"Orestes, Last Tango": impressive total-theater

The limit between passion and pathos is fine, as always in opera. "Orestes, Last Tango" is not really a common opera, rather an opera tango. The script is based on a theatre piece by Sergio De Cecco in which the murder of a guapo in a Buenos Aires neighborhood can be the reason behind a chain of vengeance or can signify just the opposite: the end of an era of arrogance. The mother and her lover (who is the first suspect in the crime) try to save the son from creating more violence. The sister, on the other hand, created under the image of Electra, wants to see revenge, wants to see blood.

In this way the story appears as an interesting conflict between reason, and crude and primitive instinct. Yet at the same time the father is a hoodlum who, in a devious way, turns his own son into the police when it suits him. The question remains in the end whether the daughter is not secretly in love with her mother's lover. The moral dimension is a bit lost here, despite that things are told with much skill and with flashbacks of much visual novelty.
Fortunately all of this is not even half of the story. Because at its base "Orestes, Last Tango" is above all about music and dance. In reality it is not just an opera tango, but a tango without end, danced, thought and created in an extensive and intense manner. The singers are much more than characters: there are facets, brilliant in their colors, full of emotions and also extremely supported by the dance. Crude vengeance, disillusioned love, pure machismo are expressed and sung here in tango. These strong emotions and grand gestures are enwrapped by wonderful music and the choreographies are so expressive that it seems as if one's own eye is not ample enough to see them.

"Orestes, Last Tango" is a relatively small production. Nevertheless, its five singers, six musicians and nine dancers are easily able to fill the entire stage and the entire hall. The song has an expression very strongly achieved, especially that of Rodolfo Valss, slippery lover, yet very capable of conquering, and with a velvety voice. The duets, trios and quartets are beautiful and not only follow the musical lines of each one but are able to follow the emotional arc of each character. The backing of the orchestra, under the direction of Diego Vila from his piano, who is also the composer of the music, is fantastic. The singers simply have to follow him. The group of dancers, among which we would like to note Nicole Nau-Klapwijk, one of the originators of the project, fills the stage and the hall. The dance is soft, with grace, strongly expressive and hyper-sensual. All of this makes "Orestes, Last Tango" signify an impressive total-theater.

© Copyright 04.04.2002 Susanne Lammers. Leidsch Dagblad. All rights reserved

'Orestes' Tango as Tango should be

World Festival of Music, Dance and Theater "Orestes, Last tango".
Script and Direction: Beatriz Gambartes.
Musical Direction: Diego Vila.
Choreography: Oscar Araiz.
Subtitles in Dutch.
Seen: 22/3 in Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Schouwburg).

by Maja Landeweer

The World Music Theater Festival takes place in Holland for the third time. Traditional oriental shows are presented as for example Kathak, the dance of India, and the Japanese theater Kabuki with the idea taking it to the Dutch public. The festival creates its own productions. Generally the productions do not represent only one genre. One can appreciate theater, dance, song and the music. Symbiosis are achieved that speak for themselves.

There is something very different about the production of the opera-tango written by Beatriz Gambartes and composed by musician Diego Vila, which has just had its world premier in the Rotterdam theater. The union between opera and Tango is new. "Orestes, Last Tango" is the second opera made, Maria of Buenos Aires (Astor Piazzolla) being the first. Gambartes and Vila create in this show a union between Greek tragedy, the song of Italian opera and the popular culture of Argentina, achieving results of a top argentine performance. The tragedy of Sophocles, Elektra, serves as an inspiration for Argentine writer Sergio de Cecco, who wrote the play "The Fighting Pit". Said play constitutes the base of the "Orestes, Last Tango" script. The history of Sophocles tells of a sister and of a brother, who want to avenge the death of their father. Greek history is united directly with the Argentine culture of avenging an eye for an eye, avenging with haughtiness and blood.

In "Orestes, Last Tango" a very interesting dramatic line is achieved with situating the history of the story at the beginning of the century, time during which the untouchable image of the Argentine macho (guapo) begins to crumble. This is told from the point of view of a conflict between Orestes, the brother, who attempts to abandon the circle of prepotence and brutality and of his sister Elena, who is full of hate and driven by the only thought she has: revenge. Full of pain, Elena (Julia Zenko) sings with her beautiful, warm and deep voice the loss of her father: "I am the wound that will never heal". Julia Zenko is strong and convinces not only with her voice, but also with her acting, representing the character of Elena, a figure that is swept away by strong passions. The mother Nélida is played by a warmer and softer voice, a lyrical voice that reflects the warm character of the mother who wants to save her son from a world so crude and cruel. Very beautiful is the duet between Elena and her brother Orestes (Carlos Víttori), to which the deep voice of that tenor offers a perfect counterpoint.

The dance, provocative, virtuous and seductive is represented by the music of Tango, Milonga and Candombe. The music does not place in first row the typical sound of the bandoneon , instead the sounds of the piano and the violin. In the dance one can appreciate the man and the women in their relationships, but also the fights between the men, where the atmosphere of the Buenos Aires suburbs is perfectly reflected. The direction is sober and direct. There are small moments of defects, as with the dancers' short skirts, that lift in some moments, but all in all the tango is shown here as it should be: impacting and passionate.


© Copyright 25.03.2002. Haagsche Courant. All rights reserved

Southern passion in "Orestes' last Tango"

Orestes, Last Tango is an exciting opera by Diego Vila (music) and Beatriz Gambartes (script and direction). This show replete with acting, music and dance tells the story of Elena, the daughter who seeks to revenge the death of her father, Pancho Morales. Her desire is for her brother to kill her mother's lover. The Greek tragedy of Elektra is at the base of this tragedy.

Tango is expressed here through music and dance in all of its facets, which range from the calm to the introverted to the supremely expressive. Since the wedding of William and Maxima, the demand for tango in Holland has grown exponentially. The Dutch public rid itself of a slightly distant way of being, and let itself be taken away by the story of this drama. Emotions flew through the stage and occupied it with potency: Elena´s rancor, the fear of her mother Nélida and the tremendous indecision of her brother, Orestes. The subtitles allow one to easily follow the translation of the beautiful language that is Spanish. Through the text one can recognize the Buenos Aires of the beginning of the century, walking through its neighborhood of Palermo. "To forget is to die" - "to leave the heart enclosed" - "to fight for the respect of a man" depict the only path towards justice: revenge.

The dance goes far beyond the images known to tango dancing. It is able to show play, expression, struggle, tension and subtlety. The dancers move with ease, enwrapping each other. The men seem to stand firm and strong in their suits, the women in their sexy dresses. The hips flow with cadence, the steps are dragged through the floor, dizzying turns that meet with subtle leaps mark the language of the choreography. The deep flexion's of the legs (the men) or the embrace of the hips and the legs (the women), comes easy to the dancers. Also notable is the trace of familiarity with Latin dances such as salsa and merengue, visible in the virtuous steps that appear. Song and dance are expressed with passion throughout the play. The capacity of expression of the dancers surpasses the music at times. Through the discussions, the fights and the daily moments one is able to know what life was like in the neighborhood of Palermo. The wooden stairs appear as coffins, as furniture, as houses and walls and so many other things. A beautiful element of theater.

"Orestes, Last Tango" has a great capacity to entrap the audience. The warmth of the music and song, its love, is transported to the public. The singers know how to act, even though for us, Nordics, the acting is sometimes excessive. The dance does not deserve any criticism, even more, it invites a spirited participation.

© Copyright 23.03.2002 Mieke de Bont. Rotterdams Dagblad. All rights reserved

"Orestes' last Tango" carries the heart in its throat

How can one make a tragedy of tango? Or better said, how can one make a tango of a tragedy? In the Dutch-Argentine production Orestes, Last Tango director Beatriz Gambartes integrates the Greek drama of Orestes (Sophocles, Elektra) with the rules and laws of the dance halls of Buenos Aires. The opera-tango is based on the novel The Fighting Pit by Sergio de Cecco. Gambartes takes the story of the mother´s murder to Palermo, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires.

As in tango, where the body reflects the passion that is developed through the virtuoso movements of the dancer´s legs, Beatriz Gambartes translates these strong emotions to the protagonists. Elena is full of hate, Soriano shows himself as a macho, Nélida attempts to mediate and harmonize, and Orestes is trapped in his own doubts. The emotions consume much space in the opera-tango's script, in which the heart is taken to the tongue.

At the beginning, Julia Zenko (Elena) sings all of her pain in a heated aria. Her tone of voice is pleasant, if a bit loaded, a quality which is augmented by the microphones. Tenor Carlos Vittori´s (Orestes) singing is warmer and more soft, a bit timid at first, but reaching a strong presence as he approaches the climax. Rodolfo Valss appears as more daring, embodying his own little show halfway through the production as he moves his elbows in a memorable swing. Nélida sings her loneliness in warm and fragile tones.

Mixed in between are the tango scenes of the dance halls of Argentina, many of them in flashback or played as the encounters between macho men. One is not able to fully understand these smaller stories due to their shortsighted appearances. Despite this, they are danced very well, full of tension and more jovial than the general mood of the aggressive world of Palermo. Composer Diego Vila mixes the colors of the Italian aria with the obscure tone of the tango and of the Latin-American tragedy. All of this is performed live by a sextet ensemble.

Orestes, Last Tango centers around the theme of finding justice in paying what one receives. Orestes, Last Tango is an opera that can easily travel around the world because of its portrayal of universal themes.

© Copyright 25.03.2002 de Volkskrant. Annette Embrecht. All rights reserved

Classic tango as a symbolic mark

Classic tango is a dance of pride, with soft movements towards the front and towards the back, in a play full of surrender, of giving and of receiving. For the porteños (people of Buenos Aires) tango, since its origins, was always ethically rigorous. Over a century ago they were able to convert it into an art form, where the one who acts with falseness in difficult situations attacks his own cultural codes. It is not surprising that the scriptwriter Betty Gambartes takes a Greek tragedy as the basis for her work. The story of Electra and Orestes provides us with sufficient material to tell about the pride and ego of the protagonists, who in that case is expressed as searches between death, the question, the doubt, the harmony and respect. Created in conjunction with her partner of years, composer Diego Vila, this theatrical piece is taken from antiquity to a very popular and argentine setting, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Neither does it surprise us that Ricardo and Nicole give us such a great performance. It was this couple of European origin and recognized internationally for their art in the tango, who commissioned Betty Gambartes to create this opera of tango. With a cast that brings together singers, actors, dancers and a sextet of musicians, this opera is presently on tour for several weeks in Holland, where tango, in recent times, has become even more popular thanks to Máxima, and of which we are grateful.

The great hall of the Chasse theater was completely sold out yesterday to a public that came to receive this great opera. The different facets of tango-dance served as a frame, as did the wooden stairwells as theatric elements. The manner in which the crude dance was performed, the dance of surrender, the dance of death, with much unrestraint and artistic strength, conquered the audience, who enjoyed the performance without pause and without rest.

The classic script is expressed clearly thanks to the temperament and passion of the lead singers, of which a better understanding is made possible by the subtitling. Of course the magic instrument of tango was not absent, the bandoneón, which arrived to our country not long ago and which marks counterpoints within the sextet and impresses the contrasts with much fire. The choreography is full of energy. In the wardrobe of dark gray tones, the blood red tones stand out in a very showy fashion. This production fits very well into the World Music Theatre Festival of Holland.

© Copyright 04.04.2002 Peter Korz. De Stem. All rights reserved

Streekblad Zoetermeer

Opera of tango of Argentina at the central theater of the city.

ZOETERMEER - Compelling Opera Tango about Love and Violence

"Orestes, Last Tango" will be performed at the city's central theater. Springing from the initiative of the world-renown dance partnership, Ricardo and Nicole, the World Music Theatre Festival commissioned Beatriz Gambartes, a director and scriptwriter of extraordinary success, the writing of a totally new opera tango. The composition of the music was entrusted to Diego Vila. The result is "Orestes, Last Tango". The story takes place in the popular neighborhoods of a Buenos Aires at the beginnings of the last century, in a world where the guapo and his contenders battle, where the one who wins with a stab wound takes away the best woman. Orestes, son of Pancho Morales, is not a guapo but he is forced to commit a crime. He then begins to waver between the prepotent world of his father and a better one, the one of his dreams. The music shows the diversity of the Rio de la Plata: the candombe, the milonga, the sung tango and the danced tango, in its traditional facets and in its modern and contemporary form. Cast: four singers, two actors, eight dancers and a tango sextet.

© Copyright 03.03.2002 Streekblad. All rights reserved


"Orestes, Last Tango" keeps going strong.

Orestes' Last Tango. Script and direction: Beatriz Gambartes
Musical direction: Diego Vila
Odeon Zwolle, Tuesday April 2, 2002

The ancient Greek knew how to present the conflicts inherent in the world. Revenge, blood, love affairs, political intrigues and all that makes life what it is. The histories of family, its rules and values are perfectly described by Sophocles. "Orestes, Last Tango" takes its roots from Sophocles' Greek tragedy "Electra" which, through the theatrical production "The Fighting Pit", evolves into "Orestes" to turn into an opera tango.

The main character is Orestes, son of Pancho Morales. Is it necessary for him to avenge his father? His sister demands it. On the other hand, his mother attempts everything to take him away from that arrogant world. Orestes is torn between his own feelings and the wishes of others. The beginning of the play is very strong and accomplishes much. It is a bit reminiscent of "West Side Story". Emotions run rampant through the stage. Another aspect to consider is the well-trained and perfected body of dancers and singers. The dances are full of energy and the musical numbers are true achievements. The choreography, the lighting and some costume changes give the play a special value. With the aid of four ladders, situations and diverse aspects are characterized with great success. The changes in position are so marvelously integrated with what happens on stage that they never distract one's attention.

The orchestra of six musicians does wonders. Under the direction of pianist-composer Diego Vila it is able to firmly back up the action, contributing to its enhancement. The bandoneon (a type of accordion) rolls and moans, the violin seems to scream at times. The saxophone takes center stage as the tension grows. The base and percussion have a free role while supporting the action of the play. The piano as a solo instrument takes the drama to its peak. Even though the drama may seem a bit too exaggerated-it can be considered a melodrama-the public should not miss out on this play. The music is of a quality close to perfection.

© Copyright 03.03.2002 Elly van Plateringen. Zwolse Courant. All rights reserved