GEORGINA BENiSON –
Recital CanTANGO is an exploration of the connections between Italian Opera and Argentinian Tango Cancion (Tango Song) as it developed through Cinema at the beginning of the 20th century. This unusual project was presented at the Royal Opera House Muscat for one night only last weekend. It came about as a result of a collaboration between two Italians: acclaimed belcanto tenor, Fabio Armiliato, and tango pianist and arranger, Fabrizio Mocata. The link goes deeper: in the 1930s, the renowned Italian tenor, Tito Schipa, was captivated by Latin styles and spent long periods in Buenos Aries. While there the composer and star of the Argentinian Silver Screen, Carlos Gardel, took singing lessons from him and Tito’s influence on the genre has been felt ever since. Accompanying the contemporary pair were 4 dancers, 5 musicians and an actress-singer, and what is clear from these top-notch performers is their cross-over connections between Europe and South America. The whole production was animated through video clips and projections of original sheet music which brought the story’s historical context up to date.
Audiences who visit ROHM have broad, eclectic tastes and embrace new genres, as well as traditional opera and ballet. The programme brochures do an excellent job of filling in the biographies of performers, and so attending an illustrated lecture style demonstration is not what people expect at the prestigious venue. Uruguayan Tango-singer, Ana Karina Rossi, now living in Paris, played the role of narrator throughout the show, but her interruptions between each number broke the continuity and flow of these amazing performers. Towards the end of the nearly two-hour show, Ms Rossi sang Aquiles Roggero’s stunning, “Mimi Pinson” with breath-taking stage presence and charisma, and one felt how wonderful it would have been to hear more of her tango interpretation, and less of her difficult English recitation.
Verdi specialist, Fabio Armiliato, has a rich, warm, compelling voice which one could listen to forever. He brought to life Carlos Gardel’s film scores, “Melodia De Arrabal”, ”Amargo” and “Mi Buenos Aries Querido” from the 30s and 40s with passionate conviction and strength. Each song was helpfully supported by the credits on the film poster from the time, though not a translation.
‘Los Guardiola’ Tango Dancers were never far away, dancing to the rhythms with slinky, sultry steps and sensuous moves which are the essence of Tango. Choreographer Marcelo Guardiola and his Italian partner, Giorgia Marchiori, are one of the most loved and admired couples among contemporary tango artists. They began collaborating in 2003 by telling stories through mime and dance. Opposite them were Buenos Aries born Florencia Labiano, whose signature leg-kicks are flamboyant and angular, and the virtuoso young Hernan Rodriguez, who have been in Italy for 11 years and dance a passionate, energetic style of tango.
The brilliant musical mind behind the project was Italian pianist and composer, Fabrizio Mocata, unsurprisingly highly influenced by the tangos of Argentinian composer, Astor Piazzola. In the Gardel-Canaro medley at the end of set 1, Mocata’s Jazz interest came to the fore in some contemporary improvisation. He has been working and performing in Argentina and Uruguay since 2010. With him came 5 musicians of world-class ability: Bandoneon players, 29-year-old Argentinian, Nicolas Perrone with Sicilian, Simone Tolomeo; violinists, Sergio Zanforlin from Palermo and young Alexey Musatov from Moscow, living in Buenos Aires since 2011 with eclectic musical tastes. Finally, double-bass player extraordinaire was Alessio Menegolli from Verona, living and playing tango in Argentina since 2011.
Set 2 presented 3 Neapolitan songs, including Tosti’s “L’Ultima Canzone” and “Return to Sorrento” by Ernesto de Curtis, sung beautifully by Armiliato to a postcard projection of the seaside town.
Set 3 returned to the Milongas (tango houses) of Buenos Aries, with songs which told sad stories of loss and heartbreak. “Tomo Y Obligo”, “Cuesta Abajo” and “Volvio una Noche” all by Gardel, described yearning for the golden days of a lost love, giving plenty of scope for leg-entwining and more energetic tango steps. The last song, “El Dia Que Me Quieras” was performed to a recorded track of Armiliato’s wife, the soprano Daniela Dessi, who sadly died last year and for whom the partner Foundation of CanTANGO was set up.
The final section returned to the connection with Gardel’s Cinema. The dark, sad “Silencio” from ‘Melodia de Arrabal’ tells of mothers who lose their sons to senseless war, and was movingly sung by Fabio with the pathos of one suffering grief. “Por Una Cabeza” was an amusing complaint of a gambling man who has lost everything by the distance of the head of a horse. In more recent times Al Pacino danced to the track in “Scent of a Woman” and the video clip of the scene was projected behind both couples dancing to Fabio’s dramatic performance – it was all too much to take in, a sensory overload. Fortunately the Piazzola-like song was performed again as a robust encore, without the film distraction.
The Finale was a tribute-composition by Armiliato and Mocata, “Tango Cantor”, to Schipa and Gardel, and reflected Mocata’s Jazz influences again. The prepared encore was Piazzola at last, though not one of his iconic tangos but rather the slow waltz, “Vuelvo al Sur” or ‘Return to the South’.
The audience would not let the performers leave the stage, and it seems they were reluctant to go. An impromptu version of ‘O Sole Mio’ allowed singer to return to Naples, and dancers to improvise some steps. No one walked out of the auditorium that evening, but danced in heaven, elevated 3 feet above the ground.