Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles

Astor Piazzolla: Maria de Buenos Aires

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Even more than Piazzolla's other works, the "tango-operita" María de Buenos Aires outraged traditional tango fans at its 1968 premiere with its surreal, proto-feminist libretto about a woman, María, who embodies the city of Buenos Aires itself: "I am my town! María tango, María slum, María night, María fatal passion, María of love, of Buenos Aires, that's me." Much of her story is told in a kind of poetic Sprechstimme, but there is a great variety of other music as well, some of it comic. The opera has been performed in various ways, but rarely staged (although, contrary to the demurrals of even some of Piazzolla's admirers, an imaginative director would have no trouble mounting María de Buenos Aires). Here you get a 2008 recording by the Belgian contemporary music group Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles, nicely spruced up sonically by the Neos label in 2016. The players are not tango musicians, and the performance lacks a certain degree of what Piazzolla called "mud." But this is a clear, straightforward reading of the work, in Piazzolla's original quintet setting, benefiting greatly from the inclusion of the full text by Uruguayan poet Horacio Ferrer, translated into English, French, and German. Sample one of the opera's more famous numbers, such as the song Yo soy María for a representative slice of the whole. Recordings of María de Buenos Aires are not abundant, and this respectfully presented version is a valuable addition to the Piazzolla discography.

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