Presidency hosts grand parade of cultural packaging

As Latvia gets up to speed in its new and fleeting role in the Presidency of the Council of the EU, the cultural program of guest concerts and exhibits in the coming months goes on in parallel with the various meetings and conferences.

The impresario in this case is the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which has reserved a €3.6m budget for its cultural and representational purposes.

But the main curator of the program is the Secretariat of the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Its budget is more than €5m. The costs of staging the more than two hundred different program events planned – roughly €25,000 per average event – are anything but frugal, given the travel expenses alone to many locations well beyond Latvia for such large groups as choirs and orchestras.

At the top of the marquee is the opera ‘Valentīna’ by Artūrs Maskats, its guest production in Berlin, running €405,000. The National Symphony Orchestra’s concert in Paris, the Beijing performance of the ballet ‘Enchanted Princess’ are said to be equally financially impressive operations, not to mention a €198,000 exhibit of an Italian Renaissance and Baroque portrait collection at Riga’s Bourse Gallery of National Art from the previous Presidency holder in the current Trio.  

Many of the events in other countries would not be possible without cooperating partners, in many cases paying for space and technical staff.

Selga Laizāne, head of the Secretariat’s Public Diplomacy and Cultural Programs department told LSM that the Verdi Requiem concert in Paris would cost €220,000, with Latvia’s side covering travel, accommodations and per diems. “The local partners on their part cover the rental of the space, advertising, marketing costs and half of the artists’ honoraria,” she explained.

On the other hand, ‘Valentīna’ was a case where Latvia had to pay for the entire cost of the project, but Laizāne is convinced it will pay off. “The patrons of these guest performances are the foreign ministers of both countries, very high-level officials. I think there’s a political and a cultural dimension, an information exchange."

Signe Pujāte of the Latvian National Culture Center also believes every cent spent is worth it. “This will pay off in the long term, definitely,” she said.

The organization of cultural events abroad is a very expensive proposition compared to similar undertakings at home. Wages for stage technicians and other service providers are much higher in other countries, besides the costs of travel for the entire troupe, or set of stage decorations, for example.

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