Buenos Aires is a music theatre work in which the composer addresses the absurdity of opera singing. Within a science fiction setting, it deals with indirectness, resistance, dictatorship, censorship, with clichés and pop culture – and with air, in the truest sense of the word.
It is Simon Steen-Andersons first music theatre work, shaped by numerous of his own experiences, observations, interests and personal statements – not least on the music theatre genre itself.
The score is a script with stage directions and performance notes for the musicians scattered in. The libretto is the composer’s own and, aside from some original dialogues, consists primarily of quotations and collages. In the 1st scene, the composer presents – in the manner of an overture – everything that is important to him in this work. The 2nd scene is a collage of dialogues from various episodes of the 1980s courtroom soap L.A. Law, while the text for the 5th scene comprises quotations from lectures and travel guides about Argentina.
The stage set consists of 3 video screens either showing live video from small hand cameras with wireless video transmitters or pictures from various places and rooms. There is a high level of interaction with the stage scene, where fans, toy instruments, an air compressor, speaking aids and much more form the atypical inventory of this music theatre work play an important musical and scenic role.
The main figure, Johanna, first appears as herself in a recording studio and is increasingly controlled by others, until she experiences dependence in a violent manner in the 2nd scene. In the 3rd, she has a relationship at eye level (in the truest sense of the word), while in the 4th she exerts pressure on others, until she is finally deprived of control once more, and has a purely observing role in the 5th scene. For her counterpart Anzorena, it is the other way around: in the 1st scene he takes over the authority of interpretation for the piece. In the 2nd too, though only indirectly present, he still exerts control. In the 4th scene he appears in a minor role in a changed state and in the 5th scene he becomes the protagonist once more, a figure on which to project Argentine suffering and longings. The three other singers/actors become instruments of the composer with overwrought and increasingly complex interpretative demands, passing through all expressive nuances from joyful execution of the instructions, then subtle subversion, to open rebellion.