BWW Review: TANGO PROM, Royal Albert Hall
As the Proms enters September and we approach the end of the run of a staggering 91 concerts, Prom 70 sees the inaugural Tango Prom. Tango is celebrated for its sultry melodies and atmospheric use of the bandoneon, creating its unique identity known to social dancers and music fans alike.
When one imagines tango dancing, one probably pictures the backstreets of Buenos Aires, but the evening's Prom takes the audience not only on a thrilling journey through South America but Europe too, featuring a section on the phenomenal popularity of tango in Finland, no less. We're also treated to a history lesson, with classic pieces from Piazzolla through to modern compositions from Pablo Ziegler, who makes his Proms debut.
Proceedings begin with on familiar ground with vocalist Nahuel di Pierro taking us through a selection of short favourites from Anibal Troilo (Sur), Carlos Gardel (Mano a mano) and Juan Carlos Cobian (El motivo). It's a traditional and sensuous opening, conducted enthusiastically by Clark Rundall.
El motivo also marks the first contribution from Argentine Tango and 10 Dance Champions Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace. They present a melancholy number, the lyrics of which tell the story of a once glamorous 'party queen' fallen on hard times.
It's a brooding, understated performance that hints at the more dramatic and modern interpretations of tango that are to follow. The choreography is intricate and the pinpoint footwork never falters. Strictly Come Dancing fans will instantly be transported to their glory days on the BBC show.
Our next destination is Northern Europe, with a selection of tango compositions favoured by the Finns. This is accompanied by a charismatic soprano in Helena Juntunen, who keeps the audience tittering with her witty asides throughout. "We are also very passionate in Finland," she says, "we just don't show it."
The standout from the selection is Satumaa, a symbolic anthem in Finland. It's a spiky, spirited piece famed for its frantic accordion solo, here played skilfully by Veli Kujala.
We leave Finland with a surprise in the form of a reworking of the David Bowie's "Life on Mars", tango-ified by Timo Hietala and Strictly-fied by Vincent and Flavia, making for a heady, drama-filled finale to the first act.
For Act Two, the Britten Sinfonia are joined on stage by composer and pianist Pablo Ziegler for a host of more melodic, dreamy tango numbers. That's not before there is a brief glimpse of the tango champions once more, this time accompanied by Astor Piazzolla's iconic Libertango.
Cacace and Simone dance it with great maturity. It's a piece they have no doubt performed countless times, effortlessly conveying the heavy intensity with long, stalking walks interspersed with thrilling kicks and jumps.
The evening culminates in crowd-pleasing style with all the performers taking to the stage for a rendition of the much loved La Camprasita - think tango music and this is the piece that probably comes to mind.
The programme is able presented by resident Prom Queen (and former Strictly contestant) Katie Derham, who signposts the the journey through tango history with a likeable authority.
The Tango Prom took place on 4 September and can be seen on BBC Four on Friday, 7 September
Picture credit: BBC