BEST OPERA - 2005
Maria de Buenos Aires
Even though it got blasted by critics for lacking any discernable plot, Maria de Buenos Aires was the sexiest, most arresting opera production to come along since, well, Jeune Lune's production of Carmen last year. With a seven-piece tango orchestra, gorgeous singing (and singers), and visual trickery, Maria packed an exotic and visceral punch. Even though the music was bare-bones alongside the more athletic singing of Minnesota Opera's Maria Padilla or, for that matter, Theatre Latté Da's production of La Bohème, Jeune Lune served up this hooky pop-opera with just the right amount of spitfire and spice. Its regular pack of vocalists, an all-star bunch that includes Christina Baldwin, Jennifer Baldwin Peden, and Bradley Greenwald, fronted a low-tech spectacle of red-hot costumes and vivid mosaics. As high-heeled señoritas cavorted with their lovers, a ragtag ensemble of street instruments--accordion, guitar, upright base, and the like--pulsed and stomped to the beat of an Argentine marketplace. Meanwhile, the gorgeous-but-gloomy Maria eluded the grasp of our understanding. In their tag-team roles as Maria, the Baldwin sisters shimmied, stretched, and whirled until Maria swelled larger than an individual woman. While the imagistic, poetic libretto of Maria didn't always make sense to our narrative-thirsty heads, Jeune Lune's realization was nothing short of a sensory feast.