Imagine playing such a captivating performance that your audience is so stunned and enthralled that they can’t move. It’s every professional musician’s dream! Well, musicians got a small taste of that feeling and got rid of some of their quarantine rust by performing at the reopening of the famous Barcelona Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house on Monday, June 22. Their audience was (technically) live—2,292 plants filled the plush red seats and gave their full attention to the performance.
This was the first performance at the opera house since coronavirus lockdown measures started to be eased in Spain. The mastermind behind the event that included a performance from the UceLi Quartet string quartet was conceptual artist Eugenio Ampudia. The quartet performed Puccini’s “Crisantemi.”
Bored Panda spoke with the Artistic Director of the Liceu, Víctor García de Gomar, as well as with the artist, Eugenio Ampudia, about the reopening and the concert. Scroll down for our in-depth interviews with both of them.
García de Gomar told Bored Panda that the performance at the Liceu raises many questions about the absurdity of the human condition that we faced during the confinement, such as how an audience was deprived of the possibility of being an audience.
“In some way, we have to rethink the world and its contradictions,” he said, pointing out that having an audience full of plants was a great way of raising these questions. The Artistic Director of the Liceu told us that the organizing team consisted of around 30 people, including all the technicians. From the initial idea to the stream of the concert, it took the team around a month to organize everything.
García de Gomar said that the performance was difficult to organize and the biggest challenge was to bring all the plants inside and to place each one on its own seat. The plants were donated so the opera house didn’t have to pay anything for them.
This was the first time the Liceu did an event like this: there hasn’t been a concert held for a plant, animal, or non-human audience in the opera house before.
García de Gomar confirmed that he’s very good friends with the artist, Ampudia. “We had a conversation during the lockdown and I asked him to think of an idea. One week later, he proposed this concert for plants.”
The Artistic Director added that they changed a few things to turn the initial vision into what we all saw in the end. “I introduced the musicians, the idea of the health workers, and in some way it was a collective project which many other people of the Liceu contributed to, to make it even better than the initial project.” He added that the team at the Liceu is “very happy” with how things turned out.
Ampudia said that they put together a large organizational team. "It involved many members of the Liceu’s staff and Max Estrella Gallery’s entire team, as well as people who often collaborate with my studio. This includes María Platero, who coordinated from the studio, Leticia Martín and Deborah Tarridas, who coordinated from the Liceu, and Gregorio Cámara, who coordinated from Max Estrella Gallery."
He continued: "We also worked with José Manuel Artero, a musician who I work on the sound aspect of my pieces. Pedro Albornoz is the director of photography, alongside other cameramen and technicians."
Ampudia told us that he had a conversation with the artistic director of the Liceu, García de Gomar, on May 7. "We had worked together before. In 2015, I carried out an action—part of the series Dónde dormir (Where to sleep)—at Palau de la Música in Barcelona, where he was the artistic director at the time. He asked me if I was interested in creating an action or piece at the Gran Teatre del Liceu."
The artist thought that it would be an exciting challenge. "I presented the project and he decided to open the season with Concert for the Biocene."
Ampudia revealed that getting the plants was complicated because they needed 500 plants with a minimum height of 1.5 meters, 1,200 plants with a minimum height of 1 meter while the rest had to have a minimum height of 60 centimeters.
"We wanted the plants to be from local stores, in order to keep the project sustainable. For this, we worked with Flores Navarro, who provided all of the plants. Their entire team collaborated with the project, additionally providing logistics and transportation."
Even though there weren’t any human music-lovers among hiding among the plants, spectators could watch the entire event, the “Concierto para el bioceno,” via livestream from the comfort of their homes (opera glasses are optional).
The opera house called the performance a “highly symbolic act that defends the value of art, music, and nature as a letter of introduction to our return to activity.”
Plenty (or would that be planty?) of you Pandas are probably wondering how the opera was able to get so many plants together so quickly. As it turns out, all the plants were brought in from local nurseries. Every single plant will later be donated to a healthcare worker from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.
The organizers wanted to “offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature” after the “strange, painful period” that was the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu stopped its activity in the middle of March when the Covid-19 crisis got out of hand in Spain. The country has more than 246k coronavirus cases and over 28k people lost their lives to the illness. However, Spain is getting back on its feet and the reopening of the opera house is a small but firm step forward.