Adriana Varela | The Auditorium, Rome | 6 September, 2008

Whilst every local and national news station in Italy seemed to have joined the stampede to catch a few seconds of footage of Madonna at the Olympic Stadium last night, at the Auditorium Music Park world famous Argentine tango singer Adriana Varela inaugurated the second edition of the Buenos Aires Tango festival with a stunning show in Sala Sinopoli.

The festival - sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires - is a two week celebration of tango in all its forms with a series of concerts and events introducing tango musicians, singers and dancers to a wider audience. Before the concert I was unfamiliar with Adriana Varela's music and I'd bought the tickets on the recommendation of a tango-loving friend - but I left the show a fan, entirely captivated by her extraordinary voice and charismatic personality! Prowling up and down the stage talking to the audience, sitting on occasions, combining elements of cabaret with tango-as-torch-song drama and even squeezing in a glamorous costume change at one point (during which her band - Marcelo Macri on piano, Ernesto Molina on accordion and Horacio Avilano on guitar - treated us to an instrumental interlude) this felt like an intimate nightclub show performed by a major talent. I was on my feet with the rest of the audience who gave her a standing ovation and was rewarded by a surprise second encore after the lights were up. One of the highlights of the show for me was Con la frente marchita (see video below).

Stepping outside after the concert into a still stiflingly warm summer evening, the Argentine atmosphere continued with dozens of couples tangoing in the Cavea which had been transformed into an impromptu open air dance hall for the occasion.

Buenos Aires Tango runs until 18 September.