María de Buenos Aires
Valentina Montoya Martínez, Nicholas Mulroy (singers), Juanjo Lopez Vidal (narrator), Victor Villena (bandoneon); Mr McFall’s Chamber
Delphian DCD 34186
Instigator of the influential 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 influences 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 full-flavoured 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.