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Milwaukee's Night of Tango

Nov. 14, 2011
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“I am Maria, Maria tango, slum Maria, Maria night, Maria fatal passion, Maria love of Buenos Aires, that's me.”

The opera tango Maria de Buenos Aires is a rich story of dance, death and desire, with music by Astor Piazzolla and text by Horacio Ferrer. The story revolves around the character Maria, who is born from a goblin summoning her from the pavement of an Argentinean street. She leaves the goblin and wanders to Buenos Aires. The beautiful Maria is seduced by the concertina, into the tango culture. She gives herself to it, and it leads to her death. Her shadow does not succumb to the underworld, and searches Argentina for anyone who knew Maria. The shadow then comically encounters Freudian psychiatrists, who attempt to exorcise her memories. The goblin, saddened by Maria's demise summons three marionettes to un-immaculately conceive in Maria's shadow a daughter—named Maria. The cycle may continue. If the tale sounds crazy, it is. Maria de Buenos Aires was presented by Danceworks Performance Company, the Milwaukee Opera Theatre, the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, and the UWM dance department at Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Really only one word can accurately describe the performance: passionate. The set was remarkably simple, a table with chairs and lights cast on white curtains hanging from the church ceiling. The red, pink and magenta cast over the dancers and singers made the whole space confined and intimate, much like tango. However, the lighting also brought an element of fantasy, as green and blue were used to disturb the otherwise pretty set.

The dancers were excellent. The choreography seemed like a mix between possession and ballet; one could argue it was tango taken to an extreme. The cast of dancers was used to express perhaps Maria's emotions of love and fear, and to act as Argentinean vices. Dancers entered the floor from beneath the seats of audience members, while the orchestra played some beautiful tango music.

There was dialogue, all in distinctly common and informal Argentinean street Spanish. There were loose translations cast on walls to help the English speakers follow.

Catalina Cuervo played Maria. She was matchless, embodying the ardor and sadness of Maria. Her voice hit the low alto notes and then medium soprano notes with ease. Her movement was sultry, to act as a foil to the disturbing movements of the Danceworks dancers. Simon Eichinger, the sole male dancer, was exciting to watch, and brought a nice balance to the mostly female cast.

The whole work was like a dream, that weird and passionate dream you can't wait to have again.


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