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Santa Casa Misericórdia of Lisbon
Conductor Simon Rattle, director of the London Symphony, published today a letter in The Guardian newspaper, with conductor Mark Elder, of the Hallé Orchestra, warning of the possibility that orchestras might not survive Covid-19.
Rattle and Elder's letter comes after a report on “The Armageddon of British Orchestras”, published by that newspaper, on Tuesday, and an opinion piece by director and filmmaker Sam Mendes in the Financial Times, in which the director of “1917” defended public investment in culture, and recalled the “unexpected profits” obtained by platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, during the confinement.
"There is a real possibility of a devastated landscape", reads at the beginning of the message signed by the two conductors of the two historic English orchestras, after stating that "there are many other problems in the United Kingdom", because of the pandemic, but that is I need “courage to talk about the situation of classical music”.
"Orchestras may not survive and, if they survive, they may face insurmountable obstacles to remain solvent", continue the two conductors, in the letter sent to The Guardian, after the publication of the report that reported the closure of many projects across the country, and the impossibility of survival of structures without box office receipts, with capacity limited to 20% or 30% of the capacity of the rooms.
“What we write applies, of course, to all types of music (…). Music is essentially a live experience and requires that all participants, performers and listeners, be in the same room. What we were able to do over the internet during these months was very good, but the core of our work is a sharing of space, art and emotion, vital and conciliatory “, continue the two conductors.
The British Simon Rattle, who placed the Birmingham City Symphony among the most important world orchestras in the 1980s and 1990s, was the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, for 16 years, until 2018, and assumed the direction of London Symphony, on the way home.
The centenary Hallé Orchestra, based in Manchester, is one of the most important in the United Kingdom. Its conductor, Mark Elder, directed the English National Opera and was the main guest conductor of the BBC Symphony, before taking over its direction.
Rattle and Elder welcome the extraordinary lines of support created during the pandemic, but recall that independent culture professionals, who make up the majority of the sector and make up "four of London's orchestras", "continue to be in great trouble". “Musicians are human. They need to eat and pay their bills ”.
“We have to‘ reinvent the wheel ’in many ways. Learning to play apart from each other will be much more difficult than it may seem ”, affirm the two conductors, referring to the impact that distance has on sound, on the dynamics of orchestras and on the challenges it imposes on musical direction.
On the 5th, in an opinion article in the Financial Times, Sam Mendes also demanded a rescue of the cultural sector, maintaining that this would be “an investment, not an act of charity”, since only theaters, in 2018, mobilized 34 million people in the country, similar to the English Premier League.
In that year, the director of “1917” and “Beleza Americana” recalled, “the theater generated 1.2 billion pounds (close to 1.35 billion euros), and the entire cultural sector contributed 32.3 thousand million (€ 36.2 billion) for the British economy ”.
Among the proposals he makes to the Government of Boris Johnson, Sam Mendes presents a line that supports the sector's employment – “the army of artists and independent workers” -, a tax relief of 20% to 50%, in the next three years, and a public investment in resuming suspended production, in addition to the establishment of public and private consortia, to support creation.
Sam Mendes also recalled that platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, saw their profits rise with confinement, above all forecasts. And he challenged: "Is anyone willing to use some of their unexpected earnings, thanks to Covid-19, to help those who are wounded to death?"