There is an inexplicable gap between the opera buffa performed by the principal voices of Venezuela’s political power and the opera seria crafted in the ranks of an institution such as our National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras [El Sistema], now celebrating its 35th year. It is as if we are looking at two different countries, with a combo of improvisers playing on the deck of a cultural shipwreck on one side, and on the other, a crew that persistently refines its ship without veering off course, radiating immense benefits for the whole community. The schizophrenia is enhanced by the mediocre content of our state television and radio networks, consumed with polishing myths and fighting windmills when it would be much more effective to work with our national talent to create better broadcasting stations and true cultural channels. Educational programming stripped of infantile doctrine and its carnival of uniforms would offer a stronger image of a stable, integrated, and above all intelligent Venezuela that we all want to know. Any country with the fantastic musical development crystallized in our internationally emulated El Sistema would fight to build at least a framework for broadcasting our most important concerts, taking advantage of the excellent video and audio materials that El Sistema produces, not to mention its gigantic historical and educational audiovisual archive.
The subject of music publishing rights is a detail to resolve, no doubt, but the majority of Venezuelans, who do not live close to concert halls, miss out on the best performances of our orchestra. We can expect little or no culture from commercial television, and government television pours out nothing but predictable propaganda. Only Vale TV (an independently owned non-commercial channel run partly by the Catholic Church) makes the effort to broadcast the occasional concert. National radio or television should also be a great production house. A country without cultural creation is a jetty without an ocean, and El Sistema has for decades produced excellent content that has nowhere to go, paradoxically. Endless graduation ceremonies hosted by our president are broadcast nationally (when the government takes over all the airwaves to broadcast a single program – usually long presidential speeches). Will we ever have a chance to see a symphonic concert or a Venezuelan bandola recital on one of those forced national broadcasts?
In this 35th anniversary year, the Simón Bolívar Orchestra is on a national tour, compensating for the lack of media presence. Many thousands of Venezuelans will appreciate a new way of listening to symphonic concerts in sports stadiums with impeccable production – a cultural revolution of epic proportions, exponential growth of returns in educational investment. A team of experts manages the sound, and the presentation is world-class. When our orchestra performs in Europe, the European networks race to negotiate primetime broadcasts; here in Venezuela, the press offers nothing but momentary windows surrounded by biased programming that is totally at odds with educational function. Note that one television station proposed a space jammed next to a program on guerrilla cells – a lovely profile enabling children to learn how to use their violin cases to transport other things. Symphonism and focalism. With such dull television, we can conserve energy and resume the practice of an instrument. Open the case and take out…the violin?
Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Holland