The “Puro Tango” program Thursday at GALA Hispanic Theatre tugged at the heartstrings and fielded sophisticated musicianship. The program of famous tangos from the 1920s through the 1970s was a vehicle for renowned Uruguayan tango singer Nelson Pino, who delivered the songs like drunken barroom confessions sung in bel canto style.
Co-director Hugo Medrano successfully converted the evening from concert to production by adding poetry effectively delivered by actors Lucrecia Basualdo and Luis Simon and dancing by Argentines Analia Centurion and Gabriel Misse. There was just enough staging to give interest without detracting from the music.
Pino sang such great tango tunes as Sebastian Piana’s “Tinta roja,” Enrique Santos Discepolo’s “Yira,” and Alberto Gomez’s “Milonga que peina canas.” The roster included composers Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel, and the garden of tango styles performed reflected the gamut of influences, from country tunes to Bela Bartok. Of course, an evening like this would not be complete without “La Cumparsita” (by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez), which was repeated at the end of the program with an invitation for audience members to go onstage and dance.
The fine ensemble of Alvaro Hagopian (piano), Jose Lagreca (Bandoneon) and Ariel Fogel (bass) could have stolen the show had not Pino conveyed so successfully the essence of tango’s cool. His demeanor was relaxed, and his dinner jacket crisp and white. His voice rose dramatically while his feet sauntered. The lyrics were melancholic and the music uplifting.
“Puro Tango” made it easy to see why so many have fallen under tango’s spell.
Kidron is a freelance writer.