|Malena Dayen, Daniel Irizarry, Eugenia Forteza, Suchan Kim, Mouna R'miki, and Marcelo Guzzo
Defying our concept of opera at every turn, Astor Piazzolla's 1968 tango operita was nonetheless a compelling piece of music theater which captivated the audience with some fine performances and musical values. The main characters, Maria and El Payador, were portrayed by mezzo-soprano Malena Dayen and baritone Marcelo Guzzo who introduced us to the work six years ago, performing excerpts as part of the Opera Hispanica Festival.
The work itself was performed at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. Beth Greenberg's inventive direction was accompanied by program notes, providing an exegesis of Horacio Ferrrer's libretto, comprising surreal poetry which we found to be abstruse. We are quite sure that those who love poetry were better able to plumb the depths of the very symbolism which baffled us. If one hadn't seen the work before or read about it, one would have no clue as to the story.
The work has been produced recently by the New York City Opera and by Arizona Opera, among other companies. But for this sold-out run by Bare Opera, Ms. Dayen, herself a Porteño, got her chance to direct the piece; she staged it in the spacious rear gallery of the Bellewether with plenty of "meta" input from a videographer whose images were projected in real time on the rear wall of the space, behind the musicians. It is a powerful but puzzling production.
We enjoyed the boutique orchestra, especially the piano of Music Director/Conductor David Rosenmeyer and the bandoneón of Rodolfo Zanetti. The rest of the orchestra comprised guitar, flute, a string quartet, a double bass, and two percussionists. There was even some recorded music. The persistence of a descending scale of five notes recurred throughout the piece, lending unity.
The pleasures of enjoying the unamplified operatic voice went missing, although we admit that the amplification was not excessive. Much of the text was recited rather than sung.
Ms. Dayen and Mr. Guzzo are both powerful and intense; they performed with commitment. Also onstage were two women who often mirrored Ms. Dayen's movements--Eugenia Forteza and Mouna R'miki.
The male roles were performed by Suchan Kim and Daniel Irizarry. Ms. R'miki and Mr. Irizarry were listed as "Duende", the role of the trickster spirit, although that was not conveyed dramatically.
We thought highly of the choreography of Troy Ogilvie who made singers look like dancers, creating effective movement that was minimally challenging. Maximally challenging were the movements of Mr. Irizarry who may find a new career as a break dancer; he climbed the steel beams overhead with the agility of a simian.
Anthony Tornambene's lighting design was effective; at a couple points, the women held small lights in the palms of their hands and moved them around their bodies providing eerie illumination.
Taylor Mills' Costume Design was simple and executed in neutral unobtrusive colors.
This female led company is noted for five years of unconventional productions, never failing to reinvent the opera-going experience. Entering "Bare Opera" in the search bar above will give you the opportunity to read about some of their other revolutionary additions to the operatic landscape.
(c) meche kroop