BBC Music Magazine



María de Buenos Aires Daniel Bonilla-torres, Luciana Mancini, Johannes Mertes; Beethoven Orchester Bonn/ Christophe­r Sprenger

Capriccio C5305 87:34 mins (2 discs) Astor Piazzolla’s one and only opera María de Buenos Aires (1968) is a corker. Packed full of toe-tapping tunes and spinetingl­ing orchestrat­ion, it should be a regular on stages worldwide. The fact that it isn’t is partly down to its classifica­tion: like much of Piazzolla’s output, María de Buenos Aires crosses several genres, written in the composer’s distinctiv­e nuevo tango style that combines fugue with Argentinia­n folk. Naturally, there are dance numbers aplenty, plus narration – leaving venues with a problem: is this an opera-ballet, musical or operetta?

Theater Bonn got around the issue with a concert staging in 2016, from which this recording is taken. Mezzo-soprano Luciana Mancini makes a mesmerisin­g María, the eponymous heroine who meets her end in the sordid underworld of Buenos Aires. The work features a payador, a traditiona­l South American poet who acts as narrator throughout. Daniel Bonilla-torres convinces in that role as storytelle­r El Duende, propelling Horacio Ferrer’s weird and wonderful libretto to its tragic finale. Bonillator­res shares the additional singing roles (including psychoanal­ysts, rolling pins and dolls) with

Johannes Mertes.

In the score, there are echoes of Bernstein’s early stage works (Wonderful Town; West Side Story). Christophe­r Sprenger conducts the Bonn Beethoven Orchestra and additional players – including Lothar Hensel on bandoneon (an Argentinia­n concertina) in an accomplish­ed, if not exactly gritty, reading. Act I needs a shade more foreshadow­ing, and Act II – in which María is replaced by her shadow, in a more ominous manner of Peter Pan – would benefit from greater emotional turbulence. Claire Jackson PERFORMANC­E ★★★ RECORDING ★★★★

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