"Let's Have Dinner and Go Dancing [with the Mandrágora Tango Orchestra]" is their set of tangos. I must admit admit that I might guarantee that it will put you in the mood. Put that on at home and put out the dinner and the wine and the roses.
The Twin Cities' alternative newsweekly City Pages called our production of Maria de Buenos Aires with Theatre de la Jeunne Lune: both Best Opera 2005 and Best Overall Theater Work, as well as giving it a pretty good review entitled I Just Met a Girl Named Maria, and Now I'm Going to Kill Myself when it first came out. Here's what they said:
- This show ran around the same time Jeune Lune learned that it had received a 2005 Regional Theatre Tony Award --and was a triumph of its own. A tango opera by Astor Piazzola that premiered in 1968, Maria explores the feminine embodiment of the Buenos Aires underclass, in a vector that leads inescapably to the grave. Piazzola's original opera played around with dualities, and in this production Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden portrayed Maria split into two, a move echoed by the tag-team depiction of her suitor the Spirit Poet (Steven Epp and Bradley Greenwald). The Mandragora Tango Orchestra provided an understated take on Piazzola's compositions to good effect (tip for Piazzola lovers: Violin hero Gidon Kremer released Tracing Astor in 2001, and it is minimal, and beautiful). You walked away feeling as though you had seen sights and heard sounds not soon to be reproduced.
- As high-heeled señoritas cavorted with their lovers, a ragtag ensemble of street instruments--accordion, guitar, upright base [sic], and the like--pulsed and stomped to the beat of an Argentine marketplace.
- And the understated music of the Mandragora Tango Orchestra (led by conductor and accordionist Bob Barnes) nicely tackles Piazzolla's elaborate variations on the tango, lending a sophisticated dynamic range without resorting to overpowering noise.
Minesota Public Radio did a feature on the Mandrágora Tango Orchestra and the CD release party for Let's Have Dinner and Go Dancing. They also included a great slideshow presentation of local dancers talking tango over images of a Sunday night at the Loring Pasta Bar
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press says of Maria de Buenos Aires: The images are compelling and the music of the Mandragora Tango Orchestra is lush. But the tango opera conveys no clear message, only a whiff of smoke and emotion reflected in funhouse mirrors. Like an enigmatic dream, "Maria de Buenos Aires" leaves one wondering and a bit dazed -- but still dazzled.
Linda Alila of the Yale Tango Club wrote about our May 2007 appearance there in an email to other tango organizers:
Mandragora Tango ROCKS. Seriously, get them to your milonga/festival if you can. I don't think I've ever met a friendlier, more enthusiastic band. I have to admit, I had some reservations after hearing their recordings on their website, but they're *much* better in person.
On Sunday afternoon, the band got together with members of our tango orchestra for a group lesson, and I was blown away by the amount of knowledge between these four guys. It's clear that they've been watching tango musicians closely. (They also spent a stint in Argentina, working side-by-side with musicians.) The best thing about Mandragora is that they're very supportive, working on your strengths while teaching you new techniques. So if you're even remotely interested in playing tango, these are definitely the guys to work with.
Later on, at milonga*dot*edu, Mandragora played with a lot of energy. Yes, they played Piazzolla (which I like listening to, but not dancing to), but they did a tango version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which endeared them immensely to the dancers.
The kicker was when the bandleader/accordionist, Bob Barnes, traveled around the room with his accordion as they played "La Cumparsita." He stepped down from the stage, walked around the floor with the dancers (following the line of dance!), and played for a while in the center of the ronda as the dancers swirled around him.
Lately there's been a fair amount of criticism about how bands rarely play with dancers in mind. I think I can confidently say that Mandragora's music works for tango dancers. But it's also clear that they really enjoy playing together. As someone who also plays an instrument, this kind of camaraderie resonates strongly with me.
I'm really glad that Mandragora came down to Yale, and I highly, highly recommend that you have them on your campus as well.
Richard P. Zunkiewiczi, Planned Giving Officer for the Blanchard Valley Health Foundation in Findlay, Ohio wrote to us after we played a gig for them:
I Just wanted to say how happy we were with The Mandragora Tango's performance recently in Findlay, Ohio. Your musical group was exactly what we were looking for in providing authentic Argentinian Tango music for our Legacy Society members--a group of major donors of Blanchard Valley Health Foundation benefiting The Blanchard Valley Health System in Findlay. Our theme this year was "Tango"
Your orchestra was extremely polished and professional-- not only well-trained in the musical style we wanted, but also well-trained in musicianship in general. The group also was very cooperative in providing the music for the professional tango dancers who performed at our event.
I would highly recommend the Mandragora Tango Orchestra for a truly exhilarating musical experience!!
Folks who've bought our CD from CD Baby have said some great things about us:
- 5/5 Stars: I'll dance to it! I had originally purchased the first CD, Mandragora Plays Tangos and Sad Waltzes, and I liked it so much that I consulted their website. It was on their website that I was made familiar with the most recent release. Although it is true that I was first attracted to TANGCHRIST SUPERSTAR and the cover of SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, the rest of the music is pleasant and quite danceable. Now, if I could only get them to organize their CD into tandas -- yes, I like my waltzes separated together and my tangos separated together. I liked the CD so much that I bought an extra copy to send to a friend in Montreal for Christmas. It really says something positive when I purchase an extra copy to give as a gift. - Mark B. Hammond
- 5/5 Stars: Fabulous This is a beautiful CD collection of Latin American music. It has opened up a new musical dimension for me. The arrangements and interpretations are so original and very exciting. Over the years, I have heard La Cumparsita a million times but never played like this before. It is a gem. Congratulations and thank you. Shirley Fredericksen