Plans to convert a palazzo that used to host the Johann Strauss School of Music into a music and concert hall for the Malta Philarmonic Orchestra (MPO) have fallen flat despite an announcement by Heritage Minister Jose Herrera last October that work was to start soon.
Last October, TVM led its news bulletin with the announcement of the project to be located at the palazzo close to the Manoel Theatre in Valletta at a cost of €13 million.
The Minister had said the funds had already been earmarked in the budget, adding that he was very satisfied to announce such “good news” and that work was to start soon.
Yet only some €500,000 were included in the financial estimates for this year – that is not even enough to cover the costs of detailed architectural plans needed for a project of this kind, according to information gathered from professionals in their field.
No development application has yet been presented to the Planning Authority. If one is ever submitted, it would take years for a permit to be issued since the premises has heritage value and enjoys protection.
A concert hall for the National Orchestra has been on the agenda for decades as the Manuel Theatre has become too small to serve the purpose.
Questions sent by The Shift were not answered. The politically-appointed chairperson of the Malta Philarmonic Orchestra, Catherine Tabone, is refusing to comment on the minister’s announcement, even though she had welcomed the news in comments to the State broadcaster.
Sources close to the Malta Philarmonic Orchestra described Herrera’s announcement as “very premature” and “hollow”. They said the building identified for the hall is not adequate or large enough for the needs of the orchestra. They lamented that such empty announcements give musicians false hope.