Recently, in a flattering article commenting on one of my performances, the reviewer wondered why I wasn't a “superstar". And often, after my performances in the main Opera houses in Vienna, Munich, London, Paris etc., it has happened that Italian fans, who came there to listen to me, after complimenting, asked: “But why is it so rare to hear you sing in Italy? “. I have come across these questions numerous times, but I have always wanted to overlook the topic.
Many have to do with some dynamics of the "Opera system" which in this period are, perhaps (and finally), increasingly coming to light.
Today, the era of "virulence" puts us in a position of dealing with problems and discriminations already in existence before this crisis.
To use music to increase one's fame and feed one's ego or to put oneself at the service of Music, studying, disseminating and ensuring greater longevity to this sector?
As naive, idealistic, even boring as it may seem, I chose the second way.
I hoped that talent and commitment were enough (self-promotion stealing precious time from study and work) but I fear, even if I can swim, drowning in inexplicable mysteries, and with me, thousands of musicians within this profession that are animated by the same feeling.
Aggressive marketing (sorry to say, of American provenance) has also engulfed the life of the musician and the matter he deals with, creating harmful misunderstandings and raising a chain of behaviour which, together with the evident damage created by closing theatres and concert halls, and with political deafness on culture, threatens to implode the world of music production. And provide a reason to those who, animated by populist clichés, shout at the waste of resources.
Since the closure phase that has afflicted practically the whole planet began, I have passionately supported the experimentation of alternative formulas so that we, citizens and musicians, could continue to make music and work, ergo fulfil our “mission” and remit those taxes that health systems can rely on, to begin with.
This is not going well, in fact, it is not going well at all, just to refuse the cloying rhetoric that has accompanied us for months: to collect new work and new revenue are “the usual”, those superstars and their self-referential representatives, with an aspiration towards divinity.
We have been in the new millennium for twenty years now and are still using dusty and opportunistic formulas; but are we sure that this is the answer to structural and planning problems?
It seems clear that divismo feeds only itself and not the future of culture: from music to politics! Since the beginning of this epidemic, I have counted at least 40 emails received from the HMRC (I reside in Great Britain) for support to self-employed workers: the content is a sensational amount of nothing. Recently, through one of his messages, the Italian Minister of Culture (I am Italian by birth and passport) intended to instil confidence in artists who do not have strong shoulders that they would not be left alone.
Well, the exact opposite is happening (embarrassing statements bounce a bit everywhere in the world, not to mention the failure of the American institutions), and where there is a little courage to start over with openings, promoters rely (or maybe are trapped in doing it) on those names that would attract audience back to the box office.
And so – when it is not about the correct recovery of cancelled contracts – we witness the announcement of those few and usual names, from conductors to directors and singers, in various playbills, and including those places where they would never think of performing before (how to forget the cancellation dances also as a self-promotion tool), accompanied by a fair amount of ubiquity and with multiple assignments at the limits of conflict of interest. The other professionals with the same talent, merits and taxes paid (and so their representatives), will remain with the richness of their intentions.
The truth is that long-range ideas and visions are in crisis.
Antidotes to laziness and patronage, once again, are competence, transparency in appointments, a communion of purpose; in practice: rolling up one's sleeves.
The lack of cohesion and necessary reforms, favour this obsolete, corrupt and profoundly discriminatory system which, due to the greed of a few, is impeding everyone's ability to work (and underestimating audiences' intelligence).
Who knows, on the contrary, in this regrettable situation, we cannot instead find that glimmer of lucidity to redesign the route and make this crisis the greatest opportunity for change in Music, Opera, and Education, through an adequate and innovative European legislation.
20 June 2020
© Anna Bonitatibus