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Sainete

The sainete is a type of short theatrical play from Spain which includes musical parts. It was usually performed during interludes until it was integrated to another type of short play, the genero chico, in the 19th century. In Argentina it continued to exist as an independent genre and evolved into the sainete criollo which played an important part in the history of tango.

In the early 17th century Spain, the sainete was a very short comedy of popular tone. It usually featured a sentimental affair between two main characters surrounded by other stereotyped characters. The purpose of the sainete was to create a diversion between acts of a longer play or to be performed at the end of a function. It typically included musical parts and singing.

When the economical context in Spain called for the creation shorter plays in the mid 19th century, the zarzuelas were divided between the genero grande (long genre) and the genero chico (short genre). At this point the sainete was used to create short plays of about 45 minutes and assimilated to the genero chico.

In Argentina, the sainete continued to develop as an independent genre. There it was compbined with elements of the circo criollo (circus) and evolved into the sainte criollo.

The sainte criollo usually presented scenes of ordinary life in the conventillos, the shared houses where modest families of immigrants used to live in close proximity to each other in Buenos Aires. Unlike the original sainete, these were not pure comedies anymore and included elements of drama.

In the 1920’s, the sainete criollo played an important part in the emergence of the tango canción, the kind of tango songs which were promoted by Carlos Gardel. The so called first tango song, “Mi noche triste, was popularized by the sainete “Los dientes del Perro” by  José González Castillo and Alberto Weisbach.

Following the phenomenal success of  “Mi noche triste”, many other tango songs were written for sainetes. These new tango songs were interpreted by the actors such as Tita Merello and Sofia Bozan as well as signers such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini and contributed to create a transition between the guardia vieja and the guardia nueva.

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1 Pellettieri, Osvaldo. Historia del teatro Argentino. La emancipación cultural (1884-1930). Buenos Aires: Galerna, 2002.

2 Pellettieri, Osvaldo. El sainete y el grotesco criollo. Buenos Aires: Editorial Galerna, 2008.

Zarzuela

The zarzuela is a form of musical theater from Spain which has the particularity of alternating between dialogues and musical parts. It played an important role in the genesis of tango by introducing the tango andaluz to the city of Buenos Aires.

The first documented mentions of a zarzuela goes back to 1657 with the premier of “El golfo de las sirenas” by Calderon de la Barca. The term zarzuela comes from the name of the royal theater in Madrid where this type of musical play first appeared. In the 19th century a short version of the zarzuela was created, the genero chico, which was more affordable to produce and attend and became popular in Latin american countries including Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico and Argentina.

A zarzuela  of the genero chico is a essentially a short comedy composed of one act which lasts for an hour or less. These short plays revolved around popular themes and usually unfold on a single set. They were often inspired by sainetes, another genre of short musical play realted to the genero chico .

One of the ways in which the zarzuela influenced on the evolution of tango is by the introduction of the tango andaluz to the city of Buenos Aires. Theaters were an important vehicle through which songs were popularized as people learned and repeated the songs they heard in popular plays. These tangos andaluces soon inspired new local songs which reflected the reality of life in the rapidly growing city of Buenos Aires. Thought these very first tangos criollos did not yet constitute a new distinct musical genre, they are regarded as a very primitive forms of Argentine tango. This is the case for example of Andate a la Recoleta” (1800), which was inspired by a tango andaluz.

Another way in which the zarzuela played a role in the evolution of tango is through providing a space to present and promote the new local tango as a fully formed and recognized entity. The first documented use of the word “tango” in the sense of tango porteño was found in “Justicia Criolla”, a local zarzuela which proudly features the new tango music, dance and culture.

“Justicia Criolla” was premiered at the theater Olimpo in 1897, the same year El entrerriano was composed by Rosendo Mendizabal.

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[1] Pellettieri, Osvaldo. Historia del teatro Argentino en Buenos Aires. Editorial Galerna, 2002. Print.

[2] “El dia que el tango tuvo nombre”. Clarín. Online. https://www.clarin.com/espectaculos/dia-tango-nombre_0_S1luFxZRKx.html

 

Andate a la Recoleta

“Andate a la Recoleta” is a primitive, anonymous tango of andaluz influence. It was composed around 1880, long before El entrerriano by Rosendo Mendizabal (1897). It is sometimes attributed to Juan Pérez and was regarded by musicologist Carlos Vega as the oldest Argentine tango.

Like other early tangos which were composed in the 1880’s, “Andate a la Recoleta” is little more then a tango andaluz with adapted lyrics reflecting the local expressions and reality of life in Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. These lyrics were transmitted to us through oral tradition and their interpretation seems to be difficult and uncertain. They also seem to vary according to different sources.

The prevailing interpretation perhaps is that “Andate a la Recoleta”  was a song about the expansion of the railways toward the northern neighbourhood of Recoleta and an allusion to a strike or strong protest about poor working conditions such a those described in “El cochero de tramway” by Angel Villoldo.

Andate a la Recoleta, decile al recoletero que prepare una boveda para este pobre cochero. Sí, sí, sí, que Gaudencio se va a fundir. No, no, no, que Gaudencio ya se fundió. Y ven a los mayorales parados en los estribos con un letrero que dice: “calle de Estados Unidos”.

Others have pointed out that “going to la Recoleta” means going to party as the area around the cemetery of Recoleta is where the disreputable nightlife and tango dancing were happening in those days. According to this analysis, “Andate a la Recoleta” was rather a lighthearted allusion to nocturnal escapades in the neighbourhood of Recoleta. (Yes yes yes, tonight is my turn, no no no, tomorrow is yours)

Si, Si, Si, que esta noche me toca a mi. No, no, no, que mañana te toca a vos.

Another version shows how familiar “Andate a la Recoleta” must have been in those days as it goes “yes yes yes, son of a bitch”.

Si, si, si, la puta que te pario. No, no, no, que Gaudencio ya se fundio

Yet another version entitled “Vamos a la Plata” was about the foundation of the city of la Plata. This one describes the new city as a place to go in search of a better life where there is soup, women available for marriage, money and no need to work.

“Vamos a La Plata / la nueva capital / allí se come sopa / y puchero sin sal / Si, si, si, / que La Plata se va a fundar / No, no, no / que La Plata ya se fundó / Vamos a La Plata, / que hay mucho que ver / que se casa un hombre / con una mujer / Vamos a La Plata / que hay mucho que ver / hombres a caballo / mujeres de a pie / Me voy a La Plata / la nueva capital / que allí se gana plata / y no hay que trabajar”

These were all inspired by the “Tango de la casera”, the tango andaluz also known as “Senora casera” or “Tango de los merengazos”.

“Señora casera / ¿qué es lo que s’arquila? / Sala y antesala, / comedó y cocina / ¿Cuánto vale esto? / Vale cinco duros./ Dígale al amo / que les den por…/

“Si, si, si, / A mí me gustan los merengazos / No, no, no, / que a ti te gustan los medios vasos / Si, si, si, / a ti te gustan los pío nonos / No, no. no, / que ya te he dicho que no los como”

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[1] Matamoro, Blas. “Orígenes musicales.” In La historia del tango: sus orígenes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1976. Print.

[2] Horvat, Ricardo. Esos malditos tangos: apuntes para la otra historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos, 2006. Print.

Juan D’Arienzo

Juan d’Arienzo was a violonist, composer and influential director of the guardia nueva. Also known as El rey del compas, or king of rhythm, his style of interpretation is characterized by a fast and steady beat which appealed to the youth in the 1930’s and gave a new impulse to tango as a dance and popular musical genre in Buenos Aires after the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935.

Juan D’Arienzo was born in the neighborhood of Balvanera to a family of Italian immigrants in 1900. He began studying the violin at the Conservatorio Mascagni when he was 11-years-old and completed his education with professor Fassano at the institute Thiebaud Piazzini. With his friends, Angel d’Agostino (piano) and Carlos Bianchi (bandoneon), he formed his first trio and began performing tango and jazz.

It’s not until 1926 that Juan D’Arienzo finally dedicated himself exclusively to tango. For the next few years, he performed in movie theaters with the Orquesta típica Paramount and the sexteto Los Ases. He also began forming his own orchestra and made his first recordings with Electra and the voice of Carlos Dante.

When sound films entered movie theatres in the 1930’s, leaving many musicians out of a job, Juan d’Arienzo was hired to perform with his orchesta típica at the cabaret Chantecler. This is where he spent the best years of his career and became the orchestra director we remember today. There he began working with Rodolfo Biagi (piano) and defined the rhythmical and cheerful style of interpretation which brought tango dance and music back to life.

His success was sudden and intense. Juan D`Arienzo began recording with RCA Victor and appearing on Radio Mundo. Dance halls and tango orchestras began flourishing in every neighbourhood around the city. D’Arienzo began traveling to Montevideo and became a regular at Teatro Solis and Café Tupí Nambá. In 1937, he appeared for the first time in a movie, “Melodias porteñas”. This movie was followed by many others including “Tango” (1933), “Yo quiero ser bataclana” (1941), “El cantor del pueblo” (1948), “La voz de mi ciudad” (1953) and “Una ventana al éxito” (1966).

Though he said singers were responsible for killing tango, taking the focus away from the music and the beat, D’Arienzo worked with many distinguished singers and estribillistas throughout his career including Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Echague, Hector Mauré and Armando Laborde, never compromising on the rhythm and speed of the orchestra. He is also the author of many milongas, a new energetic and urban genre, which differs from the milonga campera, that he contributes to impose in the 1930.

While new musical styles were flourishing during the golden age, Juan D’Arienzo went on performing and recording with the same fast paced, rhythmical style. Critics began saying he had become repetitive and failed to evolve. Because this idea has often been repeated out of it’s original context, it is important to remember that Juan D’Arienzo was one of the most innovative director of tango history and none of the renovation, which he was accused of not following, would have taken place without him. It is also important to emphasize that he remains a favourite among tango dancers throughout the golden age and to this day.

When it became very clear that tango dancing was not in style anymore in the 1960’s, Juan d’Arienzo finally made some changes to his music and began performing tango in a more melodic manner. He went on performing and recording until his death in 1976.

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[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. III). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

[2] Gobello, José. “Juan d’Arienzo” in Tango y Lunfardo. Chivilcoy, 1997. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/32/Juan-DArienzo/

[3] Jara, Fernanda. Hace 42 anos moría Juan D´Arienzo, El rey del compás. Infobae. Online. https://www.infobae.com/cultura/2018/01/14/hace-42-anos-moria-juan-darienzo-el-rey-del-compas/

 

Armenonville

The cabaret Armenonville was the first luxurious dancing-restaurant in Buenos Aires. It was located on Avenida Alvear, now Libertador, at the corner of Tagle and frequented by the high society of the 1910’s and 20’s.

The building itself was a two story chalet designed to resemble a hunting Pavillon of the same name located in Bois de Boulogne, France. It was surrounded by large green spaces and parks and it was particularly popular during the summer months when dinner was served on a large terrace in the garden and rotondas.

The food was of the very best quality at the cabaret Armenonville, just as everything else. Promotional posters announced the finest french cuisine, parking for automobiles and carriages, beautiful terraces, gardens and the finest entertainment.

Inside the house, the ground level was organized around a large dance floor and a stage surrounded tables, boxes and balconies. Tango was becoming fashionable in those years and the luxurious cabaret was inaugurated in 1911 by Vicente Greco and his orquesta típica. Other tango musicians who performed at the Armenonville in the early years include Roberto Firpo, Eduardo Arolas and Augustin Bardi.

The legendary cabaret was also an important step in the career of Carlos Gardel who was hired to perform with José Razanno in 1913 for 70 pesos per night, a sum for which Gardel said he wouldn’t mind washing the dishes as well. This is where the duo was first noticed by Pablo Podestá, a regular who led them to make their debut at the theater and travel to Montevideo where Gardel first discovered  “Mi noche triste”.

When El Armenonville was demolished around 1925, the owners Carlos Bonifacio Lanzavecchia and Manuel Loreiro took their business to a new location and the Armenonville became Les Ambassadeurs.

There is a tango by Juan Maglio entitled “Armenonville” (1912).

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[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. II). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

[2] “El Armenonville, un cabaret inspirador”. Clarin, october 8, 2012.  Online. https://www.clarin.com/ciudades/Armenonville-cabaret-inspirador_0_ryfGMJkhvXl.html

[3] “Carlos Gardel: Debut en Armenonville.” Hagase la musica. Online.  http://www.hlmtango.com/notas/carlos-gardel/debut-en-el-armenonville/

[4] Cabaré Armenonville. Arcón de Buenos Aires. Online. http://www.arcondebuenosaires.com.ar/conf_armenonville.htm

Cabaret

The cabaret is a type of night club, originally from Paris, where people go to entertain themselves for an evening, eat, drink alcoholic beverages and enjoy a show. In Buenos Aires the cabarets appeared in the early 1910’s and are closely associated to the the history of tango.

A typical Buenos Aires cabaret of the golden age of tango was essentially a luxurious restaurants with a dance floor surrounded by tables and a bar. These restaurant-dancing were mostly located in the center of the city along avenida Corrientes. Some were frequented by men only with alternadoras, coperas and papirusas, women who were in charge of keeping men entertained and consuming. Others were designed for couples.

In the 30’s and 40’s each cabaret featured a particular ochestra típica which was the main attraction of the house and determined the prestige of each cabaret. For exemple, Juan d’Arienzo was associated to the Chanteclerc, Anibal Troilo to the Tibidabo and  Lucio Demare to El Casanova. Though they were the main attraction of the house, tango orchestras shared the space with jazz orchestras and other performers. On Saturdays they would be away, performing in popular dance halls across the city.

Some of those luxurious Buenos Aires cabarets include the Armenonville, Chantecler, Royal Pigall, Marabú and Palais de glace. More humble cabarets, los del Bajo, were located near the port and the actual Centro cultural Kirtchner. The Ocean Dancing, which featured Miguel Caló and Oswaldo Pugliese, was located at Leandro N. Alem 286.  Nearby was the Montmartre, el Royal, el Derby and Cielo de California where guests were greated by a doorman dressed up like a cowboy. [2]

Most Buenos Aires cabarets were closed when the popularity of tango and live music in general declined in the 1950’s and 60’s. They are evoqued in many tangos which were targetted by the prohibition as the word “cabaret” was banned along with lunfardo terms and inappropriate terms identified by the military government.  [2]

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[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. II). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

[2] Palacio, Jorge. Los cabarets de los anos cuarenta. Todotango. Online.   http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/163/Los-cabarets-de-los-anos-cuarenta/

Estribillista

The estribillista is the singer of the orchesta típica of the 1920’s and 1930’s. It must be distinguished from the cantor de orquesta (orchestra singer) of the golden age and solo tango singers.

The purpose of the estribillista is to perfom the estribillo (refrain) in such a way that the orchestra and the music remains at the center of attention. In the early 1920,s, singing was reserved to soloists such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini. These singers used to perform with guitars or small band which would accommodate their voice and were not concerned with delivering a steady beat for dancing. Orquestas típicas were performing instrumental pieces only.

Francisco Canaro was the first director to incorporate a singer to his orchestra. In  invited Roberto Diaz to perform the estribillo with his orquestra. In his memoirs he says he felt like something was missing before that and soon he experimented with duos as well.

The challenges to integrate a singer to an orchestra were many at that time as there were no microphones to amplifying the voice of the singer which had to be powerful enough to accompany powerful instruments in noisy public spaces, cafes and nightclubs. Cone were used with were not estetically . Also it did not occurre to any director to slow down their pace or do major efforts to accomodate the poetry and voice of the singer until Anibal Troilo began working with Francisco FIorentino and appeared the orchestra singer in 1937. Besides the contribution of the estribillista was rarely credited. Singers were not considered full members of the orchestra and names often did not appear or recordings.

However the estribillista became popular and by the end of the 1920’s, well known soloists such as Charlo began performing with orchestras. Juan Carlos Thorry and Ernesto Famá worked with Osvaldo Fresedo, Félix Gutiérrez with Julio de Caro, Dante with D;arienzo, Teófilo Ibáñez with Firpo and Santiago Devin with Carlos Di Sarli.

The presence, status and recognition of the estribillistas continued to improve as electric technologies allowed for better performances. In the 30;s all orchestra were working with singers, some of which were associated with a particular one like Roberto Ray to Fresedo and others like Luis Diaz and Francisco Fiorentino worked with many.

But woulnt be fully integrated in the orchestra and music with full poetry until the end of the 1937 with Troilo and Fiorentino inventing the Cator de orquesta.

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García Blaya, Ricardo. El cantor del Tango: su evoluci’on en el tiempo – El estribillista.  Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/69/El-Cantor-del-Tango:-Su-evolucion-en-el-tiempo-El-estribillista/