On Friday, 27 March 2020 we celebrate the World Theatre Day with a message by Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem, “Theatre as a Shrine”.
Auditorio de Tenerife joins in this celebration as we contribute to the chain value involved in creating for the stage. The Instituto de Artes Escénicas de Tenerife [Tenerife Institute for the Performing Arts] encourages both training and shows through courses, festivals and schemes like Tenerife Artes Escénicas, Escuelas de Teatro, Teatro Aficionado and Teatro en la Escuela. [Tenerife Performing Arts, Drama Schools, Amateur Theatre, Theatre at Schools]
The students of the Escuelas de Teatro [Drama Schools] congratulate you on the World Theatre Day with some videos you can enjoy here, sorted out by municipalities:
The Government of the Canary Islands has made a video where many theatre professionals of the Canaries read this year’s message, including Auditorio de Tenerife’s artistic director, José Luis Rivero. You can watch it here.
Theatre as a Shrine
It is a great honour for me to write the World Theatre Day 2020 Message. It is a most humbling feeling but it is also an exciting thought that Pakistani theatre and Pakistan itself, has been recognized by the ITI, the most influential and representative world theatre body of our times. This honour is also a tribute to Madeeha Gauhar1, theatre icon and Ajoka Theatre2 founder, also my life partner, who passed away two years ago. The Ajoka team has come a long, hard way, literally from Street to Theatre. But that is the story of many a theatre group, I am sure. It is never easy or smooth sailing. It is always a struggle.
I come from a predominantly Muslim country, which has seen several military dictatorships, the horrible onslaught of religious extremists and three wars with neighbouring India, with whom we share thousands of years of history and heritage. Today we still live in fear of a full-blown war with our twin-brother neighbour, even a nuclear war, as both countries now have nuclear weapons.
We sometimes say in jest; “bad times are a good time for theatre”. There is no dearth of challenges to be faced, contradictions to be exposed and status quo to be subverted. My theatre group, Ajoka and I have been walking this tightrope for over 36 years now. It has indeed been a tight rope: to maintain the balance between entertainment and education, between searching and learning from the past and preparing for the future, between creative free expression and adventurous showdowns with authority, between socially critical and financially viable theatre, between reaching out to the masses and being avant-garde. One may say that a theatre-maker has to be a conjurer, a magician.
In Pakistan, a clear division has existed between the Sacred and the Profane. For the Profane, there is no room for religious questioning, while for the Sacred, there is no possibility of open debate or new ideas. In fact, the conservative establishment consider art and culture out of bounds for its “sacred games”. So, the playing field for the performing artists has been like a hurdles race. They have to first prove their credentials as good Muslims and compliant citizens and also try to establish that dance, music and theatre are “allowed” in Islam. A large number of observant Muslims have hence been reluctant to embrace the performing arts even though the elements of dance, music and theatre are embedded in their daily lives. And then we stumbled on a sub-culture which had the potential to bring the Sacred and Profane on the same stage.
During the military rule in Pakistan in the 1980s, Ajoka was launched by a group of young artists who challenged the dictatorship through a socially and politically bold theatre of dissent. They found that their feelings, their anger, their anguish, were so amazingly expressed by a Sufi bard3, who lived some 300 years ago. This was the great Sufi poet Bulleh Shah4. Ajoka found it could make politically explosive statements through his poetry, challenging corrupt political authority and bigoted religious establishment. The authorities could ban or banish us but not a revered and popular Sufi poet like Bulleh Shah. We discovered that his life was as dramatic and radical as his poetry, which had earned him fatwas and banishment in his lifetime. I then wrote, “Bulha”, a play about Bulleh Shah’s life and struggle. Bulha, as he is lovingly referred to by the masses across South Asia, was from a tradition of Punjabi Sufi poets who fearlessly challenged the authority of the emperors and the clerical demagogues, through their poetry and practice. They wrote in the language of the people and about the aspirations of the masses. In music and dance, they found the vehicles to achieve a direct association between Man and God, by-passing with disdain, the exploitative religious middlemen. They defied gender and class divides and looked at the planet with wonder, as a manifestation of the Almighty. The Arts Council of Lahore rejected the script on the grounds that it was not a play but merely a biography. However, when the play was performed at an alternative venue, the Goethe Institute, the audience saw, understood and appreciated the symbolism in the life and poetry of the people’s poet. They could fully identify with his life and times and see the parallels with their own lives and times.
A new kind of theatre was born that day in 2001. Devotional Qawwali music5, Sufi Dhamal dancing6 and inspirational poetry recitation, even the meditative Zikir chanting7, became parts of the play. A group of Sikhs8, who were in town to attend a Punjabi conference and had popped in to see the play, invaded the stage at the end, hugging and kissing the actors and crying. They were sharing the stage for the first time with Muslim Punjabis after the Partition of India in 19479, which resulted in the division of Punjab on communal lines. Bulleh Shah had been as dear to them as he was to Muslim Punjabis; for Sufis transcend religious or communal divides.
This memorable premiere was followed by Bulleh Shah’s Indian odyssey. Starting with a trail-blazing tour of the Indian part of the Punjab, “Bulha” was performed in the length and breadth of India, even in times of gravest tensions between the two countries and in places where the audience did not know a single word of Punjabi but loved every moment of the play. While the doors for political dialogue and diplomacy were being closed one by one, the doors of theatre halls and the hearts of the Indian public remained wide open. During the Ajoka tour of Indian Punjab in 2004, after a very warmly received performance before a rural audience of thousands, an old man came to the actor playing the role of the great Sufi. The old man was accompanied by a young boy. “My grandson is very unwell; would you please blow a blessing upon him.” The actor was taken aback and said, “Babaji10, I am not Bulleh Shah, I am just an actor playing this role.” The old man started crying and said, “Please bless my grandson, I know he will recover, if you do.” We suggested to the actor to grant the old man his wish. The actor blew a blessing upon the young boy. The old man was satisfied. Before leaving, he said these words: “Son, you are not an actor, you are a reincarnation of Bulleh Shah, his Avatar11.” Suddenly a whole new concept of acting, of theatre, dawned upon us, where the actor becomes the reincarnation of the character he or she is portraying.
In the 18 years of touring with “Bulha”, we have noticed a similar response from an apparently uninitiated audience, for whom the performance is not just an entertaining or an intellectually stimulating experience but a soul-stirring spiritual encounter. In fact the actor playing the role of Bulleh Shah’s Sufi Master, was so profoundly influenced by the experience that he himself became a Sufi poet and has since published two collections of poems. The performers involved in the production have shared that when the performance starts, they feel that the spirit of Bulleh Shah is among them and the stage seems to have been elevated to a higher plane. An Indian scholar, when writing about the play, gave it the title: “When Theatre Becomes a Shrine”.
I am a secular person and my interest in Sufism is mainly cultural. I am more interested in the performative and artistic aspects of Punjabi Sufi poets but my audience, who may not be extremists or bigoted but may hold sincere religious beliefs. Exploring stories such as that of Bulleh Shah, and there are so many in all cultures, can become a bridge between us, the theatre-makers and an unacquainted but enthusiastic audience. Together we can discover the spiritual dimensions of theatre and build bridges between the past and present, leading to a future which is the destiny of all communities; believers and non-believers, actors and old men, and their grandsons.
The reason why I am sharing the story of Bulleh Shah and our exploration of a kind of Sufi Theatre is that while performing on stage, we sometimes get carried away by our philosophy of theatre, our role as harbingers of social change and in doing so, leave a large section of the masses behind. In our engagement with the challenges of the present, we deprive ourselves of the possibilities of a deeply moving spiritual experience which theatre can provide. In today’s world where bigotry, hate and violence is on the rise once again, nations seem to be pitted against nations, believers are fighting other believers and communities are spewing hatred against other communities… and in the meanwhile children die of malnutrition, mothers during childbirth due to the lack of timely medical care and ideologies of hate flourish. Our planet is plunging deeper and deeper into a climatic and climactic catastrophe and one can hear the hoof-beats of the horses of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse12. We need to replenish our spiritual strength; we need to fight apathy, lethargy, pessimism, greed and disregard for the world we live in, the Planet we live on. Theatre has a role, a noble role, in energizing and mobilizing humanity to lift itself from its descent into the abyss. It can uplift the stage, the performance space, into something sacred. In South Asia, the artists touch with reverence the floor of the stage before stepping onto it, an ancient tradition when the spiritual and the cultural were intertwined. It is time to regain that symbiotic relationship between the artist and the audience, the past and the future. Theatre-making can be a sacred act and the actors indeed can become the avatars of the roles they play. Theatre elevates the art of acting to a higher spiritual plane. Theatre has the potential of becoming a shrine and the shrine a performance space.
World Theatre Day was initiated in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute ITI. It is celebrated annually on the 27th March by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion. One of the most important of these is the circulation of the World Theatre Day Message through which at the invitation of ITI, a figure of world stature shares his or her reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The first World Theatre Day Message was written by Jean Cocteau in 1962.Ever since, each year on the 27th March (date of the opening of the 1962 "Theatre of Nations" season in Paris), World Theatre Day has been celebrated in many and varied ways by ITI Centres - of which there are now more than 90 throughout the world. Moreover theatres, theatre professionals, theatre lovers, theatre universities, academies and schools celebrate it as well.
Each year an outstanding figure in theatre or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field is invited to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony. What is known as the International Message is translated into more than 50 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world, and printed in hundreds of daily newspapers. Colleagues in the audio-visual field lend a fraternal hand, with more than a hundred radio and television stations transmitting the Message to listeners in all corners of the five continents.
It is a measure adopted by the Cabildo de Tenerife
Auditorio de Tenerife, in agreement with the measures adopted by the Cabildo de Tenerife, suspends or postpones all the shows and activities that involve audiences in attendance for the next 14 days starting from today, Thursday, 12 March 2020.
Regarding Lucrezia Borgia, although audience access is suspended, we are working to offer a streaming on social networks of the performance on Tuesday, 17 at 7:30 pm. We will keep you informed.
The following concerts have been suspended: Primavera musical (15 March), Un concierto con dos caras [A two-sided concert] by Fimante+Nao (14 March), Concierto escolar by Quantum Ensemble (20 March), Concierto Conservatorio Profesional (21 March) and Primavera Musical (22 March).
The Escuelas de Teatro event scheduled for Sunday, the 15th in El Sauzal has also been cancelled. The event was part of the Día Internacional del Teatro and Jornadas de las Becas de Inversión Lingüística BIL by the Cabildo’s Education department, which was to be hosted by the Auditorio de Tenerife.
The following rehearsals have been suspended: Musical.IES, Coro Juvenil de Auditorio de Tenerife, Escuela Coral de Tenerife, Escuelas de Teatro and Teatro Aficionado. The meeting with teachers of schools participating in Musical.IES, which was due on 17 de March, has also be cancelled.
The 25 theatre, music and dance performances included in the Tenerife Artes Escénicas programme that were scheduled to take place in different municipalities in these fourteen days, have all been cancelled.
The sessions included in Escuela del Espectador, Ópera en Ruta, Danza en Comunidad and Teatro en la Escuela have been postponed.
The stage design course by Ricardo Sánchez Cuerda (16, 17 and 18 March) and Romancero gitano by Cía. Nuria Espert have been postponed. Tickets will be automatically refunded as soon as possible by the same means of payment used to buy them. We hope to be able to offer new dates for both events as soon as possible.
So, the only activities that will take place are a performance of Lucrezia Borgia behind closed doors, Lava Compañía de Danza rehearsals, Tenerife LAV residencies and the office work.
Auditorio de Tenerife apologises for any inconvenience caused and hopes audiences and participants understand.
The Orquesta Barroca de Tenerife, resident at Auditorio de Tenerife, which is under the Department of Culture, Education, Youth and Sport of the Cabildo de Tenerife, led by Councillor Concepción Rivero, presents the concert Mulieribus (Women, in Latin) on Thursday, the 12th at 7:30 pm. With this programme, this young ensemble pays tribute to the performers at Ospedale della Pietá in Venice and to the maestros who during the Baroque period built a better world through music.
At 11:00 am on the same day, there will be a session adapted to primary school children that will be attended by 419 students from four schools of the island. The musicians will talk about the peculiarities and mysteries of the Baroque music they play with historical instruments.
The concert features Orquesta Baroque de Tenerife’s leader of the orchestra and conductor, Adrián Linares plus a cast of female performers: Lorena Padrón and Laura Díaz, Baroque violins I; Judith Verona, Alexandra López and Raquel Sobrino, Baroque violins II; Leticia Moros and Alaia Ferrán, Baroque violas; Elsa Pidre, Baroque cello; Calia Álvarez, viola da gamba; Silvia Jiménez, violone; and Talía Franco, harpsichord.
Tickets can be purchased through Auditorio de Tenerife’s usual sale channels: at the box office from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm, Monday to Saturday except holidays; via www.auditoriodetenerife.com or calling 902 317 327.
The Venice of the time was a cosmopolitan city full of contrasts and social differences. The projects for social inclusion and to support the population in their most basic needs included charitable organizations that, through education, trades, handicrafts and tasks provided training for abandoned children to redirect their lives towards a brighter future.
One of the four main hospices was the Ospedale della Pietá, where one of the major music “conservatoires” of the Europe of the time was established. In the abundant letters which are kept at different libraries, we have evidence of the music heritage they left and the excellence of the performers, who filled the salons with famous concerts during most of the Venetian Baroque and Rococo periods.
According to Walter Hill, in Vivaldi’s lifetime, the maestri di coro della Pietá were Francesco Gasparini, Carlo Luigi Pietragrua, Giovanni Porta, Gennaro D'Alessandro, Nicola Porpora and Andrea Bernasconi. Before them, Johann Rosenmüller held this position. That is why tonight’s performance starts with a piece by this composer.
Conrado Álvarez, artistic director of the Orquesta Baroque de Tenerife, stated that “the excellent technical skill and the command of the Italian style of these female performers, who were educated at la Pietá, is clearly evident in the works chosen for this evening, which were expressly composed for them. The pieces show the distinguished laboratory and the interpretative scale and accuratezza of Italian music of the time.”
The Instituto de Artes Escénicas of Auditorio de Tenerife, which is under the Department of Culture, Education, Youth and Sport of the Cabildo de Tenerife, led by Councillor Concepción Rivero, offers the workshop Voz, cuerpo y emoción [Voice, Body & Emotion]. Ana Vassalo, singer and teacher specialising on choral singing, and Fernando Aguilera, a renowned tenor, will give a workshop aimed at choir conductors, music teachers, choralists, singers and signing students on 24 and 25 April at the Auditorio de Tenerife.
The workshop, which if organised by Red de Coros de Tenerife [Tenerife Choir Network], is free of charge. It aims at developing natural voice through awareness. Participants will learn to develop free, harmonious singing, both individually and as a group, by focusing on the importance of the body and the emotions to achieve authentic communication.
On the 24th the workshop is on from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, while on the 25th it will be held from 09:00 am to 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Participants will be accepted to the 20 available places in order of registration, which is done through the “Formación” section on the Red de Coros website www.tenerifeartesescenicas.com . The deadline is on 21 April.
In a total of 16 hours of training, divided in 12 classroom attendance and 4 with no classroom attendance, Ana Vassalo and Fernando Aguilera will provide simple and practical tools to boost the work done in choirs and encourage fluid communication between the conductor and the choir or the teacher and his/her students.
Ana Vassalo, a native of Lisbon, is a professional singer, and a member of the Coro Nacional de España [Spanish National Choir] since 2004. She has been teaching singing for 10 years and coaching for singing students, professionals and therapists for 5 years. Vassalo, who has taken part in international productions, won the first prizes at the 1992 Concurso da Juventude Nacional Portuguesa and at Cleveland International Eisteddfod. In 2017 she recorded the CD Vassalo-Atlântica with original music by Julio García.
Fernando Aguilera teaches singing and is a professional singer and member of the Coro Nacional de España. He made his debut in 1996 in the role of Don Ramiro in Rossini’s opera Cenerentola at Pforzheim’s theatre in Germany. This was the start of a successful career as tenor which has led him to perform some 400 times in different venues in Germany and Austria. He started giving workshops on singing and voice with Ana Vassalo eight years ago.
The second concert of the sixteenth Primavera Musical is on at 11:30 am at Auditorio de Tenerife’s Sala de Cámara. The Auditorio is under the Department of Culture, Education, Youth and Sport of the Cabildo de Tenerife, led by Councillor Concepción Rivero. 145 performers of the Arafo, El Rosario and San Andrés bands will take the stage.
The concert, which is admission free, starts with Asociación Cultural y Recreativa Unión Musical Aída from San Andrés. The 28 musicians, conducted by Juan Alexis González Rodríguez, will start with the paso doble Crearte, by José Luis Peiró Reig, to then go on with Jacob de Haan’s Queen of the dolomites. They will finish with the paso doble La Fallera, by Ferrer Ferrán.
The 29 musicians of the Asociación Cultural Musical Princesa Yaiza in El Rosario will play under the baton of Juan Antonio Rancel Tejera. The band will open with the paso doble Soñad el mar, by Manuel Morales Martínez, to be followed by Nuni Osorio’s Cycles and Myths. They will close with I was born to love you, by Queen, in a version arranged by Francisco Curbelo and featuring Aarón Morales as soloist.
The Sociedad Filarmónica Nivaria, from Arafo, will end the concert with its 88 musicians. Conducted by Miguel Ángel Expósito Marrero, the banda will start their repertoire with Sergi Pastor’s concert paso doble Daniela Gómez de los Ángeles. They will then play Pompeii, by José Alberto Pina and will put an end to the second Primavera Musical session with the zarzuela intermezzo La boda de Luis Alonso, by Gerónimo Giménez.
The Primavera Musical series, an initiative of the Federación Tinerfeña de Bandas de Música [Tenerife Music Bands Federation], with the collaboration of the Cabildo, is held at Auditorio de Tenerife’s Sala de Cámara. It started on 1 March and continues on 8, 15 and 22 March; 5, 19, 26 April; 10, 17, 24 and 31 May and 14 June. Concerts start at 11:30 am and admission is free.
On its third year, the Festival Internacional de Música Antigua de Tenerife (Fimante) presents twelve concerts to take place in different municipalities across the island. Six of these events are part of the Nova Ars Organorum (NAO) series and will bring to life the historic organs in the churches of the island as well as the unique 21st century instrument housed at the Auditorio de Tenerife. There will be a total of four concerts: two organ and two chamber concerts at this cultural venue, which is under the Department of Culture, Education, Youth and Sport of the Cabildo de Tenerife, led by Councillor Concepción Rivero.
Rivero expects it to be as successful as in previous years, “when the churches and auditoriums were full of people enjoying early music, bringing culture to the whole island”. Different venues in Buenavista del Norte, Granadilla de Abona, Guía de Isora, La Orotava, La Victoria de Acentejo and Santa Cruz de Tenerife will be hosting the concerts, which feature organists, soloists and chamber music ensembles.
The first engagement for the 3rd Fimante will be at 8:15 pm on 14th March in San Juan Church in La Orotava. Un concierto con dos caras [A Two-sided Concert], featuring Roberto Fresco, principal organist of the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena. The title of the concert is a reference to the fact that there are two 18th century German organs in this church, one from the first half (Otto Diederich Richborn, 1723) and the other one from the second half of the century (unknown, 1770).
The next venue will be Museo de Artesanía Iberoamericana de Tenerife, also in La Orotava. The concert is on 17 April at 8:30 pm and features soprano Estefanía Perdomo Nogales and Carlos Oramas with a Romantic guitar to perform Canciones de Cámara Española [Spanish Chamber Songs].
On 3 May at 12:00 noon the first organ concert of the year will take place at Auditorio de Tenerife’s Sala Sinfónica. Loreto Aramendi, who is the principal organist of the Cavaillé Coll organ (1863) at the Basílica de Santa María del Coro in San Sebastián, will play El esplendor de un órgano sinfónico. On 30 May at 7:30 pm tenor Nicholas Mulroy and John Reid at the fortepiano will perform Beethoven: Bagatelas und Lieder at Auditorio’s Sala de Cámara.
At 8:15 pm on 6 June, the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación in La Victoria de Acentejo will host La peculiar tímbrica de un órgano barroco germano, a concert led by Ángel Montero, principal organist of Segovia Cathedral.
Chaconnerie is the concert to be performed on 25 July at 9:00 pm by Silvia Márquez’s harpsichord at the Casa de la Cultura de Playa San Juan, in Guía de Isora.
The second organ concert at the Auditorio will be by Juan de la Rubia on 6 September at 12:00 noon with the repertoire La versión organística del Brahms sinfónico. De la Rubia is the principal organist of the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The last Fimante concert at the Auditorio will be held on 17 October at 7:30 pm in the Sala de Cámara. It is entitled Imaginario de un libro de música de vihuela and features the voice of María Cristina Kiehr and Ariel Abramovich’s vihuela.
On 14 November at 8:15 pm La Concepción Church in La Orotava will welcome La recuperación de un concierto histórico featuring Basque organist Esteban Landart. El Pilar Church in Santa Cruz de Tenerife will host Obras románticas en un órgano litúrgico on 5 December at 8:15 pm with organist Marie Bernardette Dufourcet.
As usual, the last two concerts will be performed by the Orquesta Barroca de Tenerife [Baroque Orchestra], ensemble resident at the Auditorio de Tenerife. They will play their Christmas repertoire at 8:00 pm on 12 December at Nuestra Señora de la Merced Church in El Médano, Granadilla de Abona. On 13 December at 5:00 pm they will perform at Nuestra Señora de los Remedios Church in Buenavista del Norte.
Fostered by the Cabildo de Tenerife, through its Área Tenerife 2030, and coordinated by Auditorio de Tenerife, Fimante + Nova Ars Organorum join the cultural offer on the island to revive repertoires, both in traditional and new cultural venues. With the support of Canarian performers playing period instruments, restored historic organs, the latest multidisciplinary research and our historical-geographical situation, we are confident to be keeping and spreading a cultural heritage for future generations.
Tickets for the four concerts to be held at the Auditorio de Tenerife can be booked at the box office from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm Monday to Saturday, except holidays; via www.auditoriodetenerife.com or by phone on 902 317 327. Information about the concerts is available on www.auditoriodetenerife.com.