That’s Not Tango—Astor Piazzolla, A Life in Music
The emergence of New Tango master Astor Piazzolla is a Horatio Alger story for our time. Here’s a small, would-be hoodlum, the lame son of immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side, who grows up to become one of the foremost composers of the 20th century.
That’s Not Tango—Astor Piazzolla, A Life in Music, conceived by Lesley Karsten and written by Karsten and Stephen Wadsworth, captures Piazzolla’s complexities through the interplay of dramatic narrative and the composer’s world renowned music—Nuevo Tango.
Under Wadsworth’s direction, whom the American Theater called “one of the most influential directors of the 21st century,“ Karsten brings Piazzolla’s spirt alive to wrestle with the constraints of tradition, the perils of radical musical change, and the lure of posterity. Woven throughout Karsten’s portrayal are virtuoso musical performances by Brandt Fredriksen (piano), JP Jofre (bandoneon), and Nick Danielson (violin).
*Please note: Latecomers will be seated during applause breaks only.
Piazzolla’s life is as rich and varied as his music. Born in Argentina to Italian parents, he grows up as a New Yorker but not quite an American. When he returns to Argentina at 16, he doesn’t speak Spanish. A chance meeting with Arthur Rubenstein leads to studies with Alberto Ginastera and later Nadia Boulanger. But the streets of the East Village and Buenos Aires leave an indelible mark. Ultimately, the kid who once hated the scratchy tango records his father played grows up to give modern tango a future.
Casting a woman to play Piazzolla seemed natural to Wadsworth. “Piazzolla was fascinated by the quick-change animus-anima exchanges between men and women dancing tango,” Wadsworth says. “A woman in a persona so conventionally masculine, and whose music has a bald assertiveness and violence many associate with maleness, is very tango.”
Karsten’s love of Piazzolla’s music, coupled with her experience translating personal narrative into vivid storytelling inspired this multi-dimensional portrait of the Argentine composer and master of the bandoneon. “He followed his voice wherever it led and if sacrifices needed to be made, he made them. The music was more important than family or friends. It was his refuge, his truth.”
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