October 05, 2008

Domingo sings at Chichén Itzá

Placido Domingo sings at Mexico pyramidTenor Placido Domingo's choice of a classical program peppered with local music and help from Mexican pianist and crooner Armando Manzanero appeared to smooth the controversy surrounding his Saturday concert at the Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza.

The Spanish-born Domingo grew up in Mexico, and enthusiastic fans in the southern state of Yucatan erupted in applause on Saturday at his "Concert of 1,000 Columns." Many here see it like a homecoming; one of Domingo's first performances was in Yucatan in 1957.

The singers were dwarfed by the hulking mass of the site's main pyramid, eerily illuminated in red against a black sky, and the performance began with Mayan-style music from by The Monumental Chorus of the Mayab, accompanied by Indian drums.
Why the concert was controversial:Archaeologists and activists have complained that concerts like Saturday's expose ruin sites to additional damage and degrade their cultural significance by treating them as mere backdrops.

Mexico's federal government turns down most requests to hold concerts at ancient temples. But it faces increasing pressure from state governors to promote ruins which, critics argue, are already swamped with tourists.

Officials did impose limits on stage and seating structures and the number of spectators for Domingo's concert, ensuring that it would be smaller than tenor Luciano Pavarotti's 1997 appearance at Chichen Itza, which drew 18,000. Since then, more than a half dozen concerts have been held at or near the ruins.
Comment:  Balancing economic development and cultural preservation is a tough issue. Maybe you draw the line between actual physical damage, which is unacceptable, and "degraded" cultural significance, which is intangible. But if you can't reconcile the conflicting factors, preservation has to come first.

For more on the subject, see Mexico Says No to Exploitation.

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