BBC Music Magazine - - Opera -

María de Buenos Aires Valentina Mon­toya Martínez, Ni­cholas Mul­roy (singers), Juanjo Lopez Vi­dal (nar­ra­tor), Vic­tor Vil­lena (ban­do­neon); Mr Mc­fall’s Cham­ber Del­phian DCD 34186 88:01 mins (2 discs) In­sti­ga­tor of the inf lu­en­tial nuevo tango and a com­plex and in­no­va­tive fig­ure in the mu­si­cal life of his Ar­gen­tinian home­land, As­tor Pi­az­zolla (1921-92) pro­duced just one work some­times la­belled as an opera. He him­self won­dered what the piece re­ally was, dis­avow­ing terms such as opera, mu­si­cal, ora­to­rio and can­tata be­fore fi­nally com­ing up with the word ‘operita’, via ‘obra’ (work) and ‘obrita’ (lit­tle work). How­ever one re­gards it, María de Buenos Aires has since been staged many times in many dif­fer­ent coun­tries and this new record­ing comes from – of all places – Ed­in­burgh.

The piece it­self is a prod­uct not only of Pi­az­zolla at this stage of his ca­reer (1968), when clas­si­cal inf lu­ences had in­fil­trated his own dis­tinc­tive ver­sion of some­thing gen­uinely pop­u­lar, yet of­ten sub­tle and am­bigu­ous. With some sort of vague nar­ra­tive con­tained within Ho­ra­cio Fer­rer’s sur­re­ally po­et­i­cal text, María cel­e­brates the lowlife cul­ture of the city through its sym­bolic hero­ine, both cabaret singer and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the eter­nal fem­i­nine.

Valentina Mon­toya Martínez gives the cen­tral char­ac­ter a fullf lavoured vo­cal em­bod­i­ment, in­tel­li­gently sup­ported by Juanjo Lopez Vi­dal as the nar­ra­tor fig­ure, El Duende, and with tenor Ni­cholas Mul­roy gamely qua­dru­pling up in var­i­ous sec­ondary parts, no­tably The Voice of a Payador and the Sleepy Buenos Aires Spar­row.

Ad­di­tional au­then­tic­ity is supplied by ban­doneón player and mu­sic di­rec­tor Vic­tor Vil­lena, who to­gether with the ver­sa­tile mu­si­cians of Mr Mc­fall’s Cham­ber and the speak­ing cho­rus sum­mons up the spirit of Pi­az­zolla’s piece with con­vic­tion in the vividly scored in­stru­men­tal sec­tions as well as the vo­cal parts.

Ge­orge Hall


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