Pregonera (Flower Seller) – live version

There are only a handful of movie scenes with performances from tango orchestras, but when you do come across one, it’s always a special feeling. As I was doing some research for my translation of “Pregonera” (click here for the original post with some context) I found a live version of this De Angelis classic from the 1948 movie “El cantor del pueblo” (“Singer of the people”), which also contains some D’Arienzo footage you might just enjoy as well. Let’s take a brief look at some interesting aspects of this movie performance of Pregonera.

Unfortunately, the original footage is a bit choppy and quite likely also too fast. I have not found any different versions of the movie, so I don’t know what causes the choppiness (you’ll notice that it often slightly jumps forward or skips) but I don’t think it can be fixed. The speed may still be tuned but I did not want to manipulate the original material too much. I’ve noticed there’s a lot of interest in correcting pitch in tango songs nowadays, so if you’re up for a challenge go ahead and slow it down a bit! 🙂

As you shall see below, the orchestra is playing on quite an interesting-looking stage with multiple levels, and a venue or at least a movie set that reminds me more of a church than anything else. It makes me wonder whether this was an actual venue and how the average real tango venue looked like in comparison. Other movie scenes and some photos I’ve seen show a somewhat more modest style, but I do not know enough for a truly satisfying conclusion. I also wonder whether the crowds you see in scenes like this were just a bunch of actors or walk-ons, or true fans of the orchestra who would normally come to dance or simply listen to the tunes of the moment. Just like in today’s popular entertainment, I’m not always sure what’s authentic and what isn’t, but in any case I always really enjoy philosophizing a bit about the many things in tango we don’t yet know or will never really find out about.

Likewise, when I look at the way De Angelis and his team are performing in this movie, I can’t help but wonder how ‘authentic’ this performance is (considering it was, to some extent at least, adapted for the big screen) and how it would have compared to their actual regular shows around town. The singers, Carlos Dante and Julio Martel, present themselves in a slightly extravagant way, but it does fit the music and the theme of the lyrics, and it’s of course possible they always behaved like this in their duets or even their solo performances. Also, we get a better view of piano man De Angelis at the final notes, and I find his body language and gestures slightly amusing. Are we looking at something natural and authentic here? But then again, this might be either something artificially fancy for a movie set, or maybe they were just being their normal Argentine selves, not exactly a people known for being all that ordinary or boring.

I guess we’ll never truly know. The best thing would be to ask the people who were involved, and ask them privately about the true and sometimes hidden ‘ways’ of the entertainment business of that time, but we’ve come quite a bit too late for that. I’m still waiting for someone to come up with a time machine, and when it arrives, I’ll be checking out some concerts and writing down a bunch of observations to tell you good people all about it. Well, I guess I’ll write it down but I’ll actually never come back to tell you, because I’ll probably be too busy in 1930s-1940s Argentina to ever come back to our current age. Farewell, suckers!

Pregonera (Flower Seller)
Lyrics: José Rótulo
Composition: Alfredo de Angelis

Princesita rubia de marfil
dueña de mi sueño juvenil,
la que pregonando flores
un día de abril,
recuerdo por las calles de París.
“Una rosa roja para usted,
roja como el ansia de querer,
rosas y claveles blancos,
blancos de ilusión”
y sigue la princesa su pregón.

Blonde princess of alabaster skin,
mistress of my youthful dreams…
she whom I remember, one April day,
selling flowers on the streets of Paris.
“A red rose for you,
red like the desire to love…
roses and white carnations,
white like a dream of hope…”
and so my princess, calling out, passes by.

“Un cariño y un clavel
para el ojal, para el querer.”
El clavel es de ilusión,
mi corazón rojo punzó.
Ay, la tarde va muriendo,
y el pregón me va siguiendo.
“Un cariñito y un clavel”
sólo el clavel, lo que quedó.

“A caress and a carnation,
for your jacket, for love.”
A carnation for hope,
for my yearning heart.
And as the evening fades,
her cry still follows me.
“A caress and a carnation!”
now, only the carnation remains.

Princesita rubia de marfil,
dónde fue tu risa tan sutil,
junto con tus flores muertas
muere mi ilusión.
Y escucho el eco tenue de tu voz.
Es como un susurro sin cesar,
que va despertando mi ansiedad,
es mi fantasía loca
que vuelve a soñar.
De nuevo soy feliz con tu cantar.

Blonde princess of alabaster skin,
what has become of your subtle laugh?
Along with your dead flowers
my hope dies too.
But as I hear the faint echo of your voice,
like a ceaseless whisper,
it awakens a feeble hope.
It’s my infatuation…
making me dream again.
Your song… making me happy again.

Pregonera (Flower Seller)

Alfredo De Angelis generally has a bad reputation among international tango dancers, even though I know some who actually love him to death, especially the highly dramatic tracks from the 1950s with Oscar Larroca, for example. I do think this reputation is justified to a large extent, because De Angelis intentionally created a kind of accessible, simple, “popular” music that dancers nowadays usually refer to as “kitsch”. A case in point is that also in Argentina his music was often called ”merry-go-round music” due to its unpretentious nature, and an Argentine once told me that it also once literally was merry-go-round music played in… well, merry-go-rounds.

However, as an “ambassador” of tango’s Golden Age (1935 to approximately 1945), I do appreciate some of his early music quite a bit, especially while he had an amazing singer on board, Floreal Ruiz, who left to join Troilo instead. I enjoy sometimes playing De Angelis with Ruiz as a DJ early on in a milonga and I also, every once in a while, experiment with some of the other early repertoire as well. But why, Lucas, are you crazy? I am Theresa Faus and I refuse to even play the most famous 1940s valses because of because! This is outrageous! Well, because I think that this early period has a beautiful, romantic, warm quality to it that I find in no other orchestra, and if you can carefully pick a few decent songs, you can actually see that (opinion alert!) this orchestra probably had more promise and potential than it ultimately delivered… which I feel is not only true for De Angelis but for many orchestras that simply fell dramatically in quality after the Golden Age boom started to break down.

So, even though also a lot of the early material is not really to my taste, and frankly even annoying, my point is that the romantic idea of the orchestra’s sound can sometimes lead to a few pretty songs, and one of them definitely is Pregonera, which is actually also a composition by De Angelis himself. I love the lyrics of this song, especially the last and unsung part that I’ve naturally included in my translation below. And even though the music is, well, quite a bit kitschy, it simply works really well and creates a beautiful, romantic and nostalgic setting. The funny thing to me here is that, this being a composition by De Angelis himself, his often-criticized style (like the really high violins) are so ingrained in the music that even the recordings by other orchestras suddenly sound suspiciously Deangelisely.

Speaking of which, I will also upload a video for my favorite version (!!!) which is totally secret until further notice. Actually, I am such a nerd that I think my “Whatsapp Status” (otherwise I’d never even bother having one) has been two lines from the third part of the lyric for about two years now. That is quite some dedication to something that has an awful lot to do (albeit indirectly) with De Angelis, but as I always say, it’s never to late to come out of the closet! Which is even more poignant considering that I am not particularly known for being an admirer of this orchestra. I guess hypocrisy is my middle name, ”blah blah kitsch blah blah Larroca blah blah” but how about another nice song?

Pregonera (Flower Seller)
Lyrics: José Rótulo
Composition: Alfredo de Angelis

Princesita rubia de marfil
dueña de mi sueño juvenil,
la que pregonando flores
un día de abril,
recuerdo por las calles de París.
“Una rosa roja para usted,
roja como el ansia de querer,
rosas y claveles blancos,
blancos de ilusión”
y sigue la princesa su pregón.

Blonde princess of alabaster skin,
mistress of my youthful dreams…
she whom I remember, one April day,
selling flowers on the streets of Paris.
“A red rose for you,
red like the desire to love…
roses and white carnations,
white like a dream of hope…”
and so my princess, calling out, passes by.

“Un cariño y un clavel
para el ojal, para el querer.”
El clavel es de ilusión,
mi corazón rojo punzó.
Ay, la tarde va muriendo,
y el pregón me va siguiendo.
“Un cariñito y un clavel”
sólo el clavel, lo que quedó.

“A caress and a carnation,
for your jacket, for love.”
A carnation for hope,
for my yearning heart.
And as the evening fades,
her cry still follows me.
“A caress and a carnation!”
now, only the carnation remains.

Princesita rubia de marfil,
dónde fue tu risa tan sutil,
junto con tus flores muertas
muere mi ilusión.
Y escucho el eco tenue de tu voz.
Es como un susurro sin cesar,
que va despertando mi ansiedad,
es mi fantasía loca
que vuelve a soñar.
De nuevo soy feliz con tu cantar.

Blonde princess of alabaster skin,
what has become of your subtle laugh?
Along with your dead flowers
my hope dies too.
But as I hear the faint echo of your voice,
like a ceaseless whisper,
it awakens a feeble hope.
It’s my infatuation…
making me dream again.
Your song… making me happy again.

Ivón

I’ve always loved tangos that in one way or another transport me back to the nostalgic streets of Buenos Aires, and they sure do come in various different forms. They are not only literally about old streets and corners of Buenos Aires, but also its different types of inhabitants, typical scenes and traditions, varying from lost lovers, tango dancers, immigrants, street fighters, prostitutes and mothers to street poverty, a room where someone was living in the past, the dancing halls, old cafés and carnival. This nostalgia is almost the trademark of the D’Agostino-Vargas orchestra, but it can be seen in many other orchestras as well, as the whole genre is essentially a mixture of melancholy and nostalgia. There are also a lot of songs without that typical nostalgic vibe, for example the many lost love songs that do not necessarily refer to life in Buenos Aires in one way or another, but this time I’ve chosen a Tanturi-Campos song which more or less does: the narrator regrets having (probably) cheated on a sweetheart long ago (the French name is not a coincidence, these have to do with immigration, foreign allure as well as with prostitution and are everywhere in tango lyrics), and he keeps wandering the streets of the city looking for her, in vain. Together with the dreamy, violin-rich music and the empathetic singing, this in turn makes ME long for the unique nostalgic ambience everything in Buenos Aires irradiates as well as its immortal heritage of tango music.

Ivón
Lyrics: Horacio Sanguinetti
Composition: Luis Visca

En el silencio tembló tu voz,
tu voz herida diciendo adiós.
Después tus ojos, bajo el negro
sombrerito de castor,
lloraron nuestra separación.
Y es esta pena, mi linda Ivón,
que araña siempre mi corazón.
Mis juveniles primaveras
no podían comprender ni razonar,
mi gran error.

In the silence, your voice trembled,
your anguished voice saying goodbye.
And your eyes,
from under your little black fur hat,
wept over our parting.
And that is the sorrow, my sweet Ivón,
that afflicts my heart to this day.
In my youthful springtime,
I couldn’t even begin to understand
my great mistake.

¡Dónde andarás, Ivón!
De calle en calle mi amor te nombra.
¡Dónde andarás, Ivón!
De barrio en barrio te busco, alondra.
Y me parece que estás huyendo de mi,
sintiendo terror de mi sombra.
¡Y con razón, Ivón!
Y yo sangrando, sin tu perdón.

What has become of you, Ivón?
Street by street, my heart calls your name.
Where are you now, Ivón?
All over the city, I look for you, my skylark.
It’s like you are running from me,
terrified of my shadow.
And with good reason, Ivón,
while I bleed regret,
without your forgiveness.

(Mi pecho, hoy late con emoción,
así latía, tu corazón.
Recuerdo ahora que su ritmo
parecía de reloj…
Aquella noche de nuestro adiós
y aquella noche para los dos
significaba la perdición,
alucinando de inconsciencia
tu presencia la busqué
recién después y tarde fue.)

(Like today my chest beats with emotion,
so your heart used to pound,
and I now remember how its rhythm
seemed like a clock…
That night of our goodbye
was the night that for both of us
led to our undoing,
and with restless desire,
I sought your presence,
but it was all too late.)

Adiós para siempre (Goodbye forever)

I have always considered the D’Agostino-Vargas orchestra (yes, let’s just mention both of them) to have the most “porteño” sound of all the orchestras, “porteño” being the Spanish adjective for Buenos Aires, so in other words, the most Buenos Aires-like or Buenos Aires-representing musical style of them all. Their discography contains not only, as far as I can tell, the most songs that refer to certain streets, corners and places of Buenos Aires, but it’s actually the orchestra sound which, in my opinion, is almost signature for evoking a yearning for the city in older times. Nostalgia is the key word here: whenever I hear this powerful combination of orchestra and singing, I always get in this dreamy, nostalgic Buenos Aires mood, and there are a few songs which I consider the absolute best in that regard. I’ve always loved “Adiós para siempre”, and I’m delighted to present this song to you today in the form of a translation video. I hope you will be able recognize the sentiment I’ve described above, along with perhaps a bit of the passionate melancholy of a lost love, which actually goes well with nostalgia, since tango music is often a combination of melancholy and nostalgia anyway.

Adiós para siempre (Goodbye forever)
Lyrics: Nolo López
Composition: José María Rizutti

“Adiós para siempre”, decía su carta,
“yo sé que sos hombre y sabrás comprender.
Te pido que nunca maldigas mi nombre,
pensá que tu madre también es mujer.”
-¡No sé por qué causa se fue de mi lado!,
¡no sé, si es un sueño, o si es realidad!
Parece mentira que a veces la vida
se ensañe con uno con tanta crueldad.

“Goodbye forever”, her letter said,
“I know you are a real man, you’ll understand…
all I ask of you is to never curse my name,
because remember, your mother is a woman too…”
I don’t know why she left me…,
is it a dream… or is it real?
I can’t believe how sometimes,
life can be so awfully cruel…

¡Hoy solo!…
lloro en silencio por ella.
A cuestas
llevando voy mi dolor
y el recuerdo del pasado
se ha metido despiadado
muy adentro del corazón.
¡Quisiera!…
encontrarla en mi camino.
¡Entonces!…
pedirle una explicación.
Pero temo, que me niegue
y me diga, es mentira
nada hubo entre los dos.

Now, all alone,
I cry for her silently.
Struggling,
I carry this lonely pain,
and memories of the past
rage mercilessly,
deep inside my heart.
I wish I could…
find her on my path,
and then…
ask her…. “but why?”
however, I fear that she’ll scorn me
and say instead, “it’s all lies…”
“there was nothing between us.”

(Por eso que a veces no quiero acordarme,
y busco olvidarla, ahogando el dolor.
Parece mentira, qué flojos que somos,
las cosas, hermano, que tiene el amor.
Malhaya con ella, qué Dios me perdone,
lo digo con rabia porque ella se fue.
Quisiera gritarle, maldita mil veces,
me acuerdo y no puedo, mi madre es mujer.)

(Sometimes, I just don’t want to remember,
and I try to forget her, drowning my sorrow.
It seems incredible how weak we are,
brother… the things that love does to us…
Curse that woman! Forgive me, Lord,
I say that in anger, because she left me.
I would like to scream at her,
“damn you, woman!”, a thousand times…
but I can’t, because I remember..
my mother is a woman too…)

Alternative verses in red:

First part, first half:

“Adiós para siempre”, decía su carta
“tal vez, algún día, sabrás comprender.
Quizá te atormenten mis cuatro palabras
escritas con llanto, en este papel.”

“Goodbye forever”, her letter said,
“perhaps, one day, you’ll understand.
I hope these four words of mine,
written in this note, in tears,
will not torment you.”

Third part:

(Por eso que a veces, no quiero acordarme
y busco olvidarla, ahogando el dolor.
¡Parece mentira, lo flojo que somos!,
¡las cosas, hermano, que tiene el amor!
Qué triste sin ella, se hace la vida,
¡adiós esperanza, adiós ilusión!
El alma envejece, se siente vencida
y sólo esperamos, el fallo de Dios.)

(Sometimes, I just don’t want to remember,
and I try to forget her, drowning my sorrow.
It seems incredible how weak we are,
brother… the things that love does to us…
Life is so sad without her…
goodbye dreams, goodbye hope!
The soul grows old, we feel defeated
and we can only wait to be judged by God.)

Amando en silencio (Loving in silence)

Even in the heart of the Golden Age, in this case in 1941, we can still find examples of songs that only have refrain singing instead of the more “full” singing that had become the standard in tango orchestras. Likewise, for the Donato orchestra of those years, the limited presence of the singers in today’s song, “Amando en silencio”, is quite odd, but at the same time it also proves that you can also have fantastic music because of that limited role. Simply try to listen to how the singing is integrated in the rest of the orchestra as some kind of additional instrument, with the singing being a kind of solo that does not distract from the harmony of the rest of the music. If you want to learn more about this, be sure to follow my new video series ”Tango Music Analysis” in which today’s song will also appear.

I have translated the rest of the lyrics as well, so don’t miss out on the full poetry of this romantic and sensitive tango. The unsung parts are shown in brackets.

Amando en silencio (Loving in silence)
Lyrics: Francisco García Jiménez
Music: José Pécora

(Todo mi amor
está en secretos pensamientos,
en escondidos sentimientos,
nostálgico y soñador…)

(All my love
is in secret thoughts,
in hidden feelings,
wistful and dreamy…)

(Novia ideal,
hay un dolor
que me encadena,
Y frente a tu pudor,
mi fiebre pasional
no es más
que una/muda adoración.)

(My perfect love,
there’s a sorrow
that chains me,
and before your virtue,
my impassioned fever
is nothing more than
silent adoration.)

Amando en silencio…
callando mi ruego,
ahogando este fuego
cobarde, quizás.
Conservo el encanto
de un sueño hechicero,
por eso no quiero
saber la verdad.

Loving in silence…
stilling my desire,
smothering this fire
cowardly, perhaps.
Maybe I’ll keep the spell
of this bewitching dream
as I do not want
to know the truth.

(Amando en silencio…
pagando mi error,
sintiendo el horror
de quebrar este sueño,
ya es vano el empeño
de ocultar esta mentira.)


(Loving in silence,
paying for my mistake,
feeling the horror
of shattering this dream,
as it is hopeless to try
to conceal this lie.)