Archive for the ‘ Gemini ’ Category

1905, June 18 – BIRTH OF ELVINO VARDARO

Violinist, Leader (Gemini) – he was twenty fours years old when he formed “The Vardaro Pugliese Orchestra”; it was a dream come true…with great fanfare and promise and including a wide-eyed Anibal Troilo the group debuted at the Cafe Nacional to an ecstatic reception…but the dream was to turn into a nightmare when embarking a long tour of Argentina, the lack of proper organization and management not only resulted in the curtailing of the tour and the dismemberment of the group, but Elvino had to pawn his “Sartoris Bow” to be able to buy train fare back home….like Elvino, the protagonist in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula” after whom his father named him who sings “all is lost, nothing can be done, my heart is dead to joy and love”, he went through a period of great despair…but Elvino would not only survive but go on to have a diverse and exciting career as few tango musicians would ever have…tango historians often refer to “the Vardaro school” to describe musicians and events

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Elvino Vardaro grew up in the Abasto neighborhood of  Buenos Aires…his first brush with tragedy came at the age of three years old he lost part of his right thumb in a playing accident…at the age of four he began studying violin into which he abandoned his soul…his teacher, the celebrated Doro Gorgatti greatly admired Elvino but he felt that his talent was being wasted on tango…at age fourteen he made his concert debut at theater “La Argentina”…the publicity poster advertised, “child prodigy…admittance price only two pesos”…one evening, while playing at a silent cinema theater, Juan Paglio “Macho” himself came to the cinema to ask the boy Elvino to join his orchestra…Elvino late joined the legendary Paquita Bernardo, the first female bandoneonist; it is there that he met Osvaldo Pugliese…in his career he would play with Lucio Demare, Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Disarli…later with the Pedro Maffia orchestra he wrote his first tango “Grito del Anima”…among his most remember compositions are “Tineblas” recorded by Pedro Maffia with the voice of the fascinating Tito Schippa and “Imaginacion” recorded by Libertad Lamarque and “Te Llama Mi Violin” recorded by Osvaldo Fresedo.

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1928, June 5 – BIRTH OF JUAN CARLOS COBOS

Singer, Lyricist, Composer (Gemini) – his father was happy and proud of his son; he had applied himself and was now a technician with a decent future but Juan Carlos Cobos was not happy…there was another voice inside of him; at work he sang constantly not always to the delight of his bosses and so at risk of greatly disappointing his father Juan did a crazy thing, enrolled in a local conservatory to study guitar and singing…at the age of seventeen he got his first break when he was hired by the Lucini Quartet…to eveyone’s delight audiences liked Juan and like his singing….Juan was then recruited by Ernesto Dario Saborido Orchestra and then began to develop a name for himself touring the region of Buenos Aires…in the early 1950s the dynamic Jorge Vidal decided to leave the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra and so a campaign was engaged to find a replacement….

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A friend of Juan’s told him of the opportunity and so he petitioned for the right to audition  with the great maestro; to his great surprise and delight, out of hundreds of candidates, he was selected…in March of 1953 he debuted with the orchestra and two months later in duo with Alberto Moran he recorded his first disc with “Caminito Soleado”…one month later, he recorded “Olvidao” and “Milongera” with moderate success but perhaps his best recording was his last with Pugliese, “Te Aconsejo Que Me Olvides”…he had a short tenure with Miguel Calò but he was restless…in the mid fiftys he went on a long and successful tour of Europe and he decided to settle in Spain…there he devoted frenetic energy to forming his own company of musicians and singers…he toured Europe very successfully and he found himself at the center of fame and fortune as he had never dreamed of …he was one of the first to take tango to the middle east in a successful tour which  included Egypt, Lebanon,  India and Senegal…but in the late 60s he had had enough and he returned to Argentina where he continued performing…he appeared on the renown TV show “Grandes Valores del Tango and performed, to critical acclaim, at the mythical Cano 14

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1898, June 2 – BIRTH OF PYOTR LESHCHENKO

Singer, Dancer (Gemini) – what gave Vera Georgievna the strength to endure years of hard labor in the Soviet gulag were the memories of her beloved Pyotr; her fellow inmates would nod courteously at her claims of having been the wife of the renown Pyotr Leshchenko….the day came when she was finally released and she resigned herself to the grey life that was assigned to her not realizing that her Pyotr was in fact still alive, languishing in a  Romanian prison believing that Vera was herself dead…lying on the prison hospital bed suffering from the effects of incarceration, just before closing his eyes for the last time, he said “friends, I am happy for I will return to Vera and the fatherland, I am going away but I leave you my heart”…he was fifty-six years old; Vera would survive him for another thirty-two years…Pyotr Leshchenko was the king of Russian tango; his rendition of “Serdtse”, the best known non-Spanish tango in history, sold millions of copies all over the world…he was born of a citizen of the Russian empire in Isaevo in Kherson Guberniya, now part of Ukraine into a poor, illiterate, peasant family…

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As a child he sang in the church choir and learned to play the guitar and the balalaika…after the World War I, he worked in restaurants serving and washing dishes and playing small roles in theater…after taking ballet lessons in Paris he started performing with his fist wife Zinaida Zakit…their act was a mixture of ballet, folklore and European tango which was so popular that they toured far and wide with their act including Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Briton…it was in Riga, Latvia when his wife was pregnant and he was performing alone that he improvised tango singing and was surprised at how much the crowd liked it; that launched him into a career as a highly popular tango singer selling millions of records…he was greatly influenced by the legendary Polish tango composer Jerzy Petersburski who would die in a nazi concentration camp…Pyotr opened the famous Leshchenko Cabaret in Bucharest where he sang and danced tango…he longed to return to his beloved Russia but he and his wife were finally arrested accused of being counter-revolutionary sympathizers

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1902, May 28 – BIRTH OF LUIS CESAR AMADORI

Poet, Film Director ( Gemini) – he began to feel the winds of change as soon as the military dictatorship took over; oddly the telephone stopped ringing and his calls went unanswered…one day a military unit came and arrested him…he was suspected of being  a collaborator with the Juan Peron regime…he was eventually released but he got the message and he exiled himself to Spain…Luis Cesar Amador was one of the most prolific film directors in Argentine history…his made his first film “Puerto Nuevo” in 1936 with Sofia Bozan and Charlo; seventy-seven others were to follow over a twenty year career….his greatest film was “Dios Se Lo Paque” with Zully Moreno and Arturo De Cordoba; it was Argentina’s entry into the Oscar awards in 1949

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Luis Cesar Amadori was born in the city of Pescara, Italy; he arrived with his family in Buenos Aires when he was five years old…he enter the university in Cordoba but he was restless and he soon dropped out to devote himself to writing and journalism…he began writing for the evening newspaper “Ultima Ora” and later the renown magazine “Caras Y Caretas”…it was while reporting on theater activities and it is there that he discovered his love of script writing; he authored a number of popular plays…he would also pen the lyrics of many tangos working with Enrique Santos Discepolo on a number of hits…he also worked with Francisco Canaro, Alfredo Malerba and Luis Rubenstein to name just a few; Carlos Gardel would record five of his tangos…in 1955 he shot his last two films “El Barro Humano” in which he directed his wife, the popular actress Zully Moreno and “El Amore Nunca Muere” a three episode film which cast the most renown actors of the time…he was the owner of the celebrated Teatro Maipo which together with the Teatro Nacional were the most prestigious performance halls in Argentina

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1900, May 25 – BIRTH OF ANGEL D’AGOSTINO

Leader, Pianist (Gemini) – “Yes I promise” said Enrique Cadicamo solemnly to Angel D’agostino; the two had made a pact to never betray their friendship by marrying…nevertheless, Cadicamo would marry at the age of fifty to a twenty-two year old girl and Angel D’agostino would never speak to him again…Angel D’agostino would live to the age of ninety-one, still a bachelor surrounded by friends and the memories of many women; his friend Cadicamo would also live a long life, passing away at the age of ninety nine…Angel D’agostino would seal his immortality during the six years he formed a team with singer Angel Vargas; “los dos angelos” (the two angels they were called)… they would record ninety-three tangos together including, “A Pan Y Agua“, “Mano Blanca” , “Adios Arrabal”…Angel D’agostino was one of the few musicians who was a dancer and he was to say, “I love dancing and am a miloguerno, I was a good dancer and I played to accompany the best ones”

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Angel D’agostino was born in the neighborhood of Palermo, Buenos Aires to an Italian immigrant family of musicians…he remembered that as a boy, the piano in his house never stopped playing…his father was his first teacher and later he entered the conservatory…as a child he began to play in public with another boy who would one day be a legend of tango, Juan D’arienzo…he quit school early to devote himself to his career; at the age of twenty he organized his first orchestra to play tango and jazz at the famous Palais de Glace…his orchestra gave young Anibal Troilo and Alberto Echague and Ismael Spitalnik their first professional breaks…a skilled gambler, he played poker at the Club de Progresso where high society people frequented …in 1932 he met Angel Vargas but is wasn’t until eight years later that they formed their legendary team which debuted on Radio El Mundo; one of their ardent fans was Eva Peron.

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1877, May 24 – BIRTH OF ANGEL MENTASTI

Film Producer (Gemini) – Angel Mentasti’s dynamism, courage and business acumen would be a major reason for the eventual diffusion of tango…his film “Tango” which premiered in 1933 was not only successful but would create the model for popular films which were seen all over the world…film making from the beginning was a roll of the dice; expensive to produced and dependent on the tastes of a fickle public…for his first film venture, he came up with an innovative idea; a three film project which would pool costs, minimize risks, attract investors, and appeal to distributors…part of the strategy was to market the first film only at the point of production of the second and create a trilogy expectation…Angel Mentasti was born in Varese, Italy to poor farmer parents…newly married and with limited possibilities he embarked on the courageous course of moving to Argentina…he worked in many odd jobs but with a natural entrepreneurial bent of mind…

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While working at Cosmos Films as distribution manager, he met Luis Moglia Barth who was a translator of sub titles and editor as well as a publicity agent…when Mentasti hit upon the idea of a new film production company he invited  Luis Moglia Barth to join him…he convinced the most popular entertainers of his day to appear including Libertad Lamarque, Osvaldo Fresedo, Juan D’arienzo, Pedro Maffia, Juan De Dios Filiberto….the second film “Dancing” in which Tito Luisardo debuted was a commercial failure and his investors disappeared…to complete the third film “Riachuelo”, Mentasti had to scramble and he had to liquidate his own assets…”Riachuelo” was a great success; it cost 80,000 pesos to produce and in the first year alone grossed one million pesos…at the height of his success, Angel Mentasti suddenly contracted diphtheria with which he courageously battled for many months but it was a fight that he eventually lost and he passed away at the age of sixty…he was remembered by colleagues and friends as an energetic, dynamic and generous man

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1966, December 21 – PREMIERE OF “KING OF HEARTS”

In the classic film “King of Hearts” (1966) the residents of a small French village during World War I leave because the Germans plan to bomb the village…the inmates of the local insane asylum take over the village and create a festive, gay, surreal, make belief atmosphere totally oblivious to the war; the message of the film is, “perhaps the really crazy people are outside of the asylum”…it is precisely this film which inspired Horacio Ferrer to write the master piece “Ballada Para un Loco” to Astor Piazzolla’s music…when the piece was premiered by Amelia Baltazar at the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, it created a great controversy because many did not see it as real tango and even hissed at it while Amelia was singing it…it was leading in the voting on the final day but the controversy forced the judges to give it second place instead…when “Balada Para Un Loco” was recorded, it was a great hit selling over 200,000 in the first week alone

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Horacio Ferrer was born June 2, 1933 in Montevideo, Uruguay (Gemini) to a cultured family; his father was a professor of history and his mother, who was eleven years older than his father, spoke four languages…already as a child, he started writing his first poems, simple plays and even milongas to which he accompanied himself on guitar…at the age of 20 his was invited to participate on a weekly radio program called “A Selection of Tangos”…he soon started a groundbreaking magazine called “Tangueando” which he wrote and illustrated himself…in 1970 he wrote “Book of the Tango, Peoples Art of  Buenos Aires”; its three volumes and more than 2000 pages is one of the most complete works on tango in history…he has collaborated with Astor Piazzolla on a number of hits; one writer called them “the Lennon – MaCarthy team of tango”

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