New York Times Acclaimed Show Arrives in New Orleans for Two Nights Only

A revealing, soul-searching expression of the life of Astor Piazzolla, the father of Nuevo Tango, is at the heart of “That’s Not Tango - Astor Piazzolla, A Life In Music,”coming to Loyola University’s “Loyola Presents” music series on October 26 and 27.

This live theatrical concert was conceived by Lesley Karsten and written by Karsten and Stephen Wadsworth. Wadsworth, who was named “one of the most influential stage directors of the 21st century” by American Theatre magazine, also directed.

Astor Piazzolla revolutionized tango music in the 1950s and 60s. By infusing Tango with jazz and classical, and playing with a full orchestra, he took the art form out of the seedy dance halls of his native Argentina and into the major concert halls of the world.

The production at Loyola brings three virtuoso musicians and an actor to the stage in a mix of storytelling and performances of Piazzolla’s music. Musicians JP Jofre, (bandoneon), Brandt Fredriksen (piano) and Nick Danielson (violin) are joined by actress Lesley Karsten who, in a gender-bending performance, portrays Maestro Piazzolla himself.

“The premise is simple,” explains Karsten. “He’s dead, hates it and returns because he has unfinished business ... with himself. He has regrets, struggles with isolation, memories of love lost. He gave what he had to give -- the music is astonishing – but there’s a price to be paid for immortality.”

The New York Times singled out the staged production when it premiered in 2016 for its unique gender-bending premise – the part of Piazzolla is played by a woman. As Piazzolla, Karsten offers a deeper understanding of Piazzolla’s life, from his rough childhood in New York to the fame he achieved for revolutionizing the traditional tango.

“Lesley’s work as Piazzolla moves quickly beyond gender into the androgyny of the soul,” says Wadsworth. “A woman in a persona so conventionally masculine, and whose music has a bald assertiveness and violence many associate with maleness, is very tango. Piazzolla was fascinated by the quick-change animus-anima exchanges between men and women dancing tango.”

Karsten and Wadsworth take us on an intimate journey into Piazzolla’s past, from his childhood in New York to his death at 71 in Buenos Aires. Growing up on the Lower East Side, he was strongly influenced by the music he was surrounded by. Along with exposure to Bach, Stravinsky and Bartok, he heard klezmer from Jewish weddings, jazz from nearby clubs and tango—an idiom he initially rejected—from the scratchy records his father played.

A chance encounter with Artur Rubenstein when Piazzolla was 16 further inspired him to pursue music; he was soon taken under the wings of classical composer Alberto Ginastera and tango great Aníbal Troilo, and later went on to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger. Through her, the composer found his true calling.

From this gumbo of life experiences emerged a music that’s intensely personal, yet universal and as beloved in Tokyo, Berlin and New York as it is in Buenos Aires. Since his death in 1992, Piazzolla has been given his rightful place as a towering figure in all 20th-century music. Jazz giants like Gary Burton and Al di Meola and classical superstars like Yo Yo Ma, Emmanuel Ax and Daniel Barenboim include his works in their repertoires. Piazzolla’s influence continues to be felt in the works of other significant composers, such as Osvaldo Golijov.

“I hope people develop a personal relationship with the music and understand what it meant to him,” Karsten says. “I want audiences to experience the man behind its urgency and power.”

Award-winning pianist Brandt Fredriksen is the Music Director/Pianist of the show. He is a founding member of New York’s Ensemble Respiro. He has held debut recitals at Weill Recital Hall, Gasteig Cultural Center, and Vafopoulio Hall, and has performed recitals and concerts throughout the world. He has several recordings, and has also recorded solo piano music for the soundtrack of the award-winning documentary film, Sonia, andchamber music composed by Nickitas Demos for the film A Free Bird. Most recently he recorded piano for New Music from Greek and Greek-American Composers for Albany Records.

JP Jofre is an award-winning bandoneon player and composer considered to be the premiere bandoneónista of the modern age. He has been repeatedly highlighted by the New York Times and praised as one of today’s leading artists by Great Performers at Lincoln Center. His music has been recorded by Grammy winner Paquito D’ Rivera, choreographed and performed by Herman Cornejo (Principal Dancer of the American Ballet Theatre). Jofre has taken his form of contemporary tango to some of the most important venues around the world, including San Antonio Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Argentina's National Symphony Orchestra.

Among his many collaborations, violinist Nick Danielson has performed and recorded at venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center with world renowned tango and contemporary Argentinian ensembles and musicians such as Paquito D’Rivera, Pablo Ziegler, and Wynton Marsalis. He has performed on Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning recordings in both genres and has recorded two solo albums. He is the Assistant Concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Stephen Wadsworth is a veteran of Broadway, the West End and opera companies throughout Europe and the US, including the Met. He has directed such wildly diverse playwrights such as: Terrence McNally, Anna Deavere Smith, Beth Henley, Ken Ludwig, and composers Peter Lieberson and Daron Hagen. Working with Leonard Bernstein, he wrote the Grammy-nominated opera A Quiet Place. He was a Playwriting Fellow for Sundance at the Ucross Foundation and the McCarter Theatre, and currently teaches directing at Juilliard.

Lesley Karsten is a documentary filmmaker, vocalist, musician, and actor. She has worked on the PBS documentaries Forgiveness: A Time to Love; A Time to Hate and Into the Night – Portraits of Life and Death. Her experience translating personal narrative into vivid story-telling, coupled with her love of music, inspired this collaboration.

Story and Musical Consultants include: Kip Hanrahan, Piazzolla's longtime associate and the producer of his seminal CDs Tango Zero Hour and La Camorra, and Fernando Gonzalez music critic, writer and translator of Natalio Gorin’s “Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir.”

Friday 10/26 at 7:30 pm
Saturday 10/27 at 7:30 pm

Loyola University
Nunemaker Hall
6363 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans

Regular Price: $25
VIP Tickets: $45 (reserved seats in the first rows and post-performance talkback)
Loyola Students: free
Non-Loyola Students: $10

Box Office:
Open Tues-Fri from 1-5 pm
Located in the Communications/Music Complex on the corner of Calhoun Street and St.
Charles Ave.


Press Contact:
Julia LeBlanc

Photo & Press Materials:
Performance B-roll: