Update (27/1/2015): At the end of this article you'll find the statement that Joan Corbera, chief of communications at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, make to the magazine Codalario about the issue we're talking about on this post.
Illustration from The Blue Aspic - E. Gorey
In September, when the season starts and I’ve got my brand new notebook ready, the first thing I do is to schedule those posts that I’ve previously known: Christmas, St. George's Day, Easter, etc. This year, in addition, as I was so happy with the Art Song season in Barcelona
, I wrote down some posts "about the song recital of XX". For next week, I had scheduled a post about Francis Poulenc, which was one of the composers included in the program of Simon Keenlyside's recital at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
But on Monday 22th of December, the opera house announced the cancellation of that recital. Given that the previous Saturday Keenlyside had to withdraw from Rigoletto in Vienna due to illness (a withdrawal with great media coverage because the performance was broadcast to radio and cinema), it became inevitable to relate both events. However, the Liceu’s press release didn't refer to a cancellation due to "illness reasons" but to "schedule reasons".
On Tuesday 23th, Norman Lebrecht posted on his blog
that the singer didn't cancel the recital; instead, the opera house did it for economic reasons:
The Spanish press reports are incorrect. It’s the Liceu that cancelled, not the singer. Here’s what Simon tells us through a mutual friend: ‘They wrote very nicely to say that in recent times they just cannot sustain and sell recitals of songs in the opera house and so they are cancelling the series…. but they were so nice and offered to collaborate with an orchestral programme of something else that might be easier for them to sell.’
So far, the Gran Teatre del Liceu has not still made any clarification but it appears that the theater, in fact, cancelled the concert. On one hand, there is the press release. When an artist withdraws for health reasons, I don't see any difference with any other kind of worker. There is a medical certificate and that’s more than enough. However, if the press release says that the concert has been cancelled for "schedule reasons", I need more details; for example, which schedule they're talking about or which are the reasons. I think that, apart from the unfortunate announcement date, the explanation about the cancellation has been fairly vague.
There is one more reason that makes me think that the opera house is responsible for the cancellation. During the 2011-2012 season, all anticipated performances of Eine florentinische Tragödie / Der Zwerg
and a Nina Stemme recital, were cancelled. I understand that it was a difficult decision to take but many opera lovers thought that it was a great mistake. It's not easy to regain lost prestige, even worst to rebuild the audience’s confidence; at that time, the opera house cancelled programmed performances to balance their budget, so why shouldn't they do it again? And that's how we arrive at the 22th of December announcement, when a recital whose tickets were selling slowly, was cancelled without giving a satisfactory explanation.
I won't go back to the song recitals topic at the Liceu
. The point now is that Keenlyside's recital was on sale since April 20141 (the same for Philippe Jaroussky and Andreas Scholl's recitals, will they be kept?). When someone buys tickets nine months in advance, that person is showing interest in the concert and also, is giving a vote of confidence to the opera house. When things go wrong and an artist has to cancel for medical reason, we try to be understanding and to accept it with good sportsmanship; when the venue cancels, we are outraged.
The lousy communication of the venue doesn't help to turn indignation into understanding, that's why I am posting something that I’d rather not have done. It really hurts because, contrary to what it may seem today , I love the Gran Teatre del Liceu very much, it's my opera house.
The program of the cancelled recital included one of my favorite cycles, the Kerner Lieder
by Schumann (which, by the way, Jonas Kaufmann would have also sung during the recital but he cancelled this season due to illness. At least Matthias Goerne sang them at his concert in October!). It seems that in the case of Simon Keenlyside (and Malcolm Martineau) we have to settle for a recording; we're listening to the eighth song of the cycle, Stille Liebe.
Könnt' ich dich in Liedern preisen,
Säng' ich dir das längste Lied.
Ja, ich würd' in allen Weisen
Dich zu singen nimmer müd'!
Doch was immer mich betrübte,
Ist, daß ich nur immer stumm
Tragen kann dich, Herzgeliebte,
In des Busens Heiligtum.
Und daß du, was laut ich sage,
Oder preis' in Sangeslust,
Meinest, daß ich tiefer trage
Als dich, Herz, in warmer Brust.
Dieser Schmerz hat mich bezwungen,
Daß ich sang dies kleine Lied,
Doch von bitterm Leid durchdrungen,
Daß noch keins auf dich geriet.
If I could praise you in song,
I would sing you the longest song.
Yes, I would in every way
never tire of singing to you!
But what has always troubled me
is that always, only silently,
may I carry you, my heart's beloved,
in my heart's sanctuary.
And that, whatever I say aloud
or praise in joyful song,
you believe I carry more deeply
in my warm breast than you, my heart.
This agony has compelled me (translation by Emily Ezust)
to sing this little song,
but I am pierced by bitter sorrow
that you haven't heard even one note.
Joan Corbera, chief of communications at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, complied with my friend and colleague Alejandro Martínez about different topics related to the Gran Teatre del Liceu, among them Simon Keenlyside'recital cancellation:
About the cancellation of the concert of the baritone Simon Keenlyside:
In view of the controversial cancellation of this concert, scheduled for the last January 21th, Corbera answers that it was by mutual agreement with the singer, on initiative of the theater. In view of the rumor that the real reason for the cancellation wasn't schedule but economic reasons, given the slow ticket sales, the press director of the Liceu answers that it influenced but it wasn't the main reason. According to Corbera, the concert was not scheduled in the most appropriate dates for the Catalan coliseum. Asked about the announcement of the cancellation coinciding with the unfortunate situation that forced the English baritone to leave the new production of Rigoletto in the Vienna Staatsoper, Corbera says that "sometimes we must take advantage of being in the limelight. The concert was cancelled in good time for the audience, that received full repayment of localities, including management fees that do not depend directly on the Liceu". About the possibility of Art Song always being damaged on those circumstances and the possibility that the Liceu focuses his repertoire more and more to commercial proposals, Corbera answers that "the Liceu doesn't like to cancel and this one is, in fact, the only cancellation given this season, unlike what happened in other theaters." AIso, wondered about the possibility of further cancellations occur, both this season and which is to come, with the rumor that the Götterdämmerung closing the Wagnerian Tetralogy could be postponed, Corbera states that "Mrs. Scheppelmann is very respectful with inheritance. "
You can read this article on Codalario