Here’s something you won’t see at Lyric Opera, and not likely even at Chicago Opera Theater: a tango opera. We tend to think of the tango as largely an instrumental genre and of its greatest exponent, Argentine composer and bandoneón virtuoso Ástor Piazzolla, as the master of the genre.
In 1968, however, Piazzolla wrote an opera with Argentine poet Horacio Ferrer since, as Piazzolla remarked when they first met, “You are doing in your poetry what I am doing in my music.”
The end result, “María de Buenos Aires,” is a large-scale work that is to the tango what Johann Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus” is to the waltz: not a mere pastiche of one sung dance after another, but a cohesive narrative told via tango, in this case incorporating various types of tango, including traditional, romance, song, modern, milonga and yes, even waltz, along with folk music from the Pampas.
The cast of this City of Chicago twelfth annual Summer Opera production includes soprano Catalina Cuervo in the title role along with baritone Ricardo Herrera and Grammy Award-winning bandoneón player Raul Jaurena.Of particular interest is that music director Gerardo Moreira, a longtime champion of the work who has performed it throughout Latin America, is traveling from Rio de la Plata to conduct the production which will be narrated in the original dialect of Rio de la Plata, lunfardo, by co-director Elbio Barilari.
The fully staged production will also be co-directed by Tango 21 artistic director Jorge Niedas and will incorporate tango sequences performed by Joffrey Ballet guest dancer Victoria Vargas. (Dennis Polkow)
August 12 & 13 at 7:30pm; August 14 at 3pm; Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall, 78 East Washington, (312)744-6630. Free.