The international ensemble of musicians performed the most amazing feats of memory and skill and as in the aforementioned productions, playing without the aid to memory of notes and moving around the stage as part of the action. Cork percussionist, Alex Petcu created the dream like mood on marimba. Ville Hiltula from Finland added the hallmark bandoneon part. Niwel Tsumba was a lynchpin on guitar. There were just two singing roles, both in the lower registers adding to the darkness of mood. Both were compelling, doing justice to Piazzolla's strange and beguiling score, combining traditional elements of the dance form with modern compositional techniques. Portuguese baritone, Nuno Silva had a beautiful and unusual voice and together with local girl, Una Palliser's sensuous violin lines, would have been worth the excursion alone. The lighting and set effectively transported us from the murky Leeside evening to a sleazy Latino waterfront bordello and the sound was perfect, amplification effective but not obtrusive. So far so sizzling. So why did it all fail to catch fire for me?
To misquote Emperor Franz Joseph-, there were just too many words. The plot could be summed up in a few lines. Maria, embodiment of the spirit of the tango is born in the slums, seduced by the dance, led astray by it, meets a bad end, dies and is reborn. Or something to that effect. To convey this flimsy plot we have seemingly endless declaimed monologues by actress, Olwen Fouere in full Beckettian mode in the androgynous role of El Duende, a mythical poet narrator figure. A case of too 'much a Duende about' too little plot, for me, I fear. I did love her bar room soliloquy to Maurice Seezer's piano in the second half which reminded me a little of Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is' but less of this aspect of the production would have been more.
The choreography in an effort to blend contemporary, ballet and traditional forms resulted in the tango ingredient being somewhat decaffeinated and not quite the central element I might have anticipated given the subtitle of the work.
Promotional video for Maria de Buenos Aires from Cork Opera House in the link here.
My review of Pagliacci at the Everyman here http://cathydesmond.blogspot.de/2012/06/pagliacci-for-everyman-cork-midsummer.html