lunes, febrero 18, 2008

The Colón's sad situation

Last December 2 the HERALD published an article I wrote, "The Colón in deep trouble". Later that month Mauricio Macri as Chief of Government and Horacio Sanguinetti as the Theatre's General Director took their posts. The latter's assumption surprised many, for his published statements in the preceding weeks had caused a tsunami of protest in musical society and particularly in the Colón's personnel. Nevertheless he took charge in a closed ceremony. In it he confirmed that there would be no opera season in 2008.

There were some organizational changes: newly created Opera Direction (Salvatore Caputo, who will also keep his job as Chorus Director), one wonders why, in a year without a season- ; Dance Direction (Guido De Benedetti, an extremely conservative choreographer). I see no reason to change the old title, Ballet Director; added, and to my mind unnecessary Directions for Human Relations and for Marketing. Better received and more logical are the return of Arturo Diemecke as Artistic Director and Main Conductor of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, and the naming of the very effective Eduardo Ihidoype (clarinettist of the Orchestra) as its Executive Director. Much resisted was the non-renewal of Stefan Lano's contract as Musical Director, although I felt that his post meant too much influence on artistic decisions which only pertain to the Artistic Director; but he was a distinguished Main Conductor of the Resident Orchestra (Orquesta Estable); in the latter job was named a talented Argentine conductor, Carlos Vieu. To the difficult job of Director of Studies went the capable pianist Irene Amerio. Deservedly two valuable persons kept their posts: Ana Massone as Director of the Superior Institute of Art and Carlos Calleja as Conductor of the Orquesta Académica. Omar Cyrulnik, a distinguished guitarist with no known relationship to the avantgarde, was curiously named as Director of the Center for Experimentation. A rather opaque figure was named as Technical Director, machinist Atilio Lazzari. And Macri's man at the Colón, Martín Boschet (with no antecedents for the job) was named Executive Director. Sanguinetti is his own Artistic Director.

Formally Sanguinetti depends on the City's Secretary of Cultural Management, Pablo Batalla, and on the Minister of Culture, Hernán Lombardi. But in fact he is reporting directly to Macri, for it is the intention of both to obtain the status of autarchy for the Colón from the Legislature. To be useful, that law will have to give the Colón's Director enough money and in proper time to execute his plans, and a horizon of at least three years. I do hope Batalla will have nothing to do with the Colón, for he was an extremely controversial General Director who provoked by his actions sundry legal actions against the Colón.

After those last weeks of December, official silence prevailed during January whilst there were persistent rumors about the paralyzation of the Master Plan of reforms. And opinions about irregularities appeared from PRO sources. A Macri-Sanguinetti press conference began to take shape, and it finally materialized on February 13. It was a gross disappointment in various essential aspects. Even in the formal aspect: journalists were cited at 6 p.m.on the Cerrito entrance: as they arrived they were directed to the Tucumán entrance and went down to the Ballet rehearsal rotunda, a true oven (it felt like 35 degrees). But the discomfort is minor compared to the gross discourtesy of starting early: by the time other reporters and myself arrived Macri had finished his brief speech and Sanguinetti was speaking; I reconstructed the missing minutes afterwards.

To say the least, what Macri had to say was startling:

a) He confirmed Sonia Terreno as head of the Master Plan and said that up to 2006 the MP had been excellently done. He took no notice of the numerous dissents and controversies of those years, and when the Colón photographer Máximo Parpagnoli –an articulate defender of the Theatre's patrimony- asked Macri to take a stand about the irregularities, the Chief of Government said that he would only go to court in very blatant circumstances, but that he preferred to look ahead. He had said earlier that in 2007 the necessary funding had gone consistently down (of course, Macri himself had asked Telerman to diminish the city's deficit, so both are responsible) and vouched that the theatre would be ready for reopening in 2010.

b) He also admitted that there will be probably be less personnel by 2010, for he thinks there are people who don't work or are troublemakers. Whilst it is quite probably true that the Colón has too many employees, any reduction must be done with very serious professional analysis. Many fear that Batalla's ideas have influenced Macri; behind this paring down project, they say, is the intention to eliminate those wonderful artisans that allow the Colón to be fully integrated in its productions, and to buy foreign productions that come in big containers. Hence the controversy about the building of a huge hoisting machine considered unnecessary by the Colón workers.

c) The Colón will still be closed in 2009; but Sanguinetti announces a season for that year, and with full-blown operas such as "Lohengrin": however, he doesn't accept the only viable alternative theatre, the Coliseo. Where, oh where, will the season take place?

The Press Department distributed folders with the details of 2008 to 2011. That will be the object of a separate article.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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