lunes, marzo 02, 2009

Questions about the Colón Theatre

As luck would have it, on the very day that the First Part of my article "The Colón disaster" was published Pablo Toledo was signing in the same page "Horacio Sanguinetti resigns". By then I was on the first leg of a trip. A month later I was back and found out that Buenos Aires City Chief of Government Mauricio Macri had announced Sanguinetti´s successor as Director General: Pedro Pablo García Caffi. It´s time now to take stock. A) Sanguinetti´s reasons. Officially neither he nor Macri gave any explanation, but word of mouth is powerful and all my sources coincide, so I will venture some suggestions. As City functionaries insisted, Macri and Sanguinetti had a meeting prior to the latter´s holiday at Unquillo, Córdoba, and there was agreement on the main lines of the Colón at that point. But a few days later, out of the blue came out Sanguinetti´s letter of resignation, known unorthodoxically through the press, for Macri received it a whole week later! The contents were perfunctory and traditional, mere "personal reasons". Reluctantly interviewed in Córdoba, Sanguinetti was hermetic and merely said that his motivations were no secret to Macri and that it was up to the city´s highest authority to expose them publicly. He also said that after returning to our city he would be willing to have a talk with Macri if the Chief of Government so wanted. As it turned out, this happened the day after García Caffi took up the post, but the communiqué only stated that Macri was grateful for Sanguinetti´s work during 2008 and had thanked him. After that, no more contacts with the Government´s officials, but I was told of some private letters and talks with Colón employees. It would seem that three factors had bothered Sanguinetti enough to finally offer a resignation which to my mind was a foreseen conclusion, considering the numerous rumors in the previous months and the abundant speculations about his replacement, as I mentioned in the last paragraph of the Second Part of "The Colón disaster". The foremost is the fact, abundantly documented, that Martín Boschet is back at the Colón. In the item "The future" in the mentioned article I wrote about "the silly scandal...of the centenary of Converse" that led to Macri allowing "Sanguinetti to drop Boschet", whom as you may remember was the Colón´s Executive Director, "the PRO´s confidence man" and the real authority at the Colón , thus having "a most unhealthy double command". His return in the shadows, for he has no definite job assigned, shows that he is still protected by the PRO, and this was insulting to Sanguinetti. In fact, Boschet seems to have full access to both SYASA (the management of the building´s restoration) and to the UPE ("Unidad de Proyectos Especiales", named by the Ministry of Urban Development to coordinate matters). Furthermore, he seems to have the support of García Caffi. And this begs a question: in what capacity? A delegate of the Government? For his erstwhile post (Executive Director) is taken by Dr. Emiliani, a labor lawyer designated by Macri. Two other factors may have influenced Sanguinetti. One, although Macri by the Autarchy Law has the right to name four of the five Directors invented by that bad legal instrument (and he has: García Caffi, Emiliani, and two accountants, Freda and Escobar), a lawyer and two “numbers people” are hardly what the law states, "personalities with a proven cultural trajectory", and in fact the designations could be impugned. Sanguinetti probably thought that as General Director he should have been consulted . And finally, strong hearsay about wholesale discharges of Colón employees; as many as 300 are mentioned. Both Macri and García Caffi have denied it but the very directors Macri chose seem to point to restructuring, and it´s a fact that many have deep apprehensions about their future. I believe Sanguinetti would never agree to a "shrinking Colón", no matter how wrong he may have been on other issues. B) García Caffi. Although the media generally refer to him as a former member of the Cuarteto Zupay, in fact he has had an important career as a cultural administrator. He was for five years Executive Director of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, bringing to us such soloists as Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma and Evgeny Kissin and doing almost complete cycles of Mahler and Bruckner. He has long been the Executive Manager of the Camerata Bariloche, obtaining for them long national and international tours. And finally, he presided over the first season (with international artists) of La Plata´s new Teatro Argentino, until the economic tsunami of 2001 led to the abrupt curtailment of the season; this was a provincial decision. But it was objectionable that the authorities gave no explanation about the subscribers´ money, an eventually it was García Caffi´s successor, Daniel Suárez Marzal, who compensated them with three free performances the following year. García Caffi is effective, knowledgeable and very much a politician with well-oiled contacts (as is his brother Eduardo, who has held a variety of cultural posts). The question is, what are the conditions unknown to the public under which Macri has designated him? Only time will tell. But I would like to point out aspects that to my mind are paramount and urgent. a) The exact determination of the 2009 season, particularly the operas. I referred to a plan left by Sanguinetti (it was prepared by Mario Perusso) in my above-mentioned article; will it be accepted? I´m told that no contracts were signed. Anyway, either that plan or another has to be put in place with utmost expediency to save the season: the public mood won´t accept another barren year. b) The coordination with SYASA and UPE of the Colón´s restoration ; the establishment of a strict chronogram (May or August 2010?: the latter date was mentioned by Macri at Davos); the truth about the characteristics of the proposed works (it would seem that Boschet´s ideas are still very much on the table: ¿the VIP Colón shopping?). c) The clearing up of all doubts concerning the rumors about restructuring, the payment of salaries in due time (many found that their money hadn´t been deposited and at least one wrote a harsh letter about it to Macri). d) The choosing of the various buildings where the Colón personnel will work this year, for the Colon is off bounds to them, by order of the Ministry of Urban Development. One important designation was that of Reinaldo Censabella as Musical Director, a post nonexistent in the Autarchy Law. But then, neither is there any mention there of an Artistic Director. It transpired that in fact García Caffi will be both General and Artistic Director. Nothing at all is known about the Philharmonic; it is to be hoped that Arturo Diemecke will be confirmed as their Artistic Director. Neither do we have any news about the Ballet, the Center for Experimentation or the Institute of Art. García Caffi also decided that the personnel will prolong their vacations until late in March, thus gaining time for planning . I do hope we will soon have good news , the theatre and our public sorely need them. He has an initial vote of confidence, let him not waste it. After the "annus horribilis" (2008) we certainly need a better 2009.
For Buenos Aires Herald

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