Maria de Buenos Aires

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Back by popular demand!

The magic returns this season with an encore performance of Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera Maria de Buenos Aires. This sensual and seductive piece, the story of a tango-obsessed prostitute born on a day “when God was drunk,” will knock you over with its powerful storytelling and singing.

Once again, Le Maison Rouge tranforms into a sensual tango club, putting you in the middle of the story.

Performed in Spanish with English supertitles

Le Maison Rouge at Paris on Ponce

This production sponsored by The Molly Blank Fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

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Synopsis

Composer: Astor Piazzolla
Librettist: Horacio Ferrer
Premiere Date: May 8, 1968

The tale opens on Duende (the Narrator) who relates the story of Maria, a prostitute born in the slums “one day when God was drunk … with a curse in her voice.” Maria is seduced by the rhythms of the tango and soon becomes “the most sorcerous singer and lover” in Buenos Aires.

However, her “fatal passion” arouses the wrath of robbers and brothel madams who shoot her to death, and bury her in an unmarked grave. In death, Maria is pulled into a dreamlike Hell where she encounters the choral circus of psychoanalysts who dissect her to the core.

She makes a resurrection of sorts when the Duende summons her to return as a Shadow, give birth to a new Maria, and haunt the sordid streets of Buenos Aires which she once walked.

Get the Feeling

Photos by Jeff Roffman

Newbie Guide

Sponsored by the Molly Blank Fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The Discoveries series

The Discoveries series is dedicated to audience members who are seeking new works, new ideas and fresh perspectives. These are not your standard operas.

Locations

As part of The Opera’s effort to bring opera to new audiences all over Atlanta, these productions are performed in exciting alternative venues, such as The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Le Maison Rouge, Conant Performing Arts Center, Rialto Center for the Arts, and the Alliance Theatre.

Supertitles

Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.

What to Wear

There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.

Arriving in Good Time

If you are late, you will have to sit the first act in the back and then in the intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.

Directions to Discoveries series Venues

Enhance Your Visit

Backstory

Discoveries series performances include events either before or after the performance. As part of the Backstory program, these experiences allow audience members to learn more about the opera, open a conversation around important topics, and participate with the cast in conversation, dancing, and many other formats. Free for ticket holders.

Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.

Composer

Astor Piazzolla
(1921-1992)

Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on March 11, 1921. His parents were poor Italian immigrants who moved to New York City in 1924, affording the young Piazzolla extensive exposure to jazz artists like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. His father also played tango records by the early masters, especially the legendary vocalist/composer Carlos Gardel, and gave Astor a bandoneon for his ninth birthday. In addition to lessons on that instrument (which encompassed American music, like Gershwin, as well as tango), Piazzolla also studied with classical pianist Bela Wilda in 1933, becoming an ardent fan of Bach and Rachmaninoff. Around the same time, the budding prodigy met and played with Carlos Gardel, appearing as a newspaper boy in Gardel’s watershed tango film El Dia que Me Quieras. The teenaged Piazzolla turned down an offer to tour South America with Gardel in 1935, a fortuitous decision that kept him out of the tragic plane crash that claimed Gardel’s life.

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In 1936, Piazzolla’s family returned to Mar del Plata, and his passion for tango music was fired anew by violinist Elvino Vardaro’s sextet. The still-teenaged Piazzolla moved to Buenos Aires in 1938, seeking work as a musician. After about a year of dues-paying, he caught on with the widely renowned Anibal Troilo orchestra, where he spent several high-profile years. In the meantime, he continued his study of piano and music theory, counting future classical composer Alberto Ginastera (1941) and pianist Raul Spivak (1943) as his teachers. He began composing for Troilo during this period, although his more ambitious, classically influenced pieces were often edited for accessibility’s sake. In 1944, Piazzolla left Troilo’s group to become the orchestra leader behind singer Francisco Fiorentino; two years later, he formed his own group, playing mostly traditional tangos, yet already with hints of modernism. This group broke up in 1949, and Piazzolla, unsure of his musical direction, sought a way to leave tango behind for more refined pursuits. He studied Ravel, Bartók, and Stravinsky, also immersing himself in American jazz, and worked mostly on his compositional skills for a few years. His 1953 piece “Buenos Aires” caused a stir for its use of bandoneon in a classical orchestral setting.

In 1954, Piazzolla won a scholarship to study in Paris with the hugely influential Nadia Boulanger, who also taught Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, and Quincy Jones, among many others. Boulanger encouraged Piazzolla not to ignore tango, but to reinvigorate the form with his jazz and classical training. Piazzolla returned home in 1955 and immediately set the tango world on its ear, forming an octet that played tango as self-contained chamber music, rather than accompaniment for vocalists or dancers. The howls of protest from traditionalists continued unabated until 1958, when Piazzolla disbanded the group and went to New York City; there he worked as an arranger and experimented with a fusion of jazz and tango, also composing the famed “Adios Nonino,” a lovely ode to his recently departed father.

Returning to Buenos Aires in 1960, Piazzolla formed his first quintet, the Quinteto Tango Nuevo, which would become the primary vehicle for his forward-looking vision. Over the course of the ’60s, Piazzolla would refine and experiment heavily, pushing the formal structure of tango to its breaking point. In 1965, he made a record of his concert at New York’s Philharmonic Hall, and also cut an album of poems by Jorge Luis Borges set to music. In 1967, Piazzolla struck a deal with poet Horacio Ferrer to collaborate exclusively with each other, resulting in the groundbreaking so-called “operita” Maria de Buenos Aires, which was premiered by singer Amelita Baltar in 1968 (she would later become Piazzolla’s second wife). Piazzolla and Ferrer next collaborated on a series of “tango-canciones” (tango songs) which produced his first genuine commercial hit, “Balada Para un Loco” (“Ballad of a Madman”). In addition to composing songs and more elaborate pieces for orchestra (such as 1970’s El Pueblo Joven), Piazzolla also flexed his muscles scoring numerous films of the period.

The ’70s started out well for Piazzolla, as an acclaimed European tour brought the opportunity to form a nine-piece group to play his music in especially lush fashion. However, all was not well. Argentina’s government was taken over by a conservative military faction, and everything that Piazzolla symbolized — modern refinement, an ostensible lack of respect for tradition — suddenly became politically unwelcome. In 1973, Piazzolla suffered a heart attack, and after recovering, he decided that, with sentiments running high against him, it would be wiser for him to live in Italy. There he formed a group called the Conjunto Electronico, which placed bandoneon at the forefront of what was essentially, instrumentation-wise, an electric jazz ensemble; this period also produced one of his most celebrated compositions, “Libertango.” In 1974, Piazzolla cut an album with jazz baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan called Summit, with backing by Italian musicians; the following year, he found a new favorite vocal interpreter in Jose Angel Trelles. 1976 brought a major concert back in Buenos Aires, with the Conjunto Electronico premiering the piece “500 Motivaciones.”

Tiring of electric music, Piazzolla formed a new quintet in 1978 and toured extensively all over the world, also composing new chamber and symphonic works in the meantime. His reputation grew steadily, making him a prime candidate for exposure in the U.S. during the world-music craze of the latter half of the ’80s. In 1986, Piazzolla entered the studio with his quintet and American producer Kip Hanrahan and recorded what he considered the finest album of his career, Tango: Zero Hour. The same year, he played the Montreux Jazz Festival with vibraphonist Gary Burton, resulting in the live set Suite for Vibraphone and New Tango Quintet. The official follow-up to Tango: Zero Hour, The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night, won equally glowing reviews, and Piazzolla staged a major homecoming concert in New York’s Central Park in 1987.

Unfortunately, at the height of his international fame (and belated celebration at home), Piazzolla’s health began to fail him. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 1988, but recovered well enough to mount an international tour in 1989, including what would be his final concert in Argentina. La Camorra, another excellent recording, was released in 1989, the same year Piazzolla formed a new sextet with an unheard-of two bandoneons. In 1990, he recorded a short album with modern-classical iconoclasts the Kronos Quartet, titled Five Tango Sensations. Sadly, not long afterward, Piazzolla suffered a stroke that left him unable to perform or compose. Almost two years later, on July 4, 1992, he died in his beloved Buenos Aires due to the lingering after-effects, leaving behind a monumental legacy as one of South America’s greatest musical figures ever, and a major composer of the 20th century.

AllMusic.com
Artist Biography by Steve Huey

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Librettist

Horacio Ferrer
(1933-2014)

Ferrer was born in Montevideo into an educated family, son of Horacio Ferrer Perez, a Professor of History, and Alicia Escurra Francini, who was 11 years older than his father and spoke four languages. He had a close relationship with his brother, Eduardo, to whom he dedicated several of his lyrics.

The family paid frequent visits to his mother’s brother in Buenos Aires, Argentina where Ferrer learnt to play tangos on the guitar by ear. Later his uncle would introduce him to the bohemian nightlife of the city.

He studied architecture and engineering for eight years but never graduated. In the 1950s, when he was in his early 20s, he helped to produce the weekly radio programme Seleccion de Tangos in Montevideo which aimed to promote new developments in tango. Out of the programme grew El Club de la Guardia Nueva which he founded in Buenos Aires in 1954 to organise concerts in Montevideo for those musicians who were helping to revolutionise tango, such as Aníbal Troilo, Horacio Salgán and particularly Astor Piazzolla and his famous Octeto Buenos Aires. Ferrer’s first meeting with Piazzolla in 1955, after Piazzolla returned from France, would prove an important turning point in Ferrer’s life.

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For a period of seven years he edited, illustrated and directed the magazine Tangueando, while the tangos and poems he was writing at that time remained unpublished. Between 1956 and 1959 he studied the bandoneon and joined a small tango orchestra as a bandoneonist. He published his first book in 1959 entitled El Tango: su historia y evolución and until 1967 broadcast programmes about the history of tango for Sodre, one of the radio stations of the official Uruguayan network.

After quitting his studies on architecture he worked as an editor for supplements of the Montevidean morning newspaper El Dia. His career as a tango lyricist began with a request from the renowned Argentine bandoneonist Anibal Troilo to write lyrics for Piazzolla’s tango La última grela.

In 1967 he wrote an anthology of poems, Romancero canyengue. Upon hearing a recording of Ferrer reciting these poems, accompanied by the guitarist Agustín Carlevaro, Piazzolla invited him to collaborate on the writing of the opereta María de Buenos Aires. The work was premiered in 1968 in the Sala Planeta in Buenos Aires with Piazzolla and a ten-piece orchestra, the singers Héctor de Rosas and Amelita Baltar and with Ferrer as reciter in the role of El Duende.

Piazzolla and Ferrer now started to compose a series of tangos, with a clear social commitment, such as the well-known Chiquilín de Bachín and Juanito Laguna ayuda a su madre. In 1969 they composed a series of tangos in the form of ballads, among which stands out Balada para un loco, performed for the first time with the singer Amelita Baltar in the Buenos Aires Tango Festival . Although the performance caused a dispute to break out between supporters and opponents of nuevo tango, the work immediately became a popular success and has remained one of the most representative songs of Buenos Aires. Other songs written by the Piazzolla-Ferrer duo at this time were Canción de las venusinasLa bicicleta blanca and Fábula para Gardel, included in the album Astor Piazzolla y Horacio Ferrer en persona.

In 1970 Ferrer wrote El Libro del Tango. Arte Popular de Buenos Aires, and followed it in 1980 with an enlarged three volume edition of more than two thousand pages which is one of the most detailed studies of tango and became a standard reference work on the subject. He worked with a series of renowned tango musicians such as Roberto Grela, Leopoldo Federico and Paul Garello and with Horacio Salgán he composed the Oratorio Carlos Gardel in 1975. The following year he wrote lyrics to Loquito Mio with Julio De Caro, Esquinero with Pedro Laurenz, El Hombre que fue ciudad with Armando Pontier, Yo payador me confieso with Osvaldo Pugliese and Tu penultimo tango with Anibal Troilo. Ferrer is responsible for the lyrics of other tangos, including Balada para mi muerteEl gordo triste(written by Piazzolla as a tribute to Anibal Troilo) and El hombrecito blanco.

In 1983 he acquired Argentine citizenship, and was president of the Academia Nacional de Tango in Argentina from its foundation in 1990.

Wikipedia

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Conductor

Jorge Parodi

Reviewed as having “the most expressive conducting hands since Stokowski’s,” (New York Daily News) Argentinean-born conductor Jorge Parodi has worked as conductor at Buenos Aires Lírica (Argentina), The Banff Centre (Canada), Tsaritsynskaya Opera Volgograd (Russia), Encuentros Internacionales de Opera (Mexico), Hofstra University and New York University among others; and as coach or repetiteur at several prestigious institutions, including the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Opera Tampa, Connecticut Grand Opera, Lake George Opera Festival to name a few. He has collaborated with such artists as Tito Capobianco, Sherrill Milnes, and Rufus Wainwright; and he has assisted conductors of the caliber of Lorin Maazel and Julius Rudel.

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Director

Tomer Zvulun

General and Artistic Director of The Atlanta Opera since 2013, Tomer Zvulun is also one of opera’s most exciting stage directors, earning consistent praise for his creative vision, often described as cinematic and fresh. His work has been presented by prestigious opera houses around the world, including The Metropolitan Opera, the opera companies of Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buenos Aires, Wexford, New Orleans, Minnesota and Wolf Trap, as well as leading educational institutes and universities such as The Juilliard School, Indiana University, Boston University, and IVAI in Tel Aviv. His debut in New York was in a new production of L’heure espagnole and Gianni Schicchi at Juilliard Opera Center that was praised by The New York Times for its “witty, fast-paced staging and the director’s Felliniesque style.”

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Known for creating innovative, visually striking new interpretations for standard operas as well as championing new works by contemporary composers, his work has been seen internationally in Europe, South and Central America, Israel, and the US. Recently he created critically acclaimed new productions of Semele (Seattle Opera) Lucia di Lammermoor (Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveleand), La bohème (Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta), Lucrezia Borgia (Buenos Aires), Gianni Schicchi (Juilliard, IVAI Tel Aviv), L’heure espagnole (Juilliard), The Magic Flute (Cincinnati, Atlanta, Indiana University), Don Giovanni (Wolf Trap, Cincinnati), Die Fledermaus (Dallas, Kansas City), Falstaff (Wolf Trap, Des Moines), Rigoletto (Boston, Atlanta, Omaha), Madama Butterfly (Atlanta, Castleton Festival), Tosca (National Theatre Panama, Atlanta) and Dialogues of the Carmelites (IVAI Tel Aviv), among many others.

His passion for producing new works by living composers was realized in the acclaimed European premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night at Wexford Festival Opera in 2014. The production won two Irish Times Awards and will be remounted at The Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera.
In 2015-16 he created a new production of Soldier Songs (David T. Little) as a part of the award-winning Discoveries Series in Atlanta in a production that traveled to San Diego Opera. He then went on to create an acclaimed new production of Dead Man Walking that marked his return to New Orleans Opera. This was his second collaboration with composer Jake Heggie following his new production of Three Decembers at Boston University.

Some of his upcoming projects include the world premiere of the new opera Dinner at Eight (Bolcom) at Minnesota Opera, followed by the European premiere at Wexford Festival, new productions of Maria de Buenos Aires and Die Fliegende Holländer in Atlanta, a new Giulio Cesare for the Israeli Opera (Acco Festival), a new Eugene Onegin at Kansas City and a revival of his acclaimed production of La bohème in Dallas.

Since taking the leadership in Atlanta he increased the operations of the company from 12 to 26 performances per season, while stabilizing the financials. Some of his noted achievements include launching the successful Discoveries series, a program that presents new contemporary works and rarely done operas in alternative venues, creating the first young artist program in the company’s history, and doubling the company annual fundraising.

His work at The Atlanta Opera earned the company an international reputation by earning numerous awards and prizes, including a nomination for the 2016 International Opera Awards in London, the selection of the acclaimed Discoveries series in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Best of 2015 list, and his recent nomination for the 2016 Atlanta Luminary awards.

As a stage director, he made his debut in Atlanta with a critically acclaimed Die Fliegende Holländer in 2009, a production which led to a series of memorable new co-productions with sister opera companies including The Magic Flute, Lucia di Lammermoor, Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, La bohème, and Romeo and Juliet.

During his 7 years at the Metropolitan Opera, Tomer has directed revivals of Tosca and Carmen, and worked on a number of new productions, most notably La rondine, La traviata, La fille du régiment, Iphigénie en Tauride, and Manon. Tomer was born and raised in Israel, served as a medic in a combat unit in IDF, attended the Tel Aviv Open University and The Harvard Business School executive program.

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