Violetta's Last Tango

The stunning Grand Auditorium of the Ghillie Dhu provides a spectacular setting for Violetta’s Last Tango and raises high hopes for a marvellous milonga and an evening of songs full of the fiery rhythms of the genre.

Overall, the evening is enjoyable but the programme lacks coherence

The show is based on a collection of reminiscences as Violetta, now an aging performer, looks back over the troublesome times she had with her lost lover, of whom she is reminded by a chance encounter with a dancer in the street.

Ann Liebeck is a powerful operatic soprano with a vocal range that is secure, whether it be in the seductive earthiness of her lower register or the florid exuberance her top notes. She performs with passion in a range of songs from composers such as Puccini, Bizet, Weill and several others. A particular joy is to hear her agile coloratura shine through and more songs requiring this to an even greater degree would have been much appreciated. Wonderful though the songs are, in many cases what we hear is not overwhelmingly related to the tango and ultimately this disappoints.

On the dance floor she is partnered by Nuno Silva, who also performs several contemporary dance solos. Again, there is a mismatch between expectations and reality. The dances are in tango vals style and while this is a perfectly legitimate form, it doesn’t have the drama and abrupt rhythms associated with more traditional forms. There is nervousness and a lack of sensuality in much of the paired work. Silva at times looks heavy and the style of his individual dances seems insufficiently rooted in tango for the theme of the evening. Julian Rowlands provides music on the keyboard but particularly delights on the bandoneon.

The back wall projections seem rather random and do little to enhance the performance. In particular the translations require far too much reading and often lack accuracy: better to let the songs speak for themselves. There are also some overly dramatic, slightly embarrassing moments of performance which feel really unnecessary.

Overall, the evening is enjoyable but the programme lacks coherence: a series of musical numbers with dance interludes and projected images that fail to live up to the promised “impassioned tango songs” and milonga.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

An ageing singer in a Buenos Aires cabaret, Violetta refuses to let illness overcome her as she sings her impassioned tango songs each night for her clients. After a chance encounter in the street, she is overwhelmed by vivid memories of desire, jealousy, and her great lost love. Immersing herself in a world of vanished dreams, Violetta dances the milonga one last time. VLT was performed to full houses at Kings Place in December 2014 and at South Bank Centre, London, in May. Ann Liebeck, Nuno Silva and Olivier award nominated composer Julian Rowlands perform.