One year ago, the Swiss ambassador to Costa Rica, Yasmine Chatila Zwahlen, learned that the Camerata Bern was scheduled to perform at the Morelia Festival in Mexico. The famed Swiss chamber orchestra has toured extensively since it was founded in 1963, and Zwahlen wondered whether the Camerata could make a pit stop in Costa Rica.
“During a staff meeting at the embassy, we began dreaming of attracting these first-class artists to Costa Rica and having them perform here,” Zwahlen recently told The Tico Times. “Everybody, from the embassy’s receptionist to two ambassadors, have been busy with the details and the fine-tuning in the last couple of weeks.”
On Tuesday, Zwahlen and her staff will reap their rewards: The Camerata Bern is indeed coming to San José, and the musicians will perform in San José’s National Theater, the most hallowed stage in the country.
Zwahlen notes that the Swiss Embassy is small and resources are limited. Unlike most of the National Theater’s programming, which is invited and mostly funded by the theater, the Camerata concert was arranged independently, and the embassy had to rent the space. Still, the theater is advertising the Camerata’s performance, Zwahlen is excited to have secured its stage, and she hopes for a big turnout.
If you’re not up to speed on your European chamber orchestras, the Camerata Bern attracts some of the most accomplished musicians in Switzerland. Instead of a traditional conductor, the Camerata has an artistic director and “leader,” Antje Weithaas, who also plays violin with her colleagues. As a group, the Camerata is leaner and more intimate than a full-on symphony orchestra, and musicians routinely perform standing up, giving their concerts a kinetic energy. The evening’s program will include selections by Beethoven, Mozart and Benjamin Britten.
Here is a snippet of the Camerata playing Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”:
As for the embassy, Zwahlen is excited to see such revered Swiss artists show their stuff in Costa Rica. As Zwahlen notes, only 100 Swiss natives lived in Costa Rica when the National Theater was built in 1897. Today, more than 1,700 Swiss natives live here, and 20,000 Swiss tourists visit the country each year.
“The two countries are really sister republics,” said Zwahlen. “Next year, we will be celebrating 140 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.”
The Camerata Bern performs Nov. 18 at the National Theater, downtown San José. 8 p.m. ₡5,000-20,000 ($10-40). Info: National Theater website.