Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Royal Dilemma

A few months ago I was telling my wife that one of the tell tale signs that the general election is looming is the fact that, again, our political parties started talk about that big ugly site at the entrance of our capital city; that big hole in the ground where once stood the Royal Opera House. The site that housed the theater designed by Barry was bombed to the ground in 1942, that's over 65 years ago. That's 65 years of governments incapable of doing something about 0NE single building. I can understand why nothing was done during the immediate years after the war, but how can any one justify the fact that after all these years we are still with a big hole in the ground at the entrance of Valletta. Past and present Governments were incapable of giving to the Maltese people what the second world war had taken away.

Each and every election that I can remember, the same promises and false hopes resurfaced. I have a vague recollection of the 1981 election, I was only ten then, but all subsequent general elections I remember quite clearly; from 1987 to today the issue of what to do with those ruins in Valletta was raised at least every 5 years. We heard all sorts of things, from rebuilding the opera house to having an arts center and even building a new edifice housing the parliament. We had a competition in 1953 for a theater and another one during the early 90's for an arts center but nothing came out of them. What's even worse is the fact that we came to accept the derelict site as part of our heritage. It-Teatru L-imwaqqa, has become a place at par with Castille or the President's Palace, an accepted landmark.

From what has been written and said lately by leading figures in both leading political parties it seems that at least there seems to be an agreement on two very important issues, namely that (1) something needs to be done and (2) building the opera house as it was is out of the question. And I cannot but agree more. If we truly want to project these Islands as a leading tourist destination, we cannot accept that such an important site remains in this state. As an artist, I would love to see the site, or part of it, dedicated to a much needed contemporary Arts Museum but what to do with the site we will have time to discuss and debate. At the moment I just wish that our politicians keep their promises and build the site. A well designed building, whatever it houses, will surely be an added element to our cultural heritage.

1 comment:

Rupert Cefai said...

This article has also been published on http://politics-of-art.blogspot.com/