Photo: YouTube retrieved.
During the meltdown?
It seemed impossible, and yet, here I am, in the Universidad Central’s venerable Aula Magna. The place is brimming with people but, as I get to my seat, I realize that the guys behind me are foreigners. I understood they’re coming to Caracas for the first time and they have a Venezuelan with them, their tourist guide.
As I overhear their chatter, I see they can barely believe a show like this is being staged. I can’t either.
They can’t compute how this can coexist with the crisis, and how there’s still huge cultural events. The guide is, like, outraged; he tells them that the Aula Magna is one of the concert halls with best acoustics in the world (it’s actually among the five halls with the best acoustics), and it’s all thanks to the Calder Clouds up in the ceiling.
I’ve seen it performed before, but that was back in 2012, when it didn’t seem insane to do this here.
Today, I feel guilty just for trying to come up for air.
Today, I feel a guilty just for trying to come up for air.
Looking at the show in retrospective, it’s inspiring how they dared to create: It began with Rachmaninoff’s Concerto N° 2, played by pianist Kristhyan Benítez, who had been living abroad for the past two and a half years and came back for this event. I had no expectations about the piano concerto because I didn’t know it, yet it gave me so much peace and melancholy. I’d escaped the Caraquenian vortex, a spiral so deep that it desensitizes us. It took me a few seconds to realize it had ended, and my applause came with a bit of delay. There was a standing ovation. A short interlude ensued, while the staff fixed the stage, Carmina Burana was next. I knew this staging would be different because it would have a Caracas-themed urban aesthetic, but what did that mean?
When the orchestra returns to the stage, they’ve changed their attire, it’s more informal; they’re doctors, traffic officers, drivers, chefs. They’re everyone and anyone at once. They’re us.
Carmina Burana starts and ends with the “O, Fortuna,” a quite famous piece used in “The Omen,” associated later with everything devilish. When it starts, the screens show images of Caracas: Plaza Venezuela, the Altamira obelisk, the slums. Images and music go hand in hand most of the time, everything makes sense. Caracas, everchanging like Fortune itself, where one day can be pleasurable and easy, while the next tears your soul apart. Caracas bites.
And just like Caracas is overflowing with people, the stage can’t hold as many performers as it has. Space is so short that it affects the performance a bit, even if the musicians themselves brave the adversity. During the Carmina, girls from different choirs walk in, standing in the hallways of the venue, singing and throwing paper planes at the crowd.
I wonder if my foreign neighbors catch what this means for our spirit, when the day to day is so hostile.
I, for one, reconcile with the city and its chaos. It’s true that more than living, we merely survive, but what the Bosnians did in 1993 holds key lessons for us here. There are still projects, there’s still art, parties and solidarity. The future is more uncertain than ever and living means more than surviving.
Art is resistance.