Maria de Buenos Aires
The surreal plot centers on a prostitute in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the second half takes place after her death. The characters include María, a singer of payadas, various members of the Buenos Aires underworld, a poet narrator who is also a goblin-like duende, several marionettes under his control, and a circus of psychoanalysts. Several elements of the libretto suggest parallels between María and Mary, the mother of Jesus or to Jesus himself.
While certainly not in the narrow sense an opera ballet, because the dance is tango rather than classical ballet, it falls within the tradition of having set dance pieces integral to an operatic work.
The music draws on the nuevo tango idiom for which Piazzolla is famous. The original idea for the story was conceived by Piazzolla's then lover, Egle Martin. The title role was originally conceived for Martin, but while Piazzolla was still composing the operita, he and Martin broke up after he asked her husband for her hand at Christmas in 1967. According to Martin, Piazzolla said to Lalo, "She is music, she can't belong to anybody, no she is music, she is music, and that's me." After their rift a replacement was desperately needed, but Piazzolla soon met folksinger Amelita Baltar at the Buenos Aires nightclub "Nuestro Tiempo", formerly called "676" and once Piazzolla's home base in Argentina. Baltar's identification with the character Maria paired with her beauty and captivating stage presence made her ideal.
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