Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 8:00 PM

George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium

Maria de Buenos Aires is a genre-bending tango-oratorio that is hauntingly seductive and surreal. Maria was born in the slums of Buenos Aires, Argentina "on a day that God was drunk... with a curse in her voice." 

PASO performs this beautiful music with its hallucinatory lyrics with an all Argentine cast: Mariana Quinteros as Maria; Martin de Leon as the Dreamy Sparrow and the Gaucho Minstrel, Hugo Medrano as the Poet Goblin and Drunk.  With a talking choir of psychoanalysts and Argentine bandone√≥n player, Rodolfo Zanetti, this is a gripping show you will not want to miss!

It's difficult to describe the plot of Maria de Buenos Aires. It is surreal, peppered with Argentine slang (called "lunfardo"), and full of religious allusions and black humor. It's about passion, lust, the supernatural, the spirit and it's set against the busy city of Buenos Aires. There is an eclectic cast of characters, including thieves, card sharps, pimps, whores, brothel madams, pasta makers, a sparrow, a goblin, a choir of psychoanalysts, and Maria herself in various personifications. Ill-fated Maria was born in the slums of Buenos Aires on a day when God got drunk and seduced by the sounds of tango and seeking freedom, she becomes the sensual singer and lover of Buenos Aires. Her passion drives men to madness and she is eventually murdered by a spurned lover (the city of Buenos Aires?) who conspires with thieves and brothel madams to do her in. After her death, her shadow haunts the streets, her own living hell, the same streets she once walked as a lady of the night.

The Pan American Symphony Orchestra premiered this work in Washington, DC in September 1996, and The Washington Post then wrote:
There is nothing at all confusing about the music. Piazzolla became world famous in his later years as the king of Argentine tango, and that passionate, rhythmically exciting dance form, with variations, is the basic musical language of "Maria de Buenos Aires" -- a language that's powerful, engaging and easy to understand. Maria is many kinds of woman, unattainable but also a prostitute, dead but resurrected, simultaneously tragic and comic, and invoked at the end with a litany that echoes the Ave Maria:

Our Maria of Buenos Aires,
Forgotten art thou among women,
Our Maria of Buenos Aires,
Portent art thou among women.

Among other dimensions, the operita is a love song to Buenos Aires, symbolized by Maria. The men who love, lose, curse and manipulate her are as symbolic as Maria: a goblin (actually a duende, for which no precise equivalent exists in English), a street person named Buenos Aires Dreamy Sparrow, a psychoanalyst, thieves, marionettes, bricklayers, a gaucho minstrel. The story dissolves in a cloud of poetic-symbolic details, which are what count.
Joe McClellan, The Washington Post, September 19, 1996.