martes, abril 06, 2010

The mixed charms of Summer music

      I feel that culture has no seasons and that we should have always good classical music available, even in Summer. Europe has solved the problem: year after year, a rash of Festivals caters to the hungry; but here, January is an unrelieved desert, and only late in February some timid growths begin to appear, so that "Summer music" is generally limited to Christmas week , the last  days of February and the three initial weeks of March. In better times, although the Colón´s yearly vacations mandated a late start, we had a complete Summer lyric season of three titles  The old Amphitheatre at Parque Centenario burned down decades ago, and  makeshift installations there had to suffice for many years. But in  very recent times, the City Government built a new Amphitheatre at Centenario, and this is the place where the current pre-season of the Colón is held. The Colón was in fact the guest of the Dirección de Música, for the Anfiteatro Eva Perón is in their sphere.             
     About two blocks separate it from the Avenida Marechal and street noise is thus much attenuated; what can´t be avoided is the crickets giving their own uninterrupted concert.  The seats are made of plastic and have no back, so spines and necks suffer, but at least you don´t sit on raw stone.  The amphitheatre is very wide and has reasonable sightlines; a big stalls section is supplemented by a smaller pullman; I understand it holds about 1600 people.  It has no pit, so opera is out (a big failing indeed). The Colón is offering free concerts and ballet (with recorded music or a lone percussionist on stage). I don´t know what his natural acoustics are like, for everything was amplified, and in a rather gross way (one clarinet sounded gigantic, the full orchestra was unremittingly too loud and with little transparence).
     I chose a concert of Viennese music and  a ballet session whose programming escaped routine. The Buenos Aires Philharmonic  had already presented a French night under Carlos Bertazza which I discarded because it took too many bits from different pieces instead of presenting them complete. The "Night in Viena" was certainly hackneyed: the most obvious pieces by Johann Strauss II along with overtures by Von Suppé and Nicolai and of course Johann Strauss I´s Radetzky March. Curiously a mistake in the printed programme was the only relative rarity: they didn´t play the habitual "Pizzicato Polka" by Johann II and Josef Strauss, but the "New Pizzicato Polka". But the music is all likeable and lilting, and some people who were standing at the back of the stalls even danced!  Christian Baldini is a young Argentine who is having a good career in the United States; he conducted from memory and showed himself in possession of a clear orthodox technique. As the music is impaired by the amplification, it is of course immaterial to complain about a lack of subtlety. The orchestra seemed in good shape. Even under such conditions, the big audience had a good time and so did I. The series will be completed with "A night in Russia" on April 23 (Autumn), conducted by the Brazilian Carlos Prazere.
      The Coro and Orquesta Estable of the Colón will be offering Beethoven´s "Choral Symphony" on March 27 and 28. As to the Colón Ballet, it gave Acts I and III of Minkus´"Don Quichotte" in Prebil´s well-known version on March 5, 6 and 7 , and after the programme I´m commenting on, will present a combination of both programmes on March 20 and 21 with one substitution (instead of "Diane et Actéon", a "Pas d´esclaves" by Drigo/Petipa/Gusev).  The programme I saw started with "Vivaldi in concert", combining nine movements from Bassoon Concerti (six fast and three slow) in classic-oriented choreographies by Lidia Segni, who is the Ballet´s Director: half-an-hour of beautiful and little-known Vivaldi in pleasant dancing figurations, not particularly creative but knowledgeable. Four couples were supported by another six in a succession of pas de deux and other combinations, as well as a full-fledged Finale.
     Then, "Diane et Acteón", a pas de deux by the legendary Agrippina Vaganova as revised by Segni, on standard late-nineteenth-century music by Cesare Pugni. The young Carla Vincelli and Juan Pablo Ledo (substituting Dalmiro Astesiano) gave a good account of themselves in some very difficult steps. Ending the First Part, a really attractive choreography by Julio López on one of the more innovative tangos by Piazzolla: "Kicho", made up of two bass recitatives followed by fast and furious ensembles; it was danced with enthusiasm by Gabriela Alberti and Alejandro Parente.
      Vittorio Biagi had been in Buenos Aires last year to revive his interesting "Pulsations", first seen about 25 years ago. The idea is arresting: a percussionist, high on stage, establishes the pulsations that will be danced; although the pretended effect is of improvisation, of course the result needs a lot of rehearsal to work well; and it did. It is made up of a General Dance, three male variations, a female Pas de trois , an Adagio pas de deux, and "Palms" by a female soloist and the full ensemble. It lasts 40 minutes and gave a chance to show their paces to many valuable dancers, especially the young Federico Fernández and the girls of the humoristic Pas de trois (Silvina Perillo, Nadia Muzyca and Vincelli). It was fun, original and invigorating.

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