Bogota's Teatro Mayor celebrating 10th anniversary with digital focus
By Jaime Ortega Carrascal
File photo taken March 2, 2017, showing the general director of the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo in Bogota, Colombia - Ramiro Osorio - during an interview with EFE. EFE-EPA/ Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda / FILE
By Jaime Ortega Carrascal
Bogota, May 25 (efe-epa).- The Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, an iconic theatrical venue in Latin America for its artistic quality and management model inspired by the Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a digital focus to keep cultural offerings alive in Bogota, Colombia, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Since it opened on May 26, 2010, the Teatro Mayor has offered 1,536 events at which 35,063 artists with 957 companies from 66 countries took part.
Across its stages have passed the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony; conductors Zubin Mehta, Gustavo Dudamel and Valery Gergiev leading the Mariinsky Orchestra; Spain's National Ballet; great pianists and soloists; opera and dance companies; as well as great singers such as Brazil's Gilberto Gil, Cuba's Omara Portuondo and Cape Verdean Cesaria Evora, among many others.
"The Teatro Mayor has transformed itself into one of the most important stages in Latin America for its excellent programming in which the world's and Colombia's best artists perform," theater director Ramiro Osorio, who has headed the Bogota venue since its inception, told EFE.
Osorio emphasized the theater's public-private management model in which the Bogota City Hall and the Santo Domingo family participate as patrons of a venue that, he said, "has enriched the lives of more than 19 million people."
That figure includes the number of people who have attended events and performances in the theater's two halls, used the Digital Theater and Teatropedia online platforms or watched broadcasts on Canal Capital, Bogota's public television network.
"In 2008, the co-managers commissioned a study of what the best practices for administering and managing theaters around the world were, and it concluded that the best practice was that of Barcelona's Liceu, the budget of which is 51 percent public and 49 percent from self-generated resources and sponsors," he said about the model that was selected.
With Barcelona in mind, Osorio was tasked with "designing a similar model" at the Teatro Mayor where "15 percent of the budget is contributed by the City Hall and another 25 percent ... by the Santo Domingo family," while "28 or 30 percent is from ticket sales, goods and services and the remaining 20 percent from sponsoring companies, including international cooperation," he said.
"What is hopeful about this model is that is has many sources of resources, it doesn't depend on just one," Osorio said, adding that due to the paralysis of Colombian cultural life amid the quarantine to contain the Covid-19 pandemic the theater has resorted to various technologies so it would not have to definitively bring down the curtain.
The latest event physically held at the theater was on March 15 and up until that point the Teatro Mayor had achieved 49 percent of its annual goal for ticket receipts, renting the halls and other services.
"A house like this one can't stop, you have to accommodate the times and you have to take advantage of technologies and make that experience as rich as possible," Osorio said.
He went on to say that the situation caused by the pandemic puts the world of culture "in a zone of reviewing everything and seeing where there are strengths and vulnerabilities, but in a brutal way."
On that last point, the Teatro Mayor has an advantage and it has not been a matter of experimenting but rather applying technological developments that were implanted five years ago to take its artistic offerings out beyond the theater itself.
"We're seeing that we had great foresight, a great deal of vision with the issue of technology and since 2015 we've had two powerful digital platforms, the Digital Theater and Teatropedia, which have given us a presence in society like no other Colombian institution," Osorio said.
Thanks to that experience and to its production capacity, the theater could "react immediately" to "this phase that's continuing, during which surely we're not going to be able to return to normal public life for several months" where more than 1,300 people could attend events in the main hall and 320 in the other one.
"But we're certainly ready so that - at the time we can start to bring artists in and produce the shows - we'll be able to do it with or without the public and we'll transmit them via the online platform. We've got, more or less, 80 shows prepared for the rest of the year," he said.
During the 10th anniversary celebration, for instance, which began on Monday with a two-day artistic marathon, the theater plans to rebroadcast the best performances on its stages.
The selection of shows includes the Chilean group Los Fi, Colombian band Monsieur Perine with the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra, French dance company Celui qui tombe, the opera "The Barber of Seville" in coproduction with the Opera of Colombia, and Germany's Stuttgart BachAkademie.
One will also be able to see the flamenco dance show "Una oda al tiempo" by the Maria Pages Compañia, Colombia's Toto la Momposina and the opera "Don Giovanni."
"I think that these months of pandemic have made us much more virtual than before and those of us who have the responsibility for these (theaters) inevitably have to think that we also have to multiply that physical-presence event via technology," Osorio added.