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New mayor scraps major Brazil festival

January 3, 2017 by norman lebrecht

5 comments.


Special dispatch from the German-based Brazilian opera tenor Ewandro Stenzowski:

 

 

In the last 34 years, my home town Curitiba annually hosted a successful international music festival, which mixed traditional concert music and popular/new ways of music making, being an important vector to the creativity of different tastes and ideas. Besides its obvious value to the cultural scene of Brazil’s eighth biggest city, this Festival has also a very important role on the education and training of young musicians from all Latin America.

A close cooperation with the Paraná’s Federal University helped to give extensive education to young professionals. Hundreds of successful artists could start their careers through the festival, getting specialist advice from established musicians and pedagogues. There is also an intrinsic economical value, with many concerts simultaneously occurring in different parts of city, stimulating tourism during a dull time of year. The Festival is secured since 2012 by a specific Law, and the 2017 edition is part of the text of the budgetary Laws annually approved by the City Council, and represents 0.019% of the Curitiba’s total expenditure planned for the this year.

After winning the elections, but before assuming the position, the elected city Mayor, Mr. Rafael Greca de Macedo, decided to cancel the event, justifying it with the argument that “he did not have enough information about the economical situation of the city”. Still in charge, the now former Mayor, Gustavo Fruet, showed that a part of the resources were already spent on the pre-production of the event, and, that from the economical point of view there was no reason not to proceed with the event. Mr. Greca de Macedo decided to cancel the event anyway, with the argument that this money would increase the resources for the Healthcare System in the city. His statements about the topic compared music to “bier”. “What is more important? To buy a child some medicine, or to drink some bier?”. For the record, the Festival represents 0,1% of the city’s healthcare budget.

Mr. Greca de Macedo comes from a very traditional and rich family from the state of Paraná. He was already on office once, in the 90’s. The State of Paraná and the City of Curitiba are almost exclusively run by his political lineage. During the campaign, last year, he was accused of being “elitist”, after stating that he almost “threw up” after “smelling a poor” person. Not here to argue about the context of this sentence, this had a negative impact on his image. The political representation in Brazil goes through a complicated crisis, and the number of valid votes from the second Round of the municipal elections was lower than the not valid ones. So, even winning the elections, it is not possible to say that Mr. Greca de Macedo enjoys great popularity.

Even taking in consideration that those Festival’s resources are much lower than the budget for 24 hours of Curitiba’s healthcare system, the idea gave him a considerable raise of popularity. The musical community acted fast, and tried to articulate negotiations with the elected mayor and tried to ask detailed explanations of the problem, trying to work together with Mr. Greca de Macedo, whose position was intransigent, and not opened to dialogue. It is hard to estimate how is the damage to the public image of the artistic directors and managers of this event, but, historically, the damage is already done. The Oficina Internacional de Música de Curitiba has been hurt in a way that also exposes the fragility of Brazilian culture institutions.

 

 


Comments (5)

  1. EAM says:

    The cancellation of the event was a demagogic measure.
    Shame on you, Mr. Greca.

  2. Alex Klein says:

    I was a student in the very first Oficina de Música in Curitiba, and Artistic Director between 2002 and 2005. What is at stake is a minor sum of about $250,000 dollars. To say that this amount would fix or even put a dent into the health needs of a population of over 2 million people is a poor argument not meant to be taken seriously. In fat, the last time this same person was Mayor of the city he was the smallest healthcare spender in recent memory, if not ever. At this point – one month before opening night – all faculty flights have been paid for, hotel reservations made, programming is done, public is well notified and expecting a 35-year old event which draws tens of thousands to its concerts. Students from Brazil and abroad have also purchased their tickets and made hotel arrangements (many with upfront reservation fees already paid for), not to mention the economic impact of a large music festival in the community, where bard, restaurants, shopping receive a friendly post-holidays boom during a Summer vacation period when the population migrates to the beach towns down the mountains. Big music events are not only about “music”, but economics. Festivals move money in the community, in all directions.

    One wonders, though, what could possibly go through a Mayor’s mind to cancel such an event, with a positive impact in the city. Healthcare is a lame excuse (no pun intended). In one of Mr. Greca’s Facebook answers to outraged musicians, he expressed concerns about musicians not being “thankful”, as in not engaging in reciprocal attitudes towards their elected representatives. Well, frankly, our representatives do their job when they care for the populations. Musicians – and the economic well-being – are not supposed to be blamed for, or now suffer vengeance, due to a politician’s previous failures in elections and policies. In lieu of a more reasonable explanation, the cancelation of Oficina de Musica does look very much like pay-back for musicians not walking in droves into some political rally. No, we don’t. Nor should we.

  3. Pianofortissimo says:

    Horrible.

  4. Alastair Kinghorn says:

    What a great shame!!!

  5. Alex Klein says:

    Update:

    According to today’s local paper Gazeta do Povo, the Oficina de Musica was part of a politicam scheme of the worst kind.

    New mayor Greca is if the opposite party to ougoing mayor Fruet, but of the same party of the state Governor. Now comes the dirty trick: funding for city medicine expenses comes from the State government. So, in order to support Greca’s election and give the party a mayor-governor line-up, Governor Beto Richa (who despises culture and the Oficina) purposely withheld healthcare money from the city, making outgoing Mayor Fruet look bad, lose the election and likely cause incalculable pain and suffering in the population, with the sick and elderly spending the holiday season without access to medicine. Then, as if miraculously, the money reappeared, coincidentally 2 days after Greca was installed as new Mayor. A sum of $4 million brazilian real was “found” for the city (roughly 4 times what the Oficina would have costed) and of course this is money that should have been made available earlier, so it is not “new money for medicine” as it is populistically portrayed, but simply a pre-planned bonus withheld in benefit of oartisan politics, AND it coincided with a 30% hike in taxes laid specifically medicine for the poor (from 12% to 18% on generics). Another detail: during his election campaign, Greca stated how the poor give him nausea.

    This is all too sad and painful.


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