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August 23, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is a Summer Season possible in BA?

An inside view of the renovated Teatro Coliseo.
By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

Backed by sponsors, projects must be put in experienced hands leading mostly young talent

For those of us who are veterans with long memories, the answer is yes: a Summer Season is possible. In fact, we had it for decades, until wrong thinking obliterated them. Those seasons were never international, exceptions apart. But they did alleviate the warm musical desert of summertime, were most welcome and attracted crowds. Even this sad Colón we are going through tried it for a very limited time at the Centenario Amphitheatre some years ago.

This year there was a positive but little-known contribution from the new Usina del Arte, and it was a step in the right sense: some varied concerts of good quality. And a quartet of ancient music concerts in Northern Greater Buenos Aires also helped. But both things were much too little, and too late in the season. A lot more could be done and from various angles. The Colón started late with repeats of last December’s Swan Lake and one Philharmonic concert.

Let’s see. What are the problems? Well, the essential one is that public institutions with orchestras, choruses or ballet ensembles all hiving an extended holiday period like Europe certainly doesn’t have. And they are sacrosanct as acquired rights. But there are ways to circumvent it without affecting those rights.

Musicians always complain that they don’t earn enough, so they should welcome — after reasonable rest — any possibility to increase those emoluments, provided (if they are ethical) that the project seems viable and has quality. There is also the matter of cooperatives in which the artists involved take it upon themselves to assume at least part of the risk, for otherwise we again have the difficulty of obtaining sufficient sposorship.

Mind you, in the good ol’ times the Colón managed to observe the extended holidays and even so in the 60s the Colón Chamber Opera provided as much as three brand new productions from late February to the end of March. They really worked then, but an expert was in charge: Enzo Valenti Ferro. And they were offered in air-conditioned theatres. There’s no reason for not replicating this nowadays.

Before air conditiong, the Colón gave open-air Summer Seasons, first at the Sociedad Rural, then at the Centenario Amphitheatre, until it burnt down. But after a prolonged lapse of time opera returned (without the Colón’s auspices) at the Centenario, and I especially remember a talented version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with Bernarda Fink. At the Anfiteatro, local casts in popular operas prevailed, at low prices. Quality wavered, though the general result was positive. I believe the installations in the Centenario would be amenable to opera, operetta and zarzuela, plus ballet and concerts, with local artists, if orchestras and choruses could be assembled under contract. And I think they could be.

Other places in the city could serve for ballet and some operas with lesser requirements. I remember seeing opera at the Rosedal or at the Av. Alvear’s curving ascent from Libertador. And chamber music could be offered at many venues with air conditioning.

Dreaming is cheap, but I believe that if enough people put their mind to it a grand Summer Plan could contain: 1) Big popular operas for which we have the singers, 2) Chamber operas; 3) Operettas and zarzuelas, very adequate for the light Summer times; 4) Symphonic concerts with an intelligent selection of good light classical music, such as Fiedler’s Boston Pops used to do (most of it never gets played for programmers wrongly think they shouldn’t be included in the other seasons of the year). Plus chamber and instrumental music, and ballet.

Firmly backed financially by enlightened sponsors, such projects must be put in experienced hands leading mostly young talented people who aren’t in the major orchestras and professional choruses. They would provide very welcome experience and funds to such people, and would give some necessary joys to city dwellers that can’t travel and believe, as I do, that culture is a fulltime thing. In Europe they have no problem, they can make their trajectory through an enormous maze of Summer Festivals of the most varied types. Here, the Sahara with very few oases...

Espector back to his post. You may remember the case of Claudio Espector as coordinator of the children and youth orchestras of Buenos Aires City; a couple of months ago I denounced the intention of the Macri Government to demote him from his post with no good reason, as he was staunchly defended by our musical milieu for his positive work of many years. Well, now a judge has ordered that Espector should be reinstalled at his post. I hope this will be the end of a silly and unfair conflict.

The Coliseo renovations. A press conference recently presented a plan for the sprucing up of the Coliseo. What we saw was two immaculately white foyers (ground floor, first floor) looking very clean and very cold, as a freshly conditioned hospital. It isn’t to my liking but others may feel differently. We were told that the first lap of renovation had also included some improvements in the stage facilities, but they weren’t specific about it. There will be two more periods in succeeding years until the renovation is complete, but all was very vague. I do hope they will ameliorate the flies and deepen the stage so that operas with big choirs can be staged. They have a 100-player pit already.

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