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Maria de Buenos Aires Comes to Over the Rhine

(A quick reminder before I launch into this blog entry: Carmon DeLeone will be playing at the Blue Wisp at 3 pm tomorrow, July 29,  and Andrea Cefalo will begin her first set at 7:30 pm. )

At the last minute yesterday I ended up with a ticket to Maria de Buenas Aires, a tango opera by Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla. I had pretty much written that one off; the two performances were in the Music Hall ballroom, with only 400 seats per show, and by the time I caught wind of the event tickets had long been sold out.

But somebody knew somebody, and suddenly I was driving through Over the Rhine searching for a parking space right about the time the clouds above decided to unload. I arrived in Music Hall good and wet, found a seat and watched my first tango opera, which was in the middle of the ballroom, so there was no “stage” per se, which meant the sultry Maria was free to dance around and run her hands across some of the men in the audience and flip their ties in the air. This is Wikipedia’s version of the plot:

“The ill-omened María, born “one day when God was drunk” in a poor suburb of Buenos Aires, heads to the center of Buenos Aires, where she is seduced by the music of the tango and becomes a streetwalker. Thieves and brothel keepers gathered at a black mass resolve her death. After her death, she is condemned to a hell which is the city itself: her shadow now walks the city. She has returned to virginity, is impregnated by the word of the goblin poet, and—witnessed by three Construction Worker Magi and The Women Who Knead Pasta—gives birth to a Child María, who may be herself. “

In other words, my kind of opera, especially because the passionate music of Astor Piazolla would have been reason enough to come in the door. This event took place on the heels of the extremely (and in many people’s eyes, surprisingly) successful Choir Games that brought musicians from all the globe to Cincinnati, and while I the opera was taking place I remembered the uKandDanZ concert at MOTR Pub, a few blocks away, earlier in the week, a show that featured musicians from France and Ethiopia. Not bad for a supposedly provincial Midwestern city.

After the performance I walked around and took pictures of some of the props for the opera (including the photo above) and then walked outside with some friends, and that’s where we ran into the Director of Artistic Operations for the Cincinnati Opera, Evans Mirageas, who seemed elated by the performance that evening, as well as the response by the crowd. The demanding physical nature was mentioned by someone in our group, and someone asked Evans, “Do you dance like that?”

Crossing one of his legs over the other in some approximation of a Tango move, Evans said, “I move like that when I go to the doctor.” That got a few laughs, and then he added, “Actually, when I move like that I go to the doctor.”

With a gleam in his eyes Evans looked across the street.

“And they get to walk outside and see this,” he sighed.

This was the newly vibrant Washington Park across the street. At a few minutes after nine it was packed with people checking out a live concert. Rumor had it that the headliner that evening was The Deele. I would like to say that as soon as rumor was voiced the ensemble burst into a slamming version of “Body Talk,” but that didn’t happen. (On the other, we got plenty of body talk during Maria de Buenas Aires.) One person in our group wanted to check out The Deele across the street, another wanted to see the Pinstripes down at the Night Owl Market, and someone else wanted to hit MOTR Pub. When asked what he wanted to do, Evans gave a succinct answer before turning to leave.

“The night is young,” he said playfully, “and I am old.”

As we roamed around afterwards it was clear that there were plenty of people in Over the Rhine that evening who were ready to make up for his absence.