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Homage to Teatro Colón Amidst Restoration Crisis

Buenos Aires
Teatro Ópera
05/25/2008 -  
Teatro Colón Centennial Opera Gala: Famous operatic arias, ensembles and choruses
Luis Lima (tenor), Darío Volonté (tenor), Paula Almerares (soprano), Alejandra Malvino (soprano), Graciela Alperyn (mezzo soprano), Graciela de Gyldenfeldt (soprano)
Orchestra and chorus of Teatro Colón, Carlos Vieu, Fernando Alvarez and Mario Perusso (conductors).

And finally the day came.
After several years of construction, a century ago, a magnificent building - one of the biggest opera houses in the world - the Teatro Colón opened with Verdi´s Aida with a full Italian company. From then on, the history and glory of this house is pretty well known: its prestige started growing slowly all over the world, its acoustical qualities made of this opera house "the most perfect one in the world" and a desired destiny for international artists. The arrival of European immigrants between and during the world wars added value to the growing musical tradition, having locals (Panizza, Hina Spani, Calusio, Veltri and others) and international artists settled here like Busch, Kleiber, Kinsky, the Castagna sisters, Arthur Rubinstein and many others made their contributions to the Porteño (as the locals are known) musical heritage.

Some years ago, someone determined that the building needed restoring, the stage to be modernized, upholstery to be changed, etc. and conceived what is now known as the "Master Plan", which included many modifications inside the house, and the closing from October 2006 to May 2008, and "out of house" seasons in other places around the city. Last year, city elections brought a different political party (don't forget that this is a city owned theater) and a change in the authorities of the city and, as a consequence, in the theater executive management team. The works in progress were paralyzed, the loan of the DIB disappeared, and now, the poor old building is closed and waiting for a pious soul to resume work. God only knows when the renovation of this magnificent opera house will be completed!

Therefore, the concert was held at Teatro Ópera, a nice Art Deco building that, unfortunately, does not have the proper acoustics for this kind of musical event. It was built during the 30's on the same place where the old Teatro de la Ópera existed.

On the event itself: this was a kind of marathon that pretended to imitate the Met Centennial Gala of 1983 with the difference that almost 95% of the artists were locals. We could never match the amount of international stars that were part of those concerts. The best internationally well known were Luis Lima and Darío Volonté. Two sides of the same coin. Two tenors, one almost retired nowadays, who sang marvelously "Dio mi potevi scagliar" from Otello (yes, Lima sang Verdi´s Otello) and he made it in a great way. His dark timbre, his phrasing and the wonderful final Bb of this aria, made his intervention one of the highlights of the evening. On the other side, Volonté tried his very well known "Canción a la Bandera" from Panizza´s Aurora with poor result. His voice was coarse, unfocused, and Volonté gave the feeling that he was in a hurry and had to leave as soon as he could. The other major numbers were by Coro Stable in "Gli arredi festivi" from Verdi’s Nabucco, Paula Almerares in “O luce di quest’ anima” from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix, Alejandra Malvino “Acerba voluttà” from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, as well as two Argentineans residing in Germany, Graciela Alperyn in Carmen’s “Habanera” with the Coro Estable, and Graciela de Gyldenfeldt in “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Both Gyldenfeldt and Alperyn came especially for the occasion.

The conducting of Carlos Vieu (actual musical director of the Orquesta Estable) and Fernando Alvarez, a European resident, were accurate on style in their support to the singers (they are singers themselves). On the other hand, Mario Perusso, just marked the tempi or limited himself to overflow the singers’ performances with orchestral sound.

The worst part of this gala was the poor organization (more proper for an end-of-course student assembly than for an international theater) and the political demonstration before the concert at the theater's door, in favor of the re-opening of the house and against a law that would declare Teatro Colón an "Ente Autónomo" and give the city mayor all the power over the theater's general manager, without the control of the city legislature.

David Mazer



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