María de Buenos Aires

Music by Ástor Piazzolla  |  Libretto by Horacio Ferrer (Read the translation)

Pictured: Opera Grand Rapids’ María de Buenos Aires, October 2016

Friday, October 14  |  7:30 PM
Saturday, October 15  |  7:30 PM


An unconventional hybrid of tango, opera and surrealism

Seductive, haunting and intoxicating, genre-bending tango opera María de Buenos Aires is a surreal spiritual journey set to the beat of Argentine tango. Pulse and poetry play an equal role in which the melody is transformed into a series of mesmerizing moments rich in metaphor. With poetry by Horacio Ferrer and music from composer and pioneer of nuevo tango, Ástor Piazzolla, audiences watch the heroine embody tango and the city itself in dream-like fashion—all set to the backdrop of Argentine dance and ensemble in a milonga-inspired setting.

Presented at Betty Van Andel Opera Center

Valet parking available. Learn about Parking & Accessibility options.

Directed by Octavio Cardenas  |  Conducted by Jorge Parodi   |  Set Design by Adam Crinson  |  Choreography/Dance by Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo  |  Costume Design by Anka Lupes  |  Lighting Design by Sarah Riffle  |  Technical Direction by Keith Oberfeld and John A C Despres

Featured Musical Guests:  Bandoneon: Daniel Binelli  |  Violin: Sami Merdinian  |  Guitar: David Galvez  |  Piano: Robert Byrens

Length: 80 minutes  |  Language: Presented in Spanish with English titles


SOLD OUT! Call the Box Office to be added to our wait list.

$40 advance, $45 day of show. Student tickets just $5 day of show (ID required). Seating is general admission.
For tickets, contact our Box Office at 616.451.2741 or purchase online at Ticketmaster.

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Casting, repertoire and event details are subject to change without notice or refunds, but are specified in good faith as accurate and updated accordingly. Refunds not accepted.


Behind the Curtain Opera Preview October 4  |  Master Class with Ricardo Herrera October 7

Tango! Passion! Night With The Opera October 12  |  FOTO Pre-Performance Talk October 14 & 15


Meet the Director  |  Octavio Cardenas

Born in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, stage director Octavio Cardenas has been captivating audiences with his visionary, visceral, and physical style of directing. Upcoming productions include Puccini’s La Boheme for the Minnesota Opera; Philip Glass’ GalileoGalilei for Des Moines Metro Opera; Die Fledermaus for Baylor Opera; and Florencia en el Amazonas for the Tulsa Opera YAP program.

Octavio’s recent productions of Silent Night for Fort Worth Opera and Kansas City Lyric Opera were described as “a breathtaking realization” with “many brilliant touches.” The Kansas City Star called the Lyric Opera’s production “one of its finest performances in recent memory.” Other recent productions include Rappaccini’s Daughter for Des Moines Metro Opera; The Magic Flute for Opera Neo in San Diego; The Giver for Minnesota Opera; and As One for Urban Arias. More.




Meet the Conductor  |  Maestro Jorge Parodi

Reviewed as having “the most expressive conducting hands since Stokowski’s,” (New York Daily News) Argentinean born conductor Jorge Parodi has worked as conductor at Buenos Aires Lírica (Argentina), The Banff Centre (Canada), Tsaritsynskaya Opera Volgograd (Russia), Encuentros Internacionales de Opera (Mexico), Hofstra University and New York University among others; and as coach or repetiteur at several prestigious institutions, including the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Opera Tampa, Connecticut Grand Opera, Lake George Opera Festival to name a few. He has collaborated with such artists as Tito Capobianco, Sherrill Milnes, and Rufus Wainwright; and he has assisted conductors of the caliber of Lorin Maazel and Julius Rudel. More.





Meet the Cast  |  Catalina Cuervo—María

Known as the “Fiery Soprano”, Colombian-born Catalina Cuervo holds the distinction of having performed the most productions of Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires.

Ms. Cuervo has performed the role of “Maria” for numerous prestigious companies including Florida Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Syracuse Opera to name a few. Following her debut as “Maria” in Chicago, Catalina performed at venues and festivals including “Chicago Dance Festival” and “Latino Music Festival” together with Kaia Quartet and the acclaimed tango show “This is Tango”; which as a result has given her a big following by Tango lovers in Chicago and other cities. More.




Meet the Cast  |  Milton Loayza—El Duende

Argentine born Milton Loayza has performed the role of “Duende” in productions of Maria de Buenos Aires at Syracuse Opera and Anchorage Opera. Dr. Loayza is a stage actor and director who has for the last five years focused on bringing Latin American works to the stage. Milton is also a tango singer, and recorded in Buenos Aires an album of classical Argentine tangos, Se ha mezclao la vida, which was just released. Milton resides now in Syracuse where he has recently appeared in his own stagings of Ella/She by Susana Torres Molina, Asunción by Ricardo Monti and Don’t Blame Anyone, this last consisting of his own adaptation of short stories by Julio Cortázar. He has also conducted theatre workshops and devised work for the community, including Songs of Imagination, based on the poetry of William Blake. Dr. Loayza is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at State University of New York at Oswego.




Meet the Cast  |  Ricardo Herrera—El Payador

Ricardo Herrera, bass-baritone, performer, teacher, stage director, was featured as soloist with Distinguished Concerts International in Jenkin’s Mass for Peace at Carnegie Hall where he also stepped in for Walter Cronkite to deliver excerpts of the “I have a dream” speech in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He sang the role of Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen with Glacier Symphony Orchestra and with Oldenburgisches Staatstheater in Germany; was a soloist with the South Eastern Festival of Song in Dallas, TX and in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Lake Forest Symphony.  Most recently he performed the role of Diego Rivera in Michigan Opera Theater’s production of Frida by Rodriguez, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Ferrando in Il Trovatore with El Paso Opera and Dr. Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Bel Canto at Caramoor for which he received rave reviews including one from the New York Times which stated “As Bartolo…the bass-baritone Ricardo Herrera nearly stopped the show with his hearty singing of the showpiece aria…capped by rapid-fire patter.”



María was rumored to be born in the slums of Buenos Aires on a day when God was drunk. As a young woman, she is seduced by tango and a city moving to the pulse of an intoxicating rhythm. She comes to embody the sensual dance at the loss of her mortality. Condemned to haunt the streets of Buenos Aires, María’s provocative tango dance lives on.

About Ástor Piazzolla

Legendary composer Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992) revolutionized traditional tango into what we now know as nuevo tango, which fuses elements of jazz and classical music. Described as the “world’s foremost composer of tango music,” Piazzolla was one of the 20th century’s most prolific composers with more than 1,000 works in his catalog. As the most performed Spanish language opera in the world, María de Buenos Aires is regarded by many as an unconventional masterpiece.

About Horacio Ferrer

Uruguayan-born poet Horacio Ferrer rose to fame as Ástor Piazzolla’s lyricist and longtime collaborator. The opportunity to work with Piazzolla pushed Ferrer to move to Buenos Aires and become an Argentine citizen, where the two composed a series of tangos with clear social commitment. In his lifetime, Ferrer, who became the President of the National Academy of Tango, composed more than 200 songs and authored several books about tango.


This presentation is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional contributions from Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Crane Group.