We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Jorge Parodi
JP Jofre
Marcelo Guzzo
Maria de Buenos Aires was composed over 40 years ago by Astor Piazzolla and has been getting produced all around the world.  This past weekend it was given an admirable production as the capstone of the Opera Hispanica Festival; Founder and Artistic Director Daniel Frost Hernandez left no detail to chance, assembling a fine cast and production team.  Nine musicians were in the capable hands of Maestro Jorge Parodi, Artistic Director, Music Director and conductor of undisputable talent.  Chief among them was JP Jofre whose electrifying playing of the bandoneon is both music and dance.  Guitarist Tali Roth also stood out for her fine musicianship.  The opera has a marvelous melody "Tema de Maria" which is reprised a couple times throughout the opera, a tune which we have been humming all night.

There were only two sung roles; performing the part of the eponymous heroine was Solange Merdinian whose movement skills were just as impressive as her voice and baritone Marcelo Guzzo as El Payador, a gentle country poet whose dark chocolate voice reminded me of Guinness.  (Well, it was St. Patrick's Day!)  Having learned a bit about the Argentinean dialect from Maestro Parodi at the master class a couple days earlier, we feel confident in saying that the diction was right on point.

The spoken role of El Duende was performed by Gerardo Gudiño and one couldn't ask for any more from an evil spirit  reciting surreal poetry.  As far as the libretto by Uruguayan poet Horacio Ferrer, it had a lovely rhythm in Spanish and was replete with symbolism but not in narrative coherence.  The projected English translation was not much different from other translations into English; neither comprehensible nor poetic.  The story is not even meant to be a narrative but a rather surrealistic examination of redemption.  Allusions to the story of the virgin birth and perhaps also to Jesus' resurrection are also present.

Stage Director Beth Greenberg did her customary excellent work in keeping one's attention focused on the significant action.  Maria in Part I is an unfortunate prostitute from the ghetto and in Part II, after her death, a "shadow" (perhaps what we call "a shade") who gives birth to herself for what may be a second chance at life.

Choreographer Daniel Fetecua Soto along with dancers Gayle Madeira and Sidney Grant provided the tango dancing.  We have never seen a tango for three dancers and found it rather compelling.  When not dancing, the trio sat at the back of the stage at a table, drinking and passing the time.  Projections were provided by Brett Banakis and Anka Lupes was credited with the costume design.

Choosing a nightclub in Greenwich Village as a venue was an interesting choice.  The buzz about the tango opera was huge and there was insufficient standing room for all the folks who wanted to attend.  The applause was deafening and the many curtain calls responded to the adulation of the audience.  On the other hand, the multiple distractions of people ordering food and drinks as well as the consequent delivery and consumption of same was a bit distracting.  To those accustomed to nightclubs it wouldn't be a problem; to those who attend musical events in an auditorium it would be.

We are eager to see what impressario Daniel Frost Hernandez has up his sleeve next!

(c) meche kroop

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