Back in 2000 the Colón was still with us, an international house of world renown though not without some unevenness. Important stars still came and brought further lustre to the great theatre´s reputation, as had happened during the preceding decade notwithstanding the chronic labor troubles. We had become accustomed to the Colón as the sole provider of opera. But two artists had a vision: a private opera company at a smaller theatre, the Avenida, would give their chance to young local singers and would base their offerings on team work. It was the idea of producer Ana D´Anna and conductor Antonio María Russo and they have kept firmly on the same line ever since. They will now offer the tenth consecutive season and it´s time to take stock.
Of course, "alternative opera", as it came to be called, sprouted other initiatives, both rival and complementary: Buenos Aires Lírica (BAL) is solidly ensconced at the Avenida with a five-opera season, and the same theatre is also the venue for Adelaida Negri´s Casa de la Ópera and for Fundamús, led by Eduardo Casullo (sometimes they work together). If you add to it the annual production of the Compañía de las Luces of Marcelo Birman at the Museo de Arte Decorativo plus other ventures (such as the astonishing feat of Ars Hungarica last year, premiering operas of Haydn and Kodály), you can safely count, without the Colón, on seeing no less than about fifteen operas with orchestra a year within the boundaries of our Capital. Add –for it´s close by- the efforts of Avellaneda´s Roma, and we get about nineteen! And there are still to be counted the rather numerous operas with piano (particularly at the Manufactura Papelera). And of course, the other great official opera house,
All this talk of crisis, but we are offered thirty operas. OK, some are substandard and few can be compared to the Colón, but it is still impressive and reveals a huge appetite for opera, paradoxically blossoming in very difficult times. But such things happen when enterprising and talented people do their work with intensity, love and hard but positive work. And this is what D´Anna and Russo have done, along with by now a huge number of collaborators. True, there have been some missteps, even grave ones, and one has often wished that more money came in Juventus´ way, for they deserve it and sometimes their restricted means haven´t allowed them to put on as good a production as they surely wanted to. But one also remembers feats such as the very difficult and marvelous Verdi "Falstaff" having a quality production, or the almost perfect "The Medium" (Menotti), or the charm and admirable discipline of last year´s "The Marriage of Figaro".
This week their tenth year is celebrated by a staged operatic concert offering a judicious selection of some high points of these seasons that made us get to know so many talented young people, many of them by now fully launched in careers that are no longer promising but full-fledged, in no small way thanks to the admirable musical and theatrical training they got from Juventus. Yes, I agree with what surely some readers are thinking, that their repertoire is often too hackneyed, but it is unfortunately true that the majority of the public wants the same warhorses again and again. And a private company with no public subsidy can only count for revenues on the sale of tickets, the generous support of sponsors, the always hard-to-obtain ads, eventually on recordings or DVDs. But there´s so much competition for the same pool of money that it is quite difficult to survive. And that explains the endless "Traviatas" and "Barbers" and "Carmens" or the insistence on the Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy. I really wish they could vary the menu more, and for that to happen it would be enough that each production were sponsored by some tycoon that loves music and gives money for that only reason. Where oh where are they? On the other hand, why can´t the audience do some homework and be less routine in their tastes?
But meanwhile new young artists of talent crop up every year, nurtured with companionship and generosity by the guiding hands of mature artists that understand the need to steep them in the great traditions of opera. True, the Avenida´s pit is small and limiting, and there´s far too much Italian repertoire compared to the enormous amount of worthwhile opera that is never offered here, and it is in this sense that I wish our milieu will progress in the future. I also hope that Juventus and the other groups will spare us some of the ugly, tasteless and utterly wrong productions that we see with dismay, bad imitations of Europe´s worst models.
But the fact remains: opera is alive and rather well in BA, and today I want to thank Juventus Lyrica for the many rewarding experiences they gave our audiences through the years, with their warmth and solidarity almost always to the fore.
For Buenos Aires Herald