The emergence of New Tango master Astor Piazzolla is a Horatio Alger story for our time. This would-be hoodlum, the lame son of immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side, grows up to become one of the foremost composers of the 20th century.
That’s Not Tango—Astor Piazzolla, A Life in Music, conceived by Lesley Karsten and written by Karsten and Stephen Wadsworth, captures Piazzolla’s complexities through the interplay of dramatic narrative and the composer’s world renowned music—Nuevo Tango.
Karsten’s portrayal of Piazzolla brings the composer’s spirt alive to wrestle with the constraints of tradition, the perils of radical musical change, and the lure of posterity. Woven throughout Karsten’s dramatic narrative are virtuoso musical performances by Brandt Fredriksen (piano), JP Jofre (bandoneon), and Nick Danielson (violin).
Piazzolla’s life is as rich and varied as his music. Born in Argentina to Italian parents, he grows up as a New Yorker but not quite an American. When he returns to Argentina at 16, he doesn’t speak Spanish. A chance meeting with Arthur Rubenstein leads to studies with Alberto Ginastera and later Nadia Boulanger. But the streets of the East Village and Buenos Aires leave an indelible mark. Ultimately, the kid who once hated the scratchy tango records his father played grows up to give modern tango a future.
Having a woman play Piazzolla seemed natural to Karsten and Wadsworth. “Piazzolla was fascinated by the quick-change animus-anima exchanges between men and women dancing tango,” Wadsworth says. “A woman in a persona so conventionally masculine, and whose music has a bald assertiveness and violence many associate with maleness, is very tango.”
Karsten’s love of Piazzolla’s music, coupled with her experience translating personal narrative into vivid storytelling inspired this multi-dimensional portrait of the Argentine composer and master of the bandoneon. “He followed his voice wherever it led and if sacrifices needed to be made, he made them. The music was more important than family or friends. It was his refuge, his truth.”
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Argentinean bandoneon player and composer “J.P.” JOFRE has been repeatedly highlighted by the New York Times and praised as one of today's leading artists by Great Performers at Lincoln Center.
A recipient of the National Prize of the Arts grant in Argentina, Mr. Jofre has taken his form of con-temporary tango to some of the most important venues throughout the world. He has collaborated with many famous musicians in a wide range of musical styles.
Mr. Jofre's first CD, Hard Tango, features 14-time Grammy-winner Paquito D' Rivera, who recorded “Primavera,” an original composition by Mr. Jofre. For the world premiere of his Bandoneon Concerto, the Mercury News wrote: “…he is an electrifying composer-bandoneon player.” In 2012, Jofre was invited by the Free University of Bolzano (Italy) to perform for the homage to Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel. He proudly uses the New AA by Bandonion Fabrik Klingenthal.
A Munz Award recipient and winner of Artists International in 1991, pianist BRANDT FREDRIKSEN enjoys an illustrious career as soloist and collaborative artist having performed at prestigious venues throughout the US, Europe and China. His debut recitals were held at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, Gasteig Cultural Center in Germany, and Vafopoulio Hall in Greece.
A founding member of New York City’s Ensemble Respiro, Fredriksen has collaborated with members of the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and American String Quartet.
His recordings include the Complete Brahms Sonatas for Violin and Piano with Anton Miller, Lieder: Mozart, Schubert, Strauss with mezzo-soprano Lara Nie, and Odysseia: Contemporary Works by Greek and Greek/American Composers. He also recorded solo piano music for the documentary film Sonia, produced by Lucy Kostelanetz.
Dr. Fredriksen holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, a Master of Music from The Juilliard School, and a Bachelor of Music from Indiana University.
NICK DANIELSON enjoys a versatile career as both a classical and tango violinist. He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut in an Argentine-American family, and began listening to both genres at an early age. After graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, Danielson joined the Chester Quartet as its first violinist. Five years later, he moved to New York City and joined the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with which he toured and recorded extensively. Danielson is featured in Stravinsky’s “Concertino” on the Grammy-winning CD, Shadow Dances on Deutsche Grammophon.
As Assistant Concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, he performs frequently as a soloist and has toured Korea, Taiwan and Australia.
Danielson also performs with numerous Tango and contemporary Argentinian music ensembles including Jazz at Lincoln Center, on many occasions with some of the biggest names in music like Wynton Marsalis, Paquito D’Rivera, and Pablo Ziegler.
He has performed with Argentinian pianist-composer Ferrando Otero in the U.S., Argentina, and Europe. Their 2010 CD, Vital on World Village, won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Classical Albim.
He has played on a number of film soundtracks, among them Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, the Uruguayan film La Cascara and the Argentinian documentary Nuestros Desaparecidos.
LESLEY KARSTEN, co- writer/actor, has had an extraordinary and varied career in film and music. Karsten launched her career as a literary agent in Los Angeles. She then moved to New York to pursue a career in documentary film and has since worked on documentaries exploring diverse subject matter, including serious mental illness, infidelity, the PEN writer's congress and the spiritual aftershocks of 9/11.
Ms. Karsten has enjoyed a long professional association with renowned documentary producer Helen Whitney; most recently on the acclaimed two-part documentary special for PBS entitled Forgiveness: A Time to Love; A Time to Hate, as well as an the upcoming Confronting Mortality... and Immortality.
Ms. Karsten has studied both piano and voice and performed as the cantorial soloist of New York's Congregation Da'at Elohim from 2006-2012.
Her experience translating personal narrative into vivid storytelling coupled with her love of music inspired this multi-dimensional portrait of Astor Piazzolla.
STEPHEN WADSWORTH has made groundbreaking translation of French plays by Moliere (Don Juan), Beaumarchaus (The Figaro Plays) and Marivaux (Marivaux: Three Plays, published by Smith and Kraus) for which he was named Chevalier of the Order of the Arts and Letters by the Republic of France. He also translated plays of Goldoni and operas by Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, and Udo Zimmerman.
He wrote the opera A Quiet Place with Leonard Bernstein, the story for Daron Hagen and Gardner McFall’s Amelia, and has a commission for a one-act piece from Opera Columbus. He has directed new work by such wildly diverse writers as Beth Henley, Peter Lieberson, Anna Deavere Smith and Ken Ludwig.
He has been a playwrighting fellow at Sundance at Ucross and the McCarter Theatre, and a Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence at the Aspen Institute.
One of the top opera directors of his generation, he has created legendary productions famous for their clarity, visual beauty, closely observed relationships, and spectacular ensemble acting—including his Seattle Opera Ring cycle; Handel’s Xerxes, which travelled to ten cities through the 90s; and his three Metropolitan Opera productions, all seen world-wide in 2010-11 on Live in HD; Rodelinda, Boris Godunov, and Iphigenie en Tauride. His work is spoken theater, strongly focused on classic plays from Aeschylus, Shakespeare, and Marivaux to Shaw, Wilde and Coward, has been seen on Broadway, in the West End, and in major regional theatres.
He has started teaching and directing at The Julliard School, where he is the James S. Marcus Faculty Fellow and creator, with Brian Zeger, of the first intensive acting program for singers in the world. American Theater has called him “one of the most influential stage directors of the 21st Century.”
FERNANDO GONZALEZ, story and music consultant, is an Emmy-winner and GRAMMY® nominated writer, critic and editor. He has also been active as curator, record producer, guest lecturer, radio host and arts administrator.
He was the co-producer of The New World Symphony's Astor Piazzolla and the Passion of Tango: An in-context festival (2002).
He is the translator/ annotator of Astor Piazzolla, A Memoir (Amadeus Press, 2001) and wrote liner notes for several Piazzolla recordings including the U.S. trilogy released by Kip Hanrahan's label american clavé.
KIP HANRAHAN, story and music consultant, is a composer, lyricist and record producer.
He founded american clavé Music in 1979 as a platform for his own work, and to work with musicians in creating their most personal art. The label has been an artistic home for a wide range of artists, including Astor Piazzolla, Don Pullen, Steve Swallow, Allen Toussaint, Paul Haines, Piri Thomas and Ishmael Reed.
Hanrahan was a long-time associate of Astor Piazzzolla, and produced three of his recordings including Tango Zero Hour, considered by many to be Piazzolla's best work and widely praised for the elegance of its production.