Chamber music in the Caribbean Sea

In the last two decades, Cartagena has become not only the most touristic city in Colombia, but also the cultural epicenter of the country and the region. This 2022 will reopen with the sounds of classical music, after the interruption forced by the pandemic in 2021.

The Cartagena Music Festival is an institution. In January, the event brings together some 25,000 spectators year after year around the best performers of classical music in the world at concerts, open-air performances and academic events in a city that alone has the particular charm of fortifications and buildings. Colonial buildings with the flavor of the Caribbean.

“This edition is the edition towards normality; it is much more structured, but still smaller than the previous editions that we are used to ”, says Antonio Miscena, director of the Cartagena Music Festival. In 2021, the Festival did not take place in January, as is tradition, but a smaller and shorter version was held in June. This edition, dedicated to opera, was intended as an appetizer for what would be the return of the festival in style in 2022, but the conditions are not yet set for an event of such magnitude with the ghost of COVID-19 still haunting there.

The challenge was enormous: to bring the entire production of the opera ‘El Barbero de Sevilla’, from the Teatro de Bolonia in Italy. “We consulted with the government of Italy, with the authorities here in Colombia and we decided that it was better not to,” explains Miscena. And it is that “moving the production” implied moving not only costumes, instruments, even part of the structure that is used for the work in the Bologna theater, but the orchestra of 80 musicians and 150 more people, including technicians and singers. A “normal” number for the figures handled by the festival, but not in times of a pandemic.

The decision to change the edition was made in August, and although it was difficult to re-structure the entire festival with so little time, it was decided to have chamber music as the common thread. Miscena is more than happy with the result. “It was a challenge and something very beautiful, finding that we can do a full festival with orchestras and small groups, from 2 to 10 people”, since the size of a symphony orchestra, for example, is about 80 musicians. But size has nothing to do with quality. In fact, “chamber music is the most intellectual, the most refined,” he points out.

The so-called chamber works were born in European homes as a relaxed, but elegant way of listening to music. Almost immediately, the great composers became interested in this repertoire and enriched it with the creation of trios, quartets and quintets featuring instruments such as the violin and the piano. Many music analysts have equated the sound of each instrument to a color. Hence the title that covers all the concerts of 2022: “The color of sound.” In addition to the color of the rubbed strings and the piano, the composers played to include the voices of instruments such as flute, oboe, horn and clarinet.

Unlike in previous years, in this edition there will be no concerts in the squares of the walled city. The 28 concerts that will take place in seven days of the festival will be in closed places and where the capacity can be controlled, a fundamental condition to carry out an event in times of pandemic.

Although the city already allows 100% capacity in massive events, the organization made the decision to only use 75% of the capacity of the stages. In addition, the vaccination card will be required, as has been regulated in Colombia for a few weeks.

Despite these restrictions, Miscena is confident, he knows that conditions are not the same as two years ago, but points out that the environment is different. “Music was in a coma during the pandemic,” he says, but it is time to go back.

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Chamber music in the Caribbean Sea