How Marķa de Buenos Aires came to be written
by Horacio Ferrer
I admired the orchestra of Anfbal Troilo and his young bandoneon player and arranger, Astor Piazzolla, who was to be idolized not only by me but by the whole of the world. It was not long before Astor became a leading conductor, although he was still only twenty six. I was still at school. I applauded him in the cafes where he played - playing that was bold, refined and marked by great artistic sensitivity. This was in 1948. One evening, when the concert was over, I spoke to him and told him reverently how much I admired his music and how much it meant to me. The emotion of that fourteen-year-old youth, who already recited poems in schools, on street corners and in department stores, while accompanying himself on the guitar, made him smile.
In spite of our love of the city, neither of us two authors of María de Buenos Aires was born in Buenos Aires. Following his visit to my home City of Montevideo, Astor invited me to his own birthplace in Mar del Plata. It was here that I really got to know him. Astor was a gifted musician. Music welled forth from him whenever he sat down at the piano, eager to spend the whole day composing. His left hand flew over the music manuscript paper as he struck a number at chords with enviable assurance. "Most of what I compose," he commented, "I am not composing, but am already actually playing it."
The affinity and affection that bound us together meant that I wrote the introductions for his concerts or jotted down mv ideas in the form of liner notes and programmer notes. And when my first volume of poems, Romancero Canvengue, appeared in 1967, his reaction was: "You are doing in your poetry is what I am doing in my music. From now on we shall compose together. Think up a subject for the musical and lyric stage."
Two months later I handed him the finished libretto of María de Buenos Aires and, inspired by Astor's own work, took my courage in both hands and made suggestions for each scene, suggestions that he welcomed in almost every case. In order to reflect the various periods and levels of existence through which María passes, I suggested that he should use different types of tango (traditional, romance, song, modern), milonga and waltz, together with a number of rural tunes from the pampas. "I much appreciate all these suggestions of yours, Horacio," Astor said to me. "Many people think I write only purely instrumental music - now they'll see that that's not the case." From start to finish, María de Buenos Aires contains powerful, brilliant and affecting music of altogether exceptional artistry, basic material as María. Like everything else that we did during the next twenty years, it was composed with exactly the same delight.
He spent the summer of 1968 in Eastern Uruguay composing more than half the music with my bandoneon, which he liked so much that I had the pleasure of giving it to him. The rest he wrote at his home in Buenos Aires, where I visited him in the early autumn - astonished, happy and feeling closer than ever to this generous, enthusiastic, shy, sensual, ironic and sentimental man, a man with the aura of an angel and a devil and the heart of a lion.
We gave the first performance at the Sala Planeta on May 8, 1968, with an eleven-man band, in a version compiled and orchestrated by Astor, and with Amelita Baltar as María, Hector de Rosas in the male roles (Gorrion, Ladron and Analista) and with myself as El Duende. The brief spoken choruses were taken by ourselves and a few of our friends.
Between May and September we gave 120 performances and recorded our little opera on two LPs that are still around all over the world today. The following year, 1969, we enjoyed our greatest success with Balada para un loco, a tango drawn from the same basic material as María.