Chicago Opera Theater to Present MARÍA DE BUENOS AIRES, 4/20-28
Chicago Opera Theater's Chicago Stage Premiere production of Astor Piazzolla's MARÍA DE BUENOS AIRES evokes Argentina's "Dirty War", the period between 1976 and 1983 when the country was governed by military juntas which controlled the populace through state-sponsored terrorism. This "tango operita" is of stunning originality, pulsing to the passion and beat of Astor Piazzolla's revolutionary "nuevo tango" and Horacio Ferrer's mesmerizing, imaginative poetry. Chicago Opera Theater's production is a collaboration with Chicago's Luna Negra Dance Theater at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, and runs for four performances only: Saturday, April 20; Wednesday, April 24; Friday, April 26; and Sunday, April 28. Tickets are on sale now.
María de Buenos Aires premiered in 1968, closer in time to the "Dirty War" than to the 30's and 40's where it is often placed. While the country was under control of the juntas, upwards of 30,000 people "disappeared," while many more were victims of torture and abuse. "These themes are implicit in Piazzolla's radical music and Ferrer's ingenious poetry," says Andreas Mitisek, COT's General Director. "This production delves into the soul of this work and gives it a contemporary meaning beyond clichés and stereotypes."
Mitisek explains, "Our María represents the passion of the Argentinian women who were as seductive as the tango while resilient and strong enough to overcome dictatorship in a country where the machismo culture predominates. Taking the tango to its most brutal extreme, the 'Dirty War' was a dance of torture, covered in blood, and danced by the highest echelons of society and power. In María, the tango is a dance of life and death. Piazzolla embraced the tango in an extreme way. He took it to a deeper level. He intensified everything about it - the harmonies, the form, the noises, the jerks; he created a revolution within the tango."
"Piazzolla's María is the ultimate metaphor for the heart and soul of Argentina and, for me, also a metaphor for love, hope, fear and resilience," continues Mitisek." In our production, María falls victim to the "Dirty War," but she is reborn in the protests of the thousands of "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" whose children "disappeared." It is a paradox that those who were treated the harshest by the dictators remained the strongest. It was these mothers and others like them whose fight for justice eventually brought the military to its knees." María: I dream a dream that nobody ever dreamed. María noche, María pasión fatal! María del amor!
In 1967, Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer called their first collaboration, Maria de Buenos Aires, a "tango operita." However, this work contained music unlike any conventional tango. Piazzolla took the tango off the dance floor by creating a new style termed "nuevo tango." This style incorporates counterpoint, dissonance, extended harmonies, and elements of jazz and classical music. María de Buenos Aires premiered at the Sala Planeta in Buenos Aires in May1968 with Piazzolla's ten piece orchestra, Amelita Baltar as María, and Horacio Ferrer as El Duende. The opera had its U.S. premiere at Houston Grand Opera in 1991 and LBO presented the 2004 West Coast premiere in a different production and again in 2012.
COT DEBUT: Peabody Southwell (María) mezzo-soprano. Her previous roles include Long Beach Opera: Ramirez in Vivaldi's Motezuma, the Fox in Leos Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, Neris in Luigi Cherubini's Medea, and Nefertiti in Philip Glass' Akhnaten. Garcia Lorca in Ainadamar by O. Golijov. Mark Swed in the LA Times wrote of "the beauty of [her] sure high notes" and, after seeing her performance in Vixen, forecast that she "was going places." She won over critics last summer at Central City Opera in Colorado where Kyle MacMillan in the Denver Post wrote that she was the "standout performer from the lineup... [She] has the self-assurance and polished technique of a well-established veteran as well as such winning extras as a terrific sense of movement and a kind of theatrical pizzazz..."
COT DEBUT: Gregorio Gonzales (El Payador) baritone. Born in Mexico, has performed across the United States, Europe, and Mexico. He recently sang the role of Di Cosimo in both the Los Angeles world premiere and Viennese premiere of Daniel Catán's Il Postino and has performed a variety of roles from Handel to Donizetti, including Der Klug in Viktor Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis at the Ojai Festival under the baton of Kent Nagano. Mstislav Rostropovich describes Gregorio as, "Not just a good singer, but a GREAT musician..." and Placido Domingo says, he "possesses a beautiful and musical voice. The credibility of his acting skills brings a tremendous stage presence to his performances."