Thursday, June 4, 2009

The warm-up

62 minutes from Curtain. The room, 150 years old, is named after Claudio Arrau. “He’s better known outside Chile than in,” the woman said to me. Hard to imagine one of the great pianist of the 20th century not being celebrated in his homeland, but then that seems to be what it is to be an artist these days. You have to leave home to go home.

This afternoon the Director of the Teatro Municipal, in which we perform tonight in the Sala Arrau (capacity about 225 as opposed to the exquisite Opera House of 2,500 next door) told me that for our concert tomorrow night we have so much press coming that they don’t know where to put them all. “We never can get this much press for our own productions and companies.” He was clearly a bit irritated. Talk about preaching to the Choir. Why does one have to be a curiosity to garner the attention, and hopefully the respect, of one’s hometown?

If you were to imagine one of the great salons of 19th Century France, or Vienna or Florence, you would understand what it is to be in this room tonight. A 35 foot arched ceiling adorned with plaster bas relief and busts of the great 19th and 18th century composers, red velvet curtains masking the windows which open in classic French door style to a covered patio used only for the Theater Director. Think “Breakfast in the Loggia” by John Singer Sargent.

The Company is on stage warming up. The elegance of the room permeates everything, and is in sharp contrasts to 24 hours ago, when we stood in a converted sports complex imagined in less than those 24 hours from a basketball court into a theater, with trusses built and winched up into place, 800 people in the audience of stadium seats, including the Mayor of Santiago, the US Ambassador and his family and an entire class of Military Cadets. The air was achingly cold, blowers of propane and flame forcing heat onto the stage to little effect. Here it is insular and warm with the aging smell of a great hall.

It would be hard to offer greater contrast. Last night a performance for the people of Santiago who have the least but who would do the most for you of any people you have ever met. Tonight a private sold-out performance for the Foreign Ministry, arranged by the Minister himself, with a house of Ambassadors and dignitaries and the people who make the foreign world real for Chile.

Curtain in 38 minutes.

1 comment:

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