Argentina Opera Pampa: La Rural, Buenos Aires. 24.2.2012. (JSJ)
Direction: Héctor Berra
Technical direction: Juan Carlos Baglieto
Sets/lighting: Juan Carlos Baglieto
Staging: Mabel Pimentel, Oscar Murillo, Juan Carlos Baglieto, Héctor Berra
Choreography: Mabel Pimentel, Oscar Murillo
Narrator – Singer: Leandro Falótico
Don’t be misled by the title – thus isn’t opera as it is usually understood on this site. Rather it is a spectacle, about an hour long, of words, music, song and dance, through which is presented the origins of Argentina and cameos of its early history.
The setting is the La Rural agricultural showground, where livestock have been exhibited since the late 1880s – with a large stage at one end, fronting the ground across which most of the show takes place.
Launched in 2004, Opera Pampa, with script by the writer, director and show empresario Héctor Berra and music by the pianist and folk music composer Lito Vitale, begins in “Andean America” with different dance sequences recalling the peoples of the Argentine northeast. But suddenly the peace is shattered with the thundering of hooves as the Spanish Conquistadores arrive on their thoroughbred horses.
The mood then quickly changes to the streets of an 1810 Buenos Aires, with the cries of the different street vendors – only to give way once again to the birth of the nation and the battles that ensued, both against the Spanish and the Indians of the Pampas. These are characterized by a combination of theatrics and equestrian display, and for example in one scene a carriage is attacked by a group of Indians on horseback and the women occupants taken as prisoners. The horsemanship is outstanding and one can readily sense the menace that such an event would have instilled.
Then again there is a change of mood with songs based on traditional rhythms and dances such as the zamba, evoking consolidation, work and relaxation. Then the show comes to an end with a tribute to the country’s flag and a malambo, aimed to evoke the gallop of the gauchos’ loyal horses, which ultimately are as integral to the show as are the performers.
The production is obviously in Spanish (with no surtitles) but in no way would this detract from a non-Spanish speaker’s following or appreciation of it.
One also has the option not only of attending the show, but to make an “Argentine evening” out of it, with a pre-show reception with empanadas (savoury pasties) and drinks and afterwards a dinner including an asado of traditionally barbecued meats. With excellent quality and service, and of good value, this makes the evening even more memorable.
With more than two thousand performances to its credit, the popularity of Opera Pampa is evident – and it is clear why more than one friend makes a point of taking visitors to it.
Jonathan Spencer Jones