On October 5, 1994, 27 years ago, the Auditorio – Palacio de Congresos was inaugurated in Zaragoza. This complex, with several halls prepared for concerts and conferences, was created with music in mind and, specifically, to achieve a sound on a par with that of the world’s great halls. An objective achieved, judging by the opinion of the artists and groups that have performed on its stages, as pointed out by the head of Institutional Relations of the Auditorium, Jesús Ángel González: “Outside Aragón and Spain it is considered an extraordinarily attractive and enviable facility. Its acoustic characteristics, especially those of the Mozart Hall, are practically unmatched worldwide. Zubin Mehta (considered one of the best conductors alive) said it was one of the three best halls in the world, and the Berlin Philharmonic, whose auditorium is inspired by the one in Zaragoza, has always said that this hall sounds better than theirs”.
Practically since its inauguration, the Auditorium has become a cultural engine for the city of Zaragoza and for the whole of Aragon. After a year in which it adapted prices to facilitate the programming of cultural events during the pandemic, its halls are getting ready to welcome international stars once again.
With such references, it is not surprising that the great names of classical and symphonic music pass through the Auditorio de Zaragoza, making up an offer that, season after season, is at the level of that of the great capitals of the world. Jesús Ángel recognizes that it is easy to negotiate with the stars: “The place where we are, in the center of the Valencia-Madrid-Basque Country-Barcelona quadrilateral, helps a lot. An orchestra that plays at the Teatro Real (Madrid) and then goes to the Liceu (Barcelona) cannot miss Zaragoza. And if we add to that exceptional quality characteristics, the offer is almost irresistible”. For example, Javier Camarena, one of the best tenors in the world, has not resisted. On January 17 next year, he will inaugurate the Grandes Conciertos season with one of the only three performances he will offer in our country.
But this focus of attraction not only works for artists, but also for the public, such as the 15 people from Barcelona who have reserved a seat to see Camarena in Zaragoza, since they ran out of tickets in Barcelona. An example of the role of the Auditorium as a cultural engine, but also economic: “To the public of the big cities we say: Come to Zaragoza, enjoy the performance and take the opportunity to know our city and our Autonomous Community. Other sectors can take advantage of the opportunity to have great musical stars here”.
Because, above all, the Zaragoza Auditorium wants to be a cultural and economic engine for the whole of Aragon. Something it demonstrated, without going any further, during the pandemic.
The coronavirus forced to adapt prices to continue programming culture.
Culture has been one of the great victims of the pandemic, especially that promoted from the private sector. That is why the Auditorium took a step forward, as Jesus Angel recalls: “After the confinement we did three successive campaigns of Vuelve al Auditorio hiring local artists to maintain the activity, with reduced capacity but opening doors from the first moment it was possible. In July 2020 we programmed Bigott, a local artist, for free, and I think that was a kick-start for the cultural sector in Zaragoza”. And all this while trying to reduce costs for producers and organizers as much as possible: “We lowered the rates in an almost scandalous way, but in a good way, with 90 percent subsidies in the rental of the venues, and that allowed Zaragoza to have an almost more important cultural life than what could be happening in Madrid at the same critical moment”.
This allowed that, little by little, concerts and cultural events were able to restart the sector in Zaragoza. A mission that the Auditorium considered as part of its function as a public facility: “We are a social engine because it is up to us to be so, there are halls that cannot do it. When private activity resumes its course there we will be there to do what we have always done well, bring great international orchestras that project the city, but now, like other facilities such as museums, libraries or the Teatro Principal, we must be there, “concludes Jesus Angel.
The future of the Auditorium depends on the improvement of its facilities for congresses.
The head of Institutional Relations of the Auditorium recognizes that there is room for improvement of the facilities, specifically with regard to congresses, and therefore announces that there will be updates in the coming years: “Modern rooms for working groups in which you can work with digital technologies and changes that can accommodate 700 people well distributed”.
This will try to put the part related to socio-economic events at the height of the musical programming of the Auditorium, where they have passed, as Jesus Angel points out, “all those who are something”. In this sense, he fondly recalls the year 2008, when they received the visit of the New York, London and Berlin Philharmonic or soloists of the stature of Montserrat Caballé or Alfredo Kraus. A journey through the past in which he does not forget the home-grown talents, because the Auditorium also aims to promote local groups, such as the Reino de Aragón Orchestra, the City of Zaragoza Symphony Orchestra or the chamber orchestra Grupo Enigma, or even the students of the conservatory, whose performances in the Auditorium he defines as “a glimmer of hope that shows that our people are also there”.
In this sense, Jesus Ángel points out that he would love to see Aragon take important steps towards the creation of its own symphony orchestra: “I would like to see an effort where public and private sectors are combined, because I believe that this is the real future of great music in our Community. It would also ensure that all the investments that are made in human and artistic capital have a nearby destination”.
And for the near future, the one that refers to the next performances in the Auditorium, he highlights, besides Javier Camarena, the Philharmonic Orchestra of St. Petersburg and Luxembourg or the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. He admits that it is difficult for him to make a selection because “among so many superstars it is difficult to highlight a supernova”.