Vietnam’s International Piano Festival, the first international academic music event ever held in the country, will end after two gatherings due to a lack of funding.
Organizers from the National Music Academy cancelled the third gathering of the biennial festival, which had been scheduled for this September, as they could not find sponsors to meet the expected cost of VND1.2 billion (US$56,700).
“The economy is going through a harsh downturn, we don’t have the money,” said Dr Le Van Toan, director of the academy.
Prof Tran Thu Ha, a veteran pianist and the former director of the academy and who contributed largely to the launch of the festival, said: “We don’t know where to find sponsorship.”
The festival, which was launched in 2000 thanks to support from big musicians including acclaimed pianist Dang Thai Son, has operated solely with private funds raised by the academy itself.
Dr Ta Quang Dong, head of the academy’s finances and external relations has knocked on a number of different doors, including government agencies, to no avail.
The festival’s second gathering was saved, at the last minute, by donations from a bank, several embassies and foreign cultural centers in Vietnam.
“We really want to maintain this festival,” Dong said.
Veteran artist Ha Manh Chung, deputy director of Vietnam National Opera Ballet, said the piano festival isn’t the only victim of the financial downturn; opera events have face the same financial puzzle.
Chung said opera contests are rarely organized. When they do occur, they’re mostly paid for out of the artists’ pockets.
Nguyen Dinh Thanh, who holds a master degree in cultural management, suggested that the government at least offer businesses tax incentives for investing in cultural events.
Prof Ngo Duc Thinh, a Vietnamese culture researcher who once headed the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, expressed frustration when comparing the government’s shutting doors at classic musical events and its “overspending” on the “inappropriate” organization of traditional festivals.
Thinh referred to the Binh Da festival in Hanoi’s Thanh Oai District of as an example of wasteful government intervention.
The festival has been preserved for dozens of years as a communal event dedicated to worshiping ancestors–including the legendary dragon father of Vietnamese people, Lac Long Quan.
But after being recognized as a national heritage last April, local temples were dressed in thousands of dollars worth of electronic lights.
“Renewing or adding such things doesn’t suit a traditional festival,” Thinh said.
He told news website VietNamNet in April that the lights weren’t an “upgrade” to the festival as the government put it, but an “invasion” and “destruction.”
“We’re seeing such unreasonable spending at a time when there is no money for worthy artistic competitions,” he said.