Florida Grand Opera Comes to Midtown with TANGO and MARÍA DE BUENOS AIRES Double Bill, 3/21-24

Florida Grand Opera (FGO) has announced a new three-year program entitled "Unexpected Operas in Unexpected Places," designed to bring less-known works to unique venues throughout South Florida in an effort to expose new audiences to opera, with the support of a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of its Knights Arts Challenge. The first installment of this new initiative will bring operatic productions to the Midtown neighborhood for the first time with a tango double-bill featuring Robert Xavier Rodriguez's Tango and Ástor Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires, held at the popular Midtown music venue The Stage on March 21-24, 2013.

"Sometimes it's about taking opera out of the opera house to revitalize the art form for new audiences, bringing them something they consider traditional in a completely unexpected way," said Susan Danis, FGO's General Director and CEO.

"Today's audiences demand to be engaged. The opera's new format is embracing that challenge by taking artists out of the formal performance hall and into people's everyday lives and, we hope, reminding them how important and fun the classics are," said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

With Unexpected Operas in Unexpected Places, FGO has created an opportunity to tap into Miami's ever-growing community of young art lovers while also breaking down common stereotypes about the art form being boring, stuffy, or drawn-out. Proving that this production is anything but, the show uses the local bar scene and a standing-room format to put audience members in the middle of the action as the brief, yet sultry tales of lust, romance, and tango unravel around them.

"The double bill is not only dark and provocative, but the music calls for an unconventional setting that mimics the bars and nightclubs of Buenos Aires, where the story takes place and tango itself was born," said Maestro Ramon Tebar, FGO Music Director and the production's conductor. "No other city brings nightlife and culture together like Miami. It was a perfect fit!"

This daring production is brought to life onstage by the exciting young voices of FGO's Young Artist Studio, with guest artists, Maestro Tebar at the podium and under the scenic direction of José Maria Condemi.

A two-time winner of FGO's Henry C. Clark Award and recently appointed Artistic Director of the Palm Beach Symphony, Tebar has been said to "... achieve perfect pitch and harmony from all parts of the orchestra and, with involved and passionate action, direct the tempo with perfection to motivate the entire orchestra, making poetry ...," according to a review by the Dominican newspaper Hoy Digital [translated from Spanish]. Condemi, who has directed a multitude of operas in varied repertoire throughout the country and abroad, is described by the Wall Street Journal as "ingenious ... a young Argentine-born director who makes no mistakes."


A product of the highly-acclaimed, living American composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez, Tango is a one-act comic concert operetta composed for a chamber ensemble and a single tenor, sung by Matthew Newlin, an FGO Young Artist who Opera News describes as a "sweet-toned" voice. Designed to present three consecutive scenes without pause, the action follows the protagonist at the height of the tango craze in 1913 as he embodies different characters to convey the varied perceptions of this seductive and polarizing dance.

"The amazing thing about the opera is that every word of the libretto is true. You couldn't make up stuff like this because no one would believe it," says Rodriguez. "It's an over-the-top crazy piece ... [and] I understand that the Miami production will be the most elaborate to date, so I can't wait to hear it."

The score takes root in the cabaret ensemble with the use of a bandoneón, a characteristic instrument of the Argentinean tango style, and a small orchestra resembling a tango band. The music tips its hat to the tango tradition by quoting popular classics - such as Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, Schubert's E-flat Major Piano Trio, and Brahms' Fourth Symphony - in a tango style. It also explores three contrasting variations of the tango dance style by quoting a sensual minuet from Mozart's Don Giovanni.

The work was commissioned by Voices of Change, a premiere American chamber music ensemble dedicated to performing small ensemble works by modern composers. It was premiered in 1986 and hailed as "a light-hearted piece by a very serious composer, as such, may well prove to be one of the treasures of our time," by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

This work will be sung in English, using the composer's own translation of the libretto.


The surreal plot of María de Buenos Aires is filled with elements of magical realism, a Latin American movement that thins the veil between fantasy and reality. This is the tale of ill-fated María, who was said to be born "on a day when God was drunk." Living in the poor suburbs of Buenos Aires, María is seduced by the sounds of tango, becoming a streetwalker, and falling victim to a tragic death. The audience then follows María's Shadow as it walks the city's Underground, which has become her hell.<

The work premiered at the Sala Planeta in Buenos Aires in May 1968, drawing on Piazzolla's famous nuevo tango style - a distinct incorporation of jazz and other Western elements into traditional tango, typically instrumented by a quintet composed of a bandoneón, violin, piano, guitar, and double bass - that has made this composer a definitive master of tango. María de Buenos Aires also follows a tradition of incorporating dance as an integral part of an operatic performance, making this an instrument to draw the audience further into the intriguing story. It was recently produced in January 2012 by Long Beach Opera and again in July 2012 by Cincinnati Opera, where the critic from Cincinnati.com fell under the production's "magical spell" and enjoyed "Piazzolla's haunting and wonderfully inventive score."

The leads - Colombian soprano Catalina Cuervo, singing as María, and Mexican baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco in the role of El Duende - are once again under Condemi's stage direction, having last performed in this operetta together with the Cincinnati Opera. The Chicago Tribune praised Cuervo for "her ability to articulate tango rhythm while singing long, sensuous lines" and called her "a marvel to behold." Orozco was said to sing "with emotion and added a gentle aura that caught the sadness of María's tale," by Cincinnati.com.

This work is being presented in a slightly abridged version that runs for 70 minutes and sung in Spanish.


Matthew Newlin ♦

María de Buenos Aires
El Duende

Luis Alejandro Orozco *

Catalina Cuervo *

[Both Productions]
Participating Young Artists

Cynthia Cook ♦

Adam Lau ♦

Hye Jung Lee ♦

Carla Jablonski ♦

Ryan Milstead ♦

Lacy Sauter ♦

Ramon Tebar

José Maria Condemi *
Set Designer

Erin Turner
Costume Designer

Camilla Haith
Lighting Designer

Heather Sparling

* = FGO Debut ◊ = Former Young Artist ♦ = Current Young Artist

Performances are being held at The Stage (170 Northeast 38th St., Miami, FL 33137) on March 21 through March 24, 2013. The evening's program is as follows:

8:00 p.m. - Doors Open
9:00 - 9:30 p.m. - Pre-show with live band
9:30 - 10:00 p.m. - Tango
10:00 - 10:15 p.m. - Intermission
10:15 - 11:15 p.m. - María de Buenos Aires

General admission, standing-room tickets are $25 per person; recommended for ages 18 and older. Tickets may be purchased in advance through the Florida Grand Opera Box Office by phone at (800) 741-1010 and online at www.FGO.org. Tickets will also be sold at the door the day of the event. FGO's Box Office is located at the Doral Center on 8390 NW 25 St., Doral, FL 33122, and is open to the public from 10am to 4pm, Mondays through Fridays, during the season.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Arts Challenge is a $40 million effort to bring South Florida together through the arts.

Florida Grand Opera (FGO), the oldest performing arts organizations in Florida, celebrates its 72nd year of continuously producing grand opera during the 2012-2013 season, which features: Puccini's La bohème, Nov. 17 through Dec. 8; Mozart's The Magic Flute, Jan. 29 through Feb. 23; Bellini's La sonnambula, Feb. 9 through Feb. 17; and Verdi's La traviata, Apr. 20 through May 5. Subscriptions for all four operas of the season start at $36 and single tickets start as low as $11. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (800) 741-1010 or online at www.FGO.org.

Founded in 1941 as Greater Miami Opera and later merging with The Opera Guild Inc. in 1994, FGO presents a mixture of standard repertoire and contemporary works as well as commissions new productions - all featuring projected translations in English and Spanish. FGO, recognized for funding by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding is also provided, in part, by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Cultural Affairs Council, the Mayor and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners and the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. Program support is provided by the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council. Florida Grand Opera is a Resident Company of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and a member company of OPERA America. American Airlines is the Official Airline, Intercontinental Miami is the Official Hotel and Steinway & Sons is the Official Piano of Florida Grand Opera.