Robert J. Fitzpatrick, director of the Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles, announced yesterday that because of insufficient funds, Robert Wilson's massive operatic-theatrical epic, “The Civil Wars: A Tree Is Best Measured When It Is Down,” would not be presented in California June 6-9.
Mr. Wilson, who was not informed in advance of Mr. Fitzpatrick's statement, said last night that he “couldn't believe it” and denounced Mr. Fitzpatrick's action as “totally unethical.”
In his statement, Mr. Fitzpatrick said: “We are enormously disappointed. Bob Wilson is a great artist and the Olympic Arts Festival has supported him at every stage of this project. The festival is only two months away and, having extended deadline after deadline, we can wait no longer.”
“Both Bob Wilson and I knew from the beginning that ‘The Civil Wars’ was a high-risk venture and that the larger Wilson's vision grew, the more difficult it would be to realize.”
In an emotional response, Mr. Wilson said: “I'm very sad. It seems to be very difficult for an American to get his work presented in his own country, and I hope that this work can be seen here some day.”
“The Civil Wars” - a series of stage pictures based largely on 19th- century images and concerning human myths, conflict and brotherhood over the ages - was planned as a 12-hour composite of six independent but related theatrical pieces with musical accompaniment, or settings, created in six different countries. Each country was to raise money for its own production and for shipping costs to Los Angeles, where Mr. Wilson and the Olympic Arts Committee were to supply funds for the combined presentation at the Shrine Auditorium.
Productions in Rotterdam (which also toured France), Cologne and Rome have already taken place, with other sections forthcoming in Minneapolis, Marseilles and Tokyo.
The 12-hour plan had been scaled down to eight hours in recent months, with talk of a more reduced version still. The contributing countries have given more than $3 million for their productions, while the Olympic committee had promised $200,000. Of the projected $2.6 million budget for Los Angeles, Mr. Wilson had covered $1.4 million in donations and expected ticket sales.
In recent days, he contemplated a closed-circuit satellite television production in late June. The Dutch- French, German and Italian portions were to have been performed live in Cologne, with the Marseilles portion in that city and the Japanese section pre-taped in Tokyo in May. These were all to have been transmitted to television screens in Los Angeles, where the Minneapolis section, conceived as linking the larger scenes, would be played live.
Mr. Wilson said last night that Mr. Fitzpatrick had been told of that plan yesterday, and had rejected it as unsatisfactory.
“The irony is that Bob was the very first artist I went to,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said last night. “He received one of the two largest grants of the entire festival, with the understanding that he had to raise any additional funds he might need.”
“Had we been given this television idea six or even four months ago, it might have proved a workable alternative. But at this late date, it was not possible to get it on stage in a way that would work.”
A projected series of performances of those portions of “The Civil Wars” composed by Philip Glass (Rome and part of Cologne) and David Byrne (Minneapolis) at the Metropolitan Opera House in early July has now been postponed until at least 1985.