January 18, 2021

San Sebastián will make its Musical Fortnight “a small camera festival”

The Musical Fortnight of San Sebastián will be in its 81 edition, scheduled for August, a “small camera festival”, without opera and without large orchestras.

Its managers work on the new programming while preparing their own security measures in the absence of official guidelines for the sector.

Patrick Alfaya, its director since 2009, has gone from two months of trusting being able to run the festival relatively normally, despite the pandemic, to being a “realistic optimist” who must adapt to the circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 crisis .

The Fortnight will not move from its place on the calendar -the month of August-, but it will become an event starring almost one hundred percent by Spanish musicians.

“If before they were 70%, now they will be 95%. Many will be Basque. And foreigners who come will do so because they are residents of Spain,” Alfaya said in an interview with EFE.

The idea is to present the new program towards the middle of June, which will no longer be, for example, the London Symphony Orcherstra with Simon Rattle, the Russian State Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic and the pianists Yuja Wang, Mitsuko Uchida and Grigori Sokolov.

Neither did Jordi Savall, with the project “Millennial Venice” that they will try to recover by 2021, nor the Orquesta de Bilbao, which was going to close the edition with “Amaia”, by Guridi, in concert version.

And there will be no choirs this year, unless they are “very small” formations. “Now nobody wants to know anything about the choirs. Until we are clear about what happens to the voices in an auditorium, we will not do anything,” says Alfaya.

They plan to organize three small dance shows, although they have doubts about the distances that the dancers must maintain and if there will be contact between them.

They also want to maintain cycles such as that of the organ, but questions arise again: “How is an organ disinfected? We cannot give it with hydroalcoholic gel because we still load it,” he adds.

He comments that they have addressed by letter to the Ministry of Culture to ask for the guidelines that they must establish both on and off the stage, but this department, although it has thanked them for the letter, has told them that “there is little chance” that they could be answer because “Health has a lot of work”.

“They will consider that there are priority sectors”, says Alfaya, who explains that in the absence of instructions on “what can be done and how”, the Fortnight and the festivals of Pollença (Balearic Islands), the Galician Bal and Gay and the Aragonese in the Camino de Santiago are in charge of preparing something like a decalogue to guide all events dedicated to classical music in Spain.

They are using documents from other countries, although as has happened with two German reports, they find inconsistent recommendations.

“One of them says that for wind instruments you have to keep six meters of clear space ahead, but another points out that two meters is enough. What we are doing is going to maximum. And take into account the possibility of using methacrylate screens, although the question is whether it can affect the sound, “he says.

With the only orchestra they plan to count on, but it is not closed, it is with the Euskadi Symphony, although with fewer instrumentalists, very little public and in a concert without pause.

They also plan to organize performances in the cloister of San Telmo, where they have done it on other occasions and it seems to them an interesting place, outdoors, for chamber concerts.

They are also presented with a problem on how to organize the public, since to avoid the spectators crowding to the entrance and keeping safety distances between them, the queues can be too long, even with capacity to a third of capacity -600 seats in the case of the Kursaal auditorium-.

Alfaya says that the Basque Department of Culture is preparing a document with recommendations. “And what Culture says will go to mass because we understand that what it says is because it has spoken it with Health. Meanwhile, we are doing this and we are going to see what happens,” he adds.

More problems and more unknowns. Those responsible for the Fortnight, like those of other cultural events, wonder if their audience will respond this year. “And even selling half the capacity, which is 900 tickets in the Kursaal, the hole in the accounts would already be terrible,” he warns.

It highlights that the Fortnight is the Spanish festival whose budget is nourished by a higher percentage of box office income, 45% and sometimes more, when in most events it is between 15 and 25%.

“This gives us a lot of freedom on many issues, the Ministry of Culture always uses us as an example, but assumes that the moment the capacity drops you are dead,” he says.

Ana Burgueño


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