Fort Worth — Tango is a word that has, at one time or another, been applied either to the dance itself, the music, the instruments, and even the place where the dance takes place, so it’s a versatile enough word to provide a tango-based program a broad latitude. In a program entitled Let’s Tango! conductor Jeff Tyzik and the Fort Worth Symphony charted that space in a pops concert on Friday evening alongside six guests: soprano Camille Zamora, dancers Eva Lucero, Patricio Touceda, Anabella Diaz-Hojman, and Mario Consiglieri; and bandoneón virtuoso Héctor del Curto. And there’s probably a costume designer somewhere that should get credit for the performers’ dazzling attire, which went through kaleidoscopic changes during the evening.
Camille Zamora is an extraordinary singer. She has interesting things to say about what she’s performing, and her strong voice and stage presence that make it clear why she has been successful in everything from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Strauss’s Daphne. Friday evening, she was able to take full command, as in Guarder’s Volver, or recede in importance a little, as in Piazzola’s Vuelvo al Sur, while dancers Diaz-Hojman and Consiglieri—in a production that was pure poetry—managed the weird physics of an absurdly long scarf.
The dancers demonstrated that, as a dance, effective tango is more than dangerous kicks and stylized sensuality; it’s disciplined, careful and cerebral fun, although for most of us it would be scary from several angles. And the dancers rescued at least one number from obscurity: a waltz, not a tango, the piece threatened to become a piece of musical white bread. But the dancers’ tango-influenced interpretation of the song seemed to poke fun at the traditional waltz trappings by peppering it with some potentially lethal sliding and kicking.
The deceptively short program—15 works with only a handful extending beyond the five-minute mark—was strongest at the points where the performers seemed to be competing for the spotlight. De rigueur tangos, such as the opening Celos or the closing La Cumparsita (trust me, you’d recognize them instantly), featured everyone all at once, and it was difficult—delightfully so—to focus on any single performer for very long.
Fifteen works, and the dancers weren’t featured often enough, and neither was Ms. Zamora, but a three-ring circus should leave you feeling that way. The program really did take too much time, however, before really featuring the bandoneón. Once Del Curto was allowed in the spotlight, though, as he was in Villoldo’s El choclo and Piazzola’s Primavera Porteña, he fairly took over. In the earlier big ensemble numbers, it’s possible that he was laying back so as to highlight the introduction of his solo persona. When he was finally featured, it was almost as though there was no one else in the room—and Bass Hall is a big room.
Many of the pieces were Tyzik’s own arrangements, and they stood out in an imposing crowd; in a program consisting almost exclusively of arrangements, his didn’t settle for any one particular sound from the available forces. Some of the other arrangements, though, sounded remarkably homogeneous. Not that they were bad—we’re talking about John “Star Wars” Williams here, among others—just sort of generic. Unwillingness to settle for the generic seems to be a hallmark of Tyzik’s compositional style, and his La Dama de Mallorca is a good case in point. This original work featured a sort of concertino group organized around Ebonee Thomas, whose flute solo garnered spontaneous applause from the audience before she was even finished.
When you use a title like “Let’s Tango!” you’re asking for reactions like “YOU tango. I’m going to sit and listen politely.” Tyzik and company made many of us who had been saying things like that eat our words, and our attitude along with it. The next time someone says “Let’s Tango,” I’m going to join them.