Òpera de Butxaca i Noves Creacions comes from the festival of the same name (FOB-NC) which began in 1993 in the Teatre Malic, directed by Toni Rumbau, with the premiere of Violeta, an opera by Manuel García Morante with a libretto by Josep Maria Carandell. From its beginnings until now, the festival has been through two different stages which could be defined as the infancy and adolescence of the project. The third stage, which is its “maturity” is the current OB-NC.
The first stage consisted primarily in opening a conceptual space in the city which had not existed until then, or if it did then it was in a scattered, disorganised form. This phase was characterized by having the Teatre Malic as its main venue, although it was not the only place, given that in the 12 years which it lasted, until the closure of the Malic in 2002, there were many different venues involved. A first phase full of experimentation, full of wise decisions and triumphs, characterized by a chronic lack of funds and very much prone to the vicissitudes of alternative theatres. Perhaps the most outstanding events of this period were the different productions by Òpera Mobile directed by Joan Anton Sánchez, the international introduction of figures such as the composer Jakob Draminsky and the stage director Luca Valentino with two acclaimed productions Hin und Zurück by Hindemith and Orfeo Vedovo by Savinio, Albert Maestres and Jordi Rossinyol´s first opera, Enric Palomar´s first opera, Ruleta, the chance to collaborate with Xavier Albertí at a fraction of the normal cost on various occasions, the bugeoning of Marc Rosich as a librettist, the different puppet versions of well-known operas by de Pepe Otal, and many others. That was the festival in its infancy.
The second phase began in 2004 and ended with the last festival in 2007. Its main characteristic was that Dietrich Grosse took over as director of the festival, with the opening-up and international recognition that this implied.
In fact the arrival of Dietrich Grosse enabled the festival to take the necessary leap in order to open up to Europe and raise its standards to the highest possible. In 2004 the annual NewOp meeting was held in Barcelona, the first time ever in the South of Europe. This meeting allowed the festival to connect with prominent European producers and theatres. Another important characteristic of this phase was the lack of an exclusive venue, which led to a collaboration with numerous places in the city, giving the festival much more visibility.
Perhaps the biggest thorn in our side was the impossibility of establishing agreements with the institutions that supported us.
We would like to highlight the triumphs of this second phase, of which there are many. To start with, the premieres of a dozen new operas nuevas: Bruna de Nit by Xavier Pagès and Joan Duran, Stabat by Xavier Maristany and Víctor Sunyol, Juanaby Enric Palomar and Rebecca Simpson, Decorado con Tres Vistas, by Eduardo Diago, Domènech González de la Rubia and Sergio Fidemraizer, Orlando Furioso by Michael Gross and Roland Olbeter, Trenes de Marzo by Lars Graugaard and Toni Montesinos,El Fervor de la Perseverança by Carlos Santos, Saló d’Anubis by Joan Albert Amargós and Toni Rumbau, La Cuzzoni by Agustí Charles and Marc Rosich, Odola by Jordi Rossinyol and Albert Mestres, and the Barcelona premieres of Hangman, hangman! + The Town of Greed, by Lleonard Balada. Also worth an honorable mention are the successive collaborations with the Grup Instrumental Barcelona 216, which allowed us to stage La Passione by Louis Andriessen in Barcelona and the four work cycle by Peter Maxwell Davies Vesalii Icones, Miss Donnithorn’s Maggot/Eight Songs for a Mad King, The Medium and I last but not least; and the impressive fact that four Catalan operas appeared in Darmstadt at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2007. For many of these projects the help and collaboration of foreign institutes of culture such as the Goethe Institut, the British Council, the Netherlands Embassy, the French Institue, the Croatian Embassy and IEMed was invaluable and played a decisive role.
Other highlights were two scripts by Marc Rosich, one about Gustav Mahler´s songs and the other about songs by Alma Mahler, the revival of Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Paisiello, and the re-premiere of Il più bel nome by the composer Antonio Caldara in Tarragona (the opera first premiered in 1708 in Barcelona, being the first opera ever to be performed here).
Talking of collaborations, undoubtedly the fundamental collaboration is that of the writers and directors, performers and technicians who participated in the festival just for the joy of joining in and belief in the project.
One extremely important aspect of this second phase, which lasted from 2004 to 2007, was the collaborative agreement made with the Gran Teatre del Liceu to jointly premiere Catalan authors within the festival, with the support of the Caixa Catalunya Foundation. This collaboration has gone beyond 2007, with the performance of Hèctor Parra´s Hypermusic Prologue in 2009. This agreement opened a space for new opera with some financial support and demanding the highest possible quality.
Another main point was the co-productions with German opera companies over these four years with Halle for Juana and with Darmstadt for La Cuzzoni, which has continued in other larger projects: La cabeza del Bautista by Enric Palomar andLbyron by Agustí Charles/Marc Rosich, which premiered in January 2011 in the Darmstadt Staatstheater and will come to the Liceu in Barcelona on the 25th June 2011.
We can also mention the festival´s admission to the Circle of Opera Producers of Spain Opera XXI during this phase.
It can be said that during these first two phases the festival sowed seeds, and will continue to reap the rewards for years to come.