<< -- 2 -- David Wilkins MARIA OF HOPE OR DESPAIR?
But what, anyway, is Maria de Buenos Aires about? I can't imagine that anyone still alive in the
world -- apart from its librettist, Horacio Ferrer -- could do justice to its myriad symbols and intents.
It's certainly about the soul of the great city and the deprivations of its poorest downcast inhabitants.
It's about sexual obsession and power and what links those two destructive forces. It's about drunkenness,
death, religion, rebirth, the cycle of fate. It's about the brothel and the bandoneon. It's a dissection
and a celebration of all that Piazzolla meant by the word Tango.
Abulafia moves the scenario on ten and thirty years from the 1968 date of the work's composition. Act One,
therefore, is set at the height of the military dictatorships that benighted Argentina. The first of the
production's highly effective use of projections records the heartbeat of a frail old man -- the all powerful
dictator, El Duende, approaches death and summons, in his refusal to let-go, the spirit of Maria -- saint
and sinner. The fact that she emerges from the wimple and habit of his attending nun/nurse is a quite a
coup. The fact that, on emerging, she is sullenly beautiful -- the embodiment of a particular type of fatal
passion -- is a spot-on congruence between the original and the interpretation. 'Like our city, she was
a bitch on heat,' sings the Payador (an improvising popular singer) as Maria and her alter egos trail a
red train of sexual allure and entrapment, but also of flowing blood, across the stage. El Duende has to
deal with this lava-like threat. For a time, as in an Edgar Allan Poe tale, he has a trunk in which to
stash his secrets -- but they are, ultimately, uncontainable.
'Maria controls you - she is in your guts! You will suffer all the terror of her powers!' Timothy Davies as El Duende in 'Maria de Buenos Aires'. Photo © Robbie Jack
Copyright © 16 May 2004
David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK