Theatre and Opera House director’s resignation sparks public anger

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 1, 2016 16:07

Story Highlights

  • "Only 28 months of work to transform everything. With the lowest historical budget... the average spending for one show does not exceed Euro 600, which makes it eligible for a Guinness World record. Only Kosovo, without mentioning regional countries, has an arts budget nine times higher. This was a time of passion, dedication, hope and pure ideals for the sole Opera House in Albanian speaking territories,” Ilir Kerni said in the message preceding his resignation.

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TIRANA, Aug. 1 – The sudden and mysterious resignation of one of Albania’s best ever performing artists as director of Albania’s national theater of opera and ballet has sparked anger among colleagues, art lovers and even politicians who are lobbying for his return.

Ilir Kerni, 57, one of Albania’s best internationally renowned ballet dancers, resigned last weekend as director of Albania’s sole national theater of opera and ballet after leading it for almost three years, apparently dissatisfied with the poor funding allocated for one of the country’s most important performing arts institutions which is about to undergo reconstruction.

Only few days before submitting his resignation, Kerni expressed his anger over the poor funding and the difficulty that artists face in staging the pieces.

“I have never liked sensational things, but please some attention to know the facts. Only 28 months of work to transform everything. With the lowest historical budget… the average spending for one show does not exceed Euro 600, which makes it eligible for a Guinness World record. We paid back to the state budget 20 million (Euro 144,000) in ticket revenue, which makes the average spending even lower,” Kerni wrote on social networks.

“Only Kosovo, without mentioning regional countries, has an arts budget nine times higher. This was a time of passion, dedication, hope and pure ideals for the sole Opera House in Albanian-speaking territories,” he added in the message preceding his resignation.

Fans and politicians wrote messages in support of Kerni’s work in the past three years and the theater’s busy agenda under his lead.

Ruling Socialist Party MP Ledi Shanku said his resignation was sad news. “Ilir Kerni is the ballet dancer whom I admired for his modernity and the hope he brought to communism-asphyxiated Tirana. Ilir Kerni is the Albanian who made me proud as many times as he was applauded in the famous world stages,” she wrote.

In a petition on Monday, National Theater and Opera artists called on Prime Minister Edi Rama to refuse signing Kerni’s resignation.

“We, the artists of the National Theater of Opera and Ballet, dedicated to our work despite the everyday life difficulties and the sacrifice of doing art in the very tough conditions of the economic reality, but agreed on by the community, have managed to keep alive and high our effort of achieving quality and extraordinary success. Director Ilir Kerni has been an incomparable inspiring example in these achievements. That is why with the artist’s modesty, we ask you not to sign his resignation,” reads the petition to the Prime Minister.

Reacting to media inquiries, the culture ministry said it had no comment on the resignation.

“The Culture ministry considers the resignation a voluntary individual act and as such it cannot comment. A Theater’s history is built on the generation of artists who perform and the marks their leaders leave on the Theater’s wall, including the important three-year contribution by Mr. Ilir Kerni,” said the ministry.

While the National Theater will be under reconstruction for one year, its artists will be performing in other stages in Tirana and outside the capital.

Ilir Kerni, a professional ballet dancer who spent most of his career as a soloist with the Croatian National Theater, was sensationally appointed in October 2013, replacing maestro Zhani Ciko. Graduated from the Tirana Art Academy, Kerni was a primo ballerino with the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb for two decades from 1994 to 2013 when he returned to Albania to take over as the new Theater and Opera House director.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said at that time Kerni and the new national art gallery director faced the challenge of “creating an Albanian artistic space as a new reference in the cultural map of Southeast Europe.”

The National Theater of Opera and Ballet is the largest theater in Albania and is home to an opera and ballet ensemble. The theater was founded in 1953 and is a repertory theater, which also regularly offers premieres of operas by Albanian composers.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 1, 2016 16:07