January 24, 2018
Monday, March 20, 2017

Gheorghiu against the Colón

By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald
Some in the know thought that it was bound to happen. Others weren’t surprised that it did. And many hoped it wouldn’t.
Alas, the capricious Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu (aided by the silly management at the Colón Theatre) staged a farce that blemishes the impression she left in her only appearance at the theatre several years ago, when she and tenor Roberto Alagna gave their much praised concert. Now it’s a fact: she has been replaced by our Virginia Tola, promoted from the second to the first cast of the revival of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (which I will review next week), which begins the opera season.
On March 8, Gheorghiu stated on Facebook: “I am deeply upset and disappointed about the lack of professionalism and discourtesy I have encountered in the last days in Buenos Aires. Due to pre-contractual breaches and the failure of Teatro Colón to fulfill my contractual terms... I find myself with the impossibility to perform for the Argentinian audiences. I travelled to Buenos Aires with this uncertainty, hoping that eveything will get sorted out as soon as I am in Argentina. It has been already a week since I am here and nothing has improved. I could not even attend any rehearsal without any valid contract signed. I even tried to have a conversation with the general director of the Colón, María Victoria Alcaraz, but I was refused one. I interdict the Colón from selling tickets under my name.”
On the same day, there was a press release from the theatre saying that “for reasons of exclusively artistic character... Gheorghiu won’t be part of the cast. She will be replaced by soprano Virginia Tola.” (Sabrina Cirera in the second cast). And a further announcement: “Due to force majeure conductor Francesco Ivan Ciampa won’t be able to travel to our country and will be replaced by maestro Mario Perusso.”
End of the game? Hardly. Now information has seeped out and colleagues have written hard words. And I have my own sources. My verdict: blame on both sides.

Two sides to every tale
First the diva’s Exocet on Facebook. She doesn’t say basic things. First, she demanded she be given an advance on her fee BEFORE signing the definitive contract, a practice contrary to normal handling of such things. Second, as told by Diego Fischerman, she travelled here  with four First Class air tickets for her, her fiancé and two assistants; and got a double suite in a five-star hotel. Third, she refused to receive Enrique Arturo Diemecke, who was named Dario Lopérfido’s successor, though with a different description of his job (as our readers know). Can it be true, as Fischerman surmises, that she came with the previous intention of not singing but nevertheless achieving a compromise by which she would still touch a substantial amount of money? Fourth, why didn’t her agents defuse the problem months ahead, as is their obligation?
Fischerman also thinks that she is singing badly and cites as evidence her Adriana in February 2017 at Covent Garden, which was a far cry from the one she sung at the same theatre in 2011, when eulogies were unanimous. Well, I investigated the matter on the Internet, and found that reactions ranging from positive with some reservations (Financial Times) to mildly positive (The Telegraph) to severe panning (The Telegraph). My impression: she is declining but still has good points.
However... the Colón’s contract policy has been mismanaged, and there is a primary culprit: ex-artistic director Darío Lopérfido. And a further touchy question: contracts are basically the director-general’s field, and so María Victoria Alcaraz is the natural one to handle them, but it’s pretty obvious that Lopérfido, after leaving the ministry and having relinquished the director general’s post, continued to do what he pleased. Alcaraz hadn’t won the backing of the authorities to lead, as is logical in the Colón’s structure. But now she is completely in charge. Did she know about the problems with Gheorghiu’s pre-contract? And had she enough time to stop her coming? These are moot points.

In an interview with Perfil, Alcaraz stated — contradictorily — that the theatre’s opera subscribers will get what is announced but that contracts will be analysed one-by-one. Odds are that several have controversial features or are incomplete, so we might have more bad news — and who will compensate the subscribers? And of course she implicitly admits that she didn’t check them when Lopérfido was at the Colón, or that she did check them but was overruled by a man who reported to her institutionally.
You will remember that in a previous article I mentioned that Alcaraz said that her ethics clashed with Lopérfido’s; now we see why. But all this happened because the City authorities allowed such a situation. Did Alcaraz complain to Ángel Mahler and Horacio Rodríguez Larreta? Or direcly to RL considering that the Colón is autarchic? Were the funds available for the season as announced? Diemecke expressed his doubts about budgeting in the same article I just mentioned. And of course the Autarchy Law should be revised for many matters, including budgeting, but not one legislator of any party has mentioned such a need in recent years. The Colón is complex and very few understand it. And hermeticism remains the rule.
One thing is for sure: lawyers and accountants will have a field day with the Gheorghiu affair. And we will hear more about it.
A final comment: everything about the Colón 2016 will be thoroughly analysed and few of those projects will come about.             w
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