes and the Colón. Its initial trajectory went from 1907 and 1937 and in those thirty years it offered great artists, although the Colón's competition eventually proved impossible to vanquish. The Italian Government was the owner, as it still is; the Italian community, grieved by the long closure of the theatre and its run-down condition, gave its support to a new and very different building, inaugurated in 1961 and still with us. Opera was sporadic, but some things were important, such as Verdi's "I Masnadieri" and Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur", both with the Teatro Argentino of La Plata, and the specialized case of Vivaldi's "Il Giustino". But it has been mainly used for concerts (particularly Harmonia and Nuova Harmonia) or for theatrical seasons of Les Luthiers.

Something important was discovered that wasn't publicly known: the original pit, holding 100 players, wasn't destroyed when the first building was torn down ; now, with the sacrifice of three rows of the stalls, it will be recovered. However, as Lombardero told me, the stage conditions are very difficult: not only is it shallow but it has no flies; to move a big chorus around is practically impossible. That is why two of the operas will be offered in concert versions where the chorus stands in a fixed place. On the other hand, the big pit allows playing such a Richard Strauss work as "Elektra".

I'm quite aware of the limitations, but I'm disappointed by some of the choices: this was the right year to hear in concert versions important operas of great musical quality but with theatrical problems that make them of dicey staging. It would have been both useful and fascinating to premiere such pieces as Weber's "Euryanthe" and/or "Oberon", Schumann's "Genoveva" , Schubert's "Fierrabras" or "Béatrice et Bénédict" by Berlioz. Instead , all the operas chosen have been offered within the last fifteen seasons, and generally in valuable versions that will hardly be bettered in 2007. This was a year in which at least two premieres should have been included, to give some novelty to a subscription series that will be very short on stars (financing this year is unfairly restricted by the Government).

Let's get down to facts. The season starts with Berg's "Wozzeck", a fundamental twentieth-century opera, with an all-local double cast: Hernán Iturralde/Luciano Garay, Adriana Mastrángelo/Alejandra Malvino, Carlos Bengolea/Fernando Chalabe, Ricardo Cassinelli/Gabriel Renaud, Gustavo Gibert and Eduardo Ayas. Conductor (C), Stefan Lano; producer (P), Lombardero; stage designer (SD), Diego Siliano; costume designer, Luciana Gutman. March 23, 25, 27, 29, 31.

"Mefistofele" (Boito) will have a concert version with Mikhail Kit, Francisco Casanova, Virginia Tola, Elisabeth Canis and Rubén Martínez (it was staged a few years back with Samuel Ramey). C, Mario Perusso. April 13, 15, 17, 21, 25.

"La Traviata" is certainly unnecessary; the rationale is that in 2007 we commemorate the l50th anniversary of the inauguration of the first Colón with the famous Verdi piece. C, Guillermo Brizzio; P, Eric Vigié; SD, Enrique Bordolini; CD, Imme Moller. The double cast includes the debut of Nathalie Manfrino and Maya Dashuk. The others: Darío Schmunck/Enrique Folger, Víctor Torres/Omar Carrión, Mónica Sardi/Mariana Carnovali. May 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27.

"Samson et Dalila" (Saint-Saens) was staged memorably with Plácido Domingo some seasons ago; now we have the return of José Cura in a concert version, with well-known locals: Cecilia Díaz, Luis Gaeta, Carlos Esquivel, Ariel Cazes. June 24, 28, 30; July 3, 5.

I will skip the ballet "Cinderella", wrongly included in the lyric subscription series, and leave the reference to my next article. Massenet's "Werther" follows, with Jonathan Boyd, Mariana Rewerski, Garay and Graciela Oddone. C, Arturo Diemecke. P, SD and CD, Louis Désiré. September 14, 16, 19, 21, 23.

Although the last BA "Elektra" was truly memorable (Behrens and Rysanek) , the debut of Luana DeVol in the title role should be interesting; others will be Virginia Correa Dupuy, Graciela Alperyn, Iturralde and Bengolea. C, Lano; P, Mario Pontiggia. October 19, 21, 24, 27.

Finally, another non-opera, the Verdi Requiem, completes the meager season. C, Lano. María José Siri, Annette Seilgen, Jean-Luc Viala and Greer Grimsley . November 16, 18, 20, 22, 25.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald - January 23, 2007

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