Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tbilisi conservatoire - 90

The Tbilisi conservatoire is coming up to it's 90th birthday, having been founded in 1917 - bit of an auspicious year in the former Soviet Union, no? The conservatoire is totally spick and span, having been renovated with the help of donors so that it has the best concert hall in Tbilisi. It's in much better nick than the Lithuanian music academy building which has access to EU structural funds; but instead it looks quite dilapidated.

So it's having a concert series from 30 September to 8 October, with concerts virtually every day. Don't ask me what they are because the posters are in Georgian, and once I have spelled out the letters for 'fortepiano' I need to go and rest in a darkened room. Prominent graduates will participate in the concerts, as well as rectors of the leading conservatoires of the world (maybe the one from Moscow who plays piano; hopefully not the one from Vilnius who plays the accordeon).

Tickets are for sale from today, I am told. Went along just before twelve and joined the queue, left at 12.05 when nothing happened; went along again at around 4 pm and saw a different queue, but the door was still closed. Caused a slight scandal by climbing on a small chair outside to peer into the building, but it looked deserted. Did people just queue for nothing?

What gets me most of all is that I am told the tickets are 50 or 40 laris each (23 or 18 Euros), or you can get a season ticket for all the concerts for 200 laris. There are no student discounts, not even for the students of the conservatoire, I am told. Not much, the average Westerner might think. Well, consider that the average theatre ticket is around 10 laris, the average MONTHLY income per person is 89 laris, the average salary in Tbilisi is 411 laris. Consider further that anyone who was seriously talented during the Soviet period which is only 16 years ago, would have gone to study in Moscow and never touched this conservatoire. Those vastly talented since would probably go either to Moscow or to the West to study, like Lisa Batiashvili, or Giorgio Kharadze, the latter of whom grew up in France. So then you see why I get apoplexy at prices like this. What exactly are people going to be paying this huge amount of money for?

Georgia's Gini Coefficient, on a scale of 0 - 1, was 0.439 in 2006, having reduced from almost .5 a few years ago. The Gini Coefficient measures the distribution of wealth in a country; the higher the figure, the greater the gap between rich and poor. For comparison, in Germany in 2004 it was .283, in the US it was 0.408, in the UK 0.36, and in Finland (and Hungary, funnily, and their languages are connected, too!) it was 0.269. Brazil with .57 was one of the most unequal countries, though Namibia with 0.74 leaves everyone else behind. Bangladesh with 0.33 is really quite equal - everyone is poor together.

If it wasn't alreay clear that there are vast gaps between rich and poor in Georgia (you just need to look around), the ticket prices certainly illustrate these huge differences.