Russian Tango at French Embassy, Feb. 2

For its next concert at the French Embassy, the Russian Chamber Art Society will present an “early Valentine’s Day” program of 20th-century tango music written by Russian and Ukrainian composers in Paris and the Soviet Union, plus a few French, Mexican, American and, yes, Argentine examples.

Featuring the Zingaresca Trio — specialists in Romani, Jewish and Eastern European musical traditions — and five guest artists, “All About European Tango” will take place on Friday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Road NW in Washington, D.C. Tickets, including a post-concert reception, are $65.

“The Soviet Union had a love-hate relationship with tango, a child of the streets of Buenos Aires,” said RCAS Artistic Director Vera Danchenko-Stern. “Having become a Paris craze just in time for the 1920s influx of Russian refugees, tango eventually danced its way to Eastern Europe. Disreputable, scandalous and by then, worst of all, bourgeois, it was embraced by a number of Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, Romani and Russian musicians. Can you imagine hearing tango sung in Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish? You will at Friday’s concert, and also in French and Spanish.”

The Zingaresca Trio is made up of baritone Anton Belov and guitarists Vadim Kolpakov and Oleg Timofeyev. A graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, Belov has sung opera roles throughout the U.S. and given numerous recitals, including at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

The female vocalist will be another RCAS favorite, mezzo-soprano Susana Poretsky. Born in Lviv, Ukraine, Poretsky studied there and in Israel. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala, among many opera houses. Violinist Gersh Chervinsky and accordionist Matt Podd will join in as guest instrumentalists.

A highlight of the evening will be a display of tango dancing by award-winning Latin and ballroom dancers Ieva Pauksena, a native of Riga, Latvia, and Genya Bartashevich, the Belarus-born director of Towson Dance Studio in Maryland.

Among the pieces on the program’s first half are: “My Heart” by Soviet film composer Isaak Dunaevsky; “Liebe (Love)” by Abraham Ellstein, a leading New York Yiddish theater composer; “Is It Really So” by Bohdan Vesolovsky, known as the “Ukrainian Tango King”; and “Júrame (Swear to Me)” by María Grever, the Mexican composer of “What a Difference a Day Makes,” originally “Cuando vuelva a tu lado.”

The second half will include several works with “tango” in their titles: “Sacré Tango” by French composer René Denoncin; “Emigrant’s Tango” by Russian-born Romani musician, dancer and acrobat Alyosha Dmitrievich, whose father opened a Russian restaurant in Paris called Cabaret Goldfish; “Cruel Tango” by Soviet film and cartoon composer Gennady Gladkov; and the well-known “Libertango,” written in 1974 in Milan by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, one of the fathers of tango nuevo (new) in the 1950s.

The Russian Chamber Art Society, “an American organization that stands in solidarity with Ukraine,” was founded in 2005 by Danchenko-Stern, a graduate of Moscow’s Gnessin Institute of Music. Russian diction coach for Washington National Opera, she was a faculty member at the Gnessin Institute, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, where she taught the “Singing in Russian” course for more than 25 years.

For tickets to the Feb. 2 concert, visit







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