Maria de Buenos Aires

Astor Piazzolla

Maria de Buenos Aires

Premiere: 18th January 2020

Music: Astor Piazzolla
Libretto: Horacio Ferrer
Translation: Jarosław Gugała / Katarzyna Dembicz / Paulina Bojarska

Director: Michał Znaniecki
Music Director: Hadrian Tabęcki
Set Designer: Luigi Scoglio
Costumes: Magdalena Dąbrowska
Choreography: Inga Pilchowska
Lighting Design: Darek Albrycht
Multimedia: Karolina Jacewicz

El Duende – Marek Kaliszuk / Darek Niebudek
María, La Sombra de María – Alicja Węgorzewska / Gosha Kowalinska
La Voz de un Payador / Una Voz de Ese Domingo – Mikołaj Adamczak (Tre Voci) / Hubert Stolarski
Porteño Gorrión con Sueño / Analista Primero – Miłosz Gałaj (Tre Voci) / Andrés Martorell
Ladrón Antiguo Mayor – Wojtek Soko Sokolnicki (Tre Voci) / Paweł Strymiński
Angels: Karolina Żaneta Banaszek, Bartosz Daniel Figurski, Szymon Osiński, Marek Zajączkowski

Dancers: Kama Giergoń, Natalia Jóźwiak, Karolina Kiermut, Joanna Marta Kierzkowska, Dominika Lewandowska, Katarzyna Barbara Reisch, Anna Reisch-Rogowska, Marek Bratkowski, Jacek Foltyn, Jakub Jóźwiak, Jakub Piotrowicz, Sebastian Piotrowicz, Volodymyr Ryga, Mirosław Woźniak

Vocal Ensemble: Karolina Geryń, Kinga Głogowska, Paulina Łysikowska, Ewa Puchalska, Magda Smulczyńska, Dorota Solecka, Sylwia Stępień, Łukasz Geryń, Tomasz Grygo, Piotr Jakacki, Krzysztof Matuszak, Andrzej Milewski, Piotr Pieron, Aleksander Słojewski.
Manager of Vocal Ensemble: Krzysztof Kusiel-Moroz

Extras: Marta Tabęcka, Marita Kaca


Bandoneón – Grzegorz Bożewicz
Guitars – Piotr Malicki
Piano – Hadrian Filip Tabęcki
Flute: Marcin Kamiński,
Violins: Karolina Nowotczyńska, Anna Konrad,
Viola: Justyna Poprawska
Cello: Izabela Buchowska,
Double Bass: Jan Hutek,
Percussion: Marta Maślanka,
Drums: Piotr Maślanka, Robert


It all began on May 8, 1968 when the premiere of “Maria de Buenos Aires” took place — the work by Astor Piazzolla, a man who brought tango from the port brothels and in the form of tango nuevo introduced it to the philharmonic halls. Then for the first time we heard the story of Maria, a woman from Buenos Aires, who became a personification not only of love, but also of denial of human feelings. It was then that Piazzolla, along with the librettist and poet Horacio Ferrer, opened the whole world to Maria, since the story is everything that happens between the birth and death of the heroine, is a reflection of the world with its beauty and evil, purity and scandal. Maria has been on the road for half a century, since her life, like of each one of us, is a path. Everything is possible in art: the end seems to be the beginning, while the beginning is de facto the end of the story. Those sensational phrases sounded originally in Sala Planeta in Buenos Aires. Then there was The Alaska Centre for the Performing Arts, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, Canberra, New York, St. Petersburg and dozens of other cities around the world … And finally today — Warsaw.

With a great pleasure we present “Maria de Buenos Aires” on the stage of the Basen Artystyczny – a show depicting the world with its both bright and dark sides, a reality, which is at one time exciting, at other times terrifying. Together with excellent artists we will tell you the story of a woman who, enchanted by music — tango, crosses the metaphorical shadow of line. But shadow and darkness would never existed without light and brightness. Night without a day and vice versa … And let it be a moment of reflection, such a symbolic look back, a look into our inner life, directly to the depth of our feelings.
Let this music enchant you with its compelling rhythm and lead to reflection. Isn’t that what art is about?

Alicja Węgorzewska-Whiskerd, PhD
Director of The Warsaw Chamber


Discussion with director Michał Znaniecki about production “Maria de Buenos Aires”

What was your reaction to the offer of the management of the Warsaw Chamber Opera to stage Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera at the Basen Artystyczny?

We searched for a project that would be perfectly tailored to the needs of the Basen Artystyczny stage and would use all the assets of its space. The starting point for initiating this project was the space of the Artistic Pool – it all began with the space. The Basen Artystyczny is a modern, somewhat alternative space, where items from the classical repertoire will not work well, that’s why we were looking for a position that would meet these requirements. So the perfect choice was “Maria de Buenos Aires”, tango operita by Astor Piazzolla. The Basen Artystyczny provides the audience with a new way of perception of art. The action takes place in front of them, behind them, they actually participate in it. This production will work great there. What’s more — I already know that “Maria de Buenos Aires” will be staged at various festivals, in various theatres and spaces, but I highly recommend everyone to see this spectacle at the Basen Artystyczny.

What is “Maria de Buenos Aires” staged by the Warsaw Chamber Opera about? Is this version faithful to the original? Will the viewers be surprised?

There are no cuts in the music sphere. Certainly, the music played by the orchestra and the ensemble Tango Attack will delight the most demanding fans of Piazzolla. We will present tango full of nuances and extras, which will be deep, full of artistry, ensuring continuity of action, and not presented only for the publicity stunts or for making a show. “Maria de Buenos Aires“ fragments are highly popular among music lovers, but with smaller orchestration, i.e. with about 6-8 instruments. In the musical version, that we present at the Warsaw Chamber Opera we use 14 instruments, which makes this brilliant score fuller. The original libretto is quite complicated, but we are also quite faithful to the original in this sphere. Maria’s story is shown in an unrealistic way. The performance is a full circle — it begins and ends with Maria’s funeral. In the first act we tell the story of Maria and how she died, while in the second act we already observe her spirit roaming Buenos Aires — a city presented in a surreal manner, where its paradoxes are highlighted.

And who exactly is the title Maria?

Maria is a metaphor for Buenos Aires. The soul of this city, the soul of tango. Maria is also a synonym of a typical resident of Buenos Aires. Someone who has moved to this city as a result of emigration – since Buenos Aires is a city of immigrants. Even now, the inhabitants of Buenos Aires do not introduce themselves as Argentineans. They proudly say that they are descendants of Spaniards, Italians or Poles. Immigrants who started there from scratch. The social class of the title Maria doesn’t matter, since everyone was coming to Buenos Aires — artists, scientists, workers. That’s why Maria can be both a prostitute and an academic professor. In Buenos Aires, everyone had equal opportunities at the start – that was the idea of this city. Of course, some succeeded, while others didn’t — that’s what our show is about.
Important in this story, however, is this equal start, tolerance, cultural and religious diversity, and the fact that all these people can live in this magical city side by side with mutual respect and tolerance. There are no Italian, Spanish, Jewish or Polish neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires — as we can observe it in the United States, for example. There are also no poor or rich neighbourhoods — everyone lives side by side. On one street you can find Catholic churches, synagogues and mosques. And that’s the difference of this city.

I think no one knows this better than you do – you have lived in Buenos Aires for twelve years. What led you to this corner of the world? Love for tango?

Pure coincidence. I was inspired by a long conversation with Placido Domingo, with whom I was working at the time, to go to Argentina. That was the time I was looking for the “essence of Absolute”, my place on Earth. I lived in Italy then, partly in Spain. It was Plácido Domingo, who suggested me to go to Argentina. And it wasn’t about superb natural surroundings, architecture or other factors that were supposed to make my life happier. It was about people. It is about the way they live, communicate with each other, and what this community creates. He was right. I met random people in Buenos Aires who invited me for milongas, tea or just a chat. Tango is definitely an important part of their lives. Residents of Buenos Aires often meet to dance together and to release accumulated emotions — both positive and negative. It is also fascinating that the Argentineans talk — they don’t monologue, they talk — that’s what Europeans miss. I felt part of
this community very quickly. The people of Buenos Aires are the best emigration from the 1930s. People go to the theatre there, they love discussions, they don’t think in terms of stereotypes. It is beautiful.

In the main role we will see Alicja Węgorzewska – Whiskerd. Was it difficult to persuade Director of the Warsaw Chamber Opera to say yes to this offer?

This is a very difficult and demanding role. The title Maria is on stage almost the whole time during the performance. That is why it is such a huge challenge, also a physical one. She is being sung about, talked about, she drives the two-hour spectacle: charisma and endurance are essential here. You also need to feel tango inside you — it’s a challenge for every artist — but I think Alice has it all.



Scene 1
Maria’s funeral. El Duende, acting as Narrator and Master of Ceremonies, calls on Maria’s soul to cross over to the other side – to the afterlife. After all, her earthly life ended. A funeral procession of prostitutes and pimps carries a coffin. maria’s spirit, unnoticed by anyone, accompanies the ceremony.

Scene 2
We go back in time to the moment Maria was born – to „one day when God was drunk”. Payador and Maria from the underworld accompanied by the Angels are the witnesses of this event. From the very beginning, her fate becomes inseparably linked to tango and is marked by loneliness, suffering, passion, yearning and Maria becomes the object of men’s desire and jealousy of women. She loves and is loved, but sadness never leaves her and it can never be alleviated.

Scene 3
Maria is a well-known figure in the city, she identifies with it: „I am Buenos Aires!”.

Scene 4
Together with Maria, in a half dreamy vision, we visit dark alleys, dives full of harbor whores and their clients from the criminal underworld, and nights filled with tango. The Harbor Vagabond — Sleepy Sparrow foreshadows the tragic future of Maria, whose story will soon find its ending.

Scene 5
Scene with barrels. Maria, along with other prostitu- tes, is brutally disgraced by several thugs. She is the only one who will not rise again.

Scene 6
Maria is aware, that her life is coming to an end, but her spirit will be preserved in her beloved tango.

Scene 7
Maria’s body is found left on the street. El Duende curses the force that took Maria and proclaims that the only things that left of her are memory and sorrow, that are hidden in the sounds of the accursed tango, which tears her soul apart.

Scene 8
Scene in the morgue, where Maria’s body was taken and now is being examined. Old Chieftain, a bunch of Thieves and Matres foretell that after Maria’s death she will go to another hell and as a ghost she will wander streets of Buenos Aires forever as a shadow, a personification of the city. Maria’s soul leaves the body remaining on the table in the dissecting-room. A funeral procession of prostitutes and pimps appears with a coffin for Maria.


Scene 9
Maria funeral; she was buried by two beggars. El Duende knows that only her body rests in the cemetery and now this is a beginning of long, chaotic and wayward wandering of Maria’s Shadow in Buenos Aires.

Scene 10
Maria’s Shadow, who has been observing the events so far, dances with the angels.

Scene 11
Maria, as a ghost, travels the city, mourning herself and memory of her. She visits favorite places as well as dark spots on the city map. The surrealism of the image is highlighted by the circus troupe in the background.

Scene 12
The Chorus of Human Soul Experts and the First Analyst look into Maria’s past; girl’s both parents and her first love are recalled.

Scene 13
El Duende alias Phantom blisteringly dances with Three Puppets, over which he has the control, announcing the rebirth of Mary. The scene is a nightmare, from which Maria wakes up screaming.

Scene 14
Maria’s Shadow finds herself in a little girl; this is her symbolic rebirth.

Scene 15
Payador – the Voice of Sunday receives a child from Maria’s Shadow. El Duende proclaims the seventh day of the week. Time is looping and Maria is once again a young girl who is preparing Christmas Eve Supper at her family home. She becomes the same as Mary, the divine mother giving birth to her child, who is condemned to suffering and death. She is both a mother and a child who comes into the world. Voices of The Women Who Knead Pasta and Three Mags — Construction Workers comment on an event.

El Duende – in Latin American tradition, a „goblin”, a troublemaker, changing his appearance, making arrangements with mothers in exchange for the soul of their children

Payador – singer of popular improvised music