Bogota is the Romantic Russia: A festival for everyone at the Teatro Mayor


While we celebrate Colombia-France Year, 2017 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution that resulted in the downfall of the Romanovs, a dynasty that reigned for three centuries. From Ivan the Terrible to the age of Rasputin, the Russian Empire ruled one-sixth of the world’s surface as a monarchy with absolute power. From Siberia to the Black Sea, the Urals to the Mongolian steppes, Russia was a gilded civilization, looming over an unconquerable territory that gave the world equally larger-than-life characters.

While Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky defined the literary landscape of their age, the same could be said of the composers who became known as the Russian Romantics and had their overture when the Imperial Army crushed Napoleon at the gates of Moscow in 1812.

The 19th century is at the heart of the III International Classic Music Festival that begins April 12 and for three full days will resonate in one of the capital’s most important cultural spaces, the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo. This year’s festival marks a departure from the two previous versions as it takes on an era rather a specific composer, such as Mozart in 2015 and Beethoven in 2013.

To give a complete dimension to this thematic festival, the Teatro Mayor chose 16 Russian Romantics to be interpreted by 19 soloists, eight orchestras and seven orchestra conductors, three choirs from Germany, Spain, the United States, France, Lithuania, Macedonia, Ukraine, and Russia. Colombia will be well represented with the National Symphony Orchestra and Medellín Philharmonic Academy.

This three-day event spans almost two centuries of classical music with 54 performances. While most of the concerts take place on the main theatre stage, other venues in 10 localities across the city have been included to give an opportunity for all music lovers to enjoy a world-class event. The importance of ballet in the Russian repertoire will be represented by “Beauty and the Beast” from the Malandine Ballet of Biarritz, directed by its founder Thierry Malandine and set to the music of Tchaikovsky.

Declared in 2012 a UNESCO “City of Music,” Bogotá is home to two leading orchestras that perform throughout the year in venues large and small. With internationally acclaimed musicians and academies encouraging new talent, music is an essential part of living in the metropolis, so to give people the chance to enjoy this experience the Teatro Mayor will subsidize most of the ticket price, offering admission fees that start at $40,000 pesos.


This commitment to music, and giving the public at large access to great performances, brought out a record 44,000 attendees during the 2015 edition, with 32,525 tickets sold. This year, the theatre expects an even larger turnout given its extensive repertoire and stature of the invited orchestras and guest musical directors: the Russian National Orchestra under the baton of Mihail Pletnev, Lucerne Symphonic Orchestra conducted by James Gaffigan, and Staatskapelle Halle with Josep Caballé Domenech and Conrad Van Alphen.

A large list of Russian Romantics have their works on the program: Anton Stepanonovih Arensky (1861- 1906); Mili Balakirev (1837-1910); Aleksandr Borodin (1823-1887); Aleksandr Glazunov (1865-1936); Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956); Mijail Glinka (1804- 1857); Aleksandr Grechaninov (1864- 1956); Mijail Ipolitov Ivanov (1859- 1935); Anatoli Liadov (1855-1914); Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951); Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1891); Serguei Proko- fiev (1891-1953); Serguei Rachmaninov (1873-1943); Nikolai Rimski- Korsakov (1844-1908); Anton Rubinstein (1829 -1894); Aleksandr Skriabin (1872-1915); Alexei Stanchinsky (1888-1914); Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893); Serguei Taneyev (1856-1915).

It isn’t just orchestras that take center stage at the Teatro Mayor. Three Colombian choirs – the Colombian Opera Choir, Youth Philharmonic Choir of the Bogotá Philharmonic, and Santa Cecilia Choral Society – have been invited to perform at the festival.

No festival is complete without presenting soloists and smaller musical ensembles. In the quartets category, the festival brings to Bogotá one of the world’s longest-lasting quartets, the Borodin Quartet from Russia; the David Oistrakh Quartet named in honor of the great Soviet-era violinist David Oistrakh (1908-1974); and Colombia’s very own Q-Arte and M4nolov. With fewer strings attached, audiences will also enjoy the trios Wanderer (France); Tchaikovsky (Russia); and Krylov, Buzlov, and Tchetuev (Russia/Ukraine).

An orchestra needs a soloist as much as a postcard from Red Square needs snow. So while we can fiddle with words, we can’t miss the VIPs of the violin: Julian Rachlin (Lituania), Alicia Margulis (Germany), Andrey Baranov (Russia), and Sergei Krylov (Rus- sia). But it’s not voilá quite yet! On the viola are Fedor Belugin (Russia), Sara McElravy (Canada), and Sandra Arango (Colombia). Invited cellists include Daniel Müller-Schott (Germany) and Alexander Buzlov (Russia).

No Russian Romantic could pine over a landscape or unrequited love, without the piano. So to delight audiences, Mikhail Voskresensky, one of the great pianists of the Romantic tradi- tion, will headeline this festival. Included in this distinguished cast are Simon Trpceski (Macedonia), Alexei Volodin (Russia), Igor Tchetuev (Ukraine), Kirill Gerstein (Russia), Alexander Gavrylyuk (Ukraine), Sergei Sichkov (Russia), and Eduardo Rojas (Colombia).

After two successful versions, the Bogotá International Classical Music Festival has positioned itself as one of the largest classical music festivals in Latin America, to the point of being a benchmark for Mexico and Chile. Even though most performances require the acoustics of the Teatro Mayor, some of the concerts will be held in public parks, churches, community centers and public libraries. So, indeed, it truly is a festival for everyone.

For a complete listing of concerts and ticket prices visit: