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December 09, 2008

Susana Rinaldi: Live Performance on Sunday October 26


Letter from Buenos Aires
by Beatriz Dujovne

Today porteños attend events celebrating the day of Buenos Aires’ historic cafes. I am at Café Homero Manzi, where dark lustrous wooden walls are covered with photos of tango personalities during the golden era (1935-1950). This is the venue where the poet Manzi gave birth to the nostalgic lyrics of tango “Sur."

Cafe HomeroManzi.P1010373.jpg

Cafe Homero Manzi

The day woke up grayishly and drizzingly tanguero. At 11 AM, at the corner of San Juan y Boedo, the thirty musicians (12 strings and three bandoneons) of the Orquesta de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires open the outdoor show. They give us Piazzolla’s Libertango, and two other pieces with lyrics by Ferrer and music by Garello (who is conducting): “Buenos Aires es tu fiesta” (“Buenos Aires is your celebration”) and “Viva el tango."

This is the luscious appetizer.


The black stage, built for the occasion across Boedo Street, is ready for Susana Rinaldi’s big presence. We, about 500 people standing on the street, are impatient for the delay caused by light morning rain. We give her a warm ovation; the sun salutes her too as it begins to dissipate the gray skies. I quickly position myself just two yards in front of her.

She opens the festivity with the tango “Sur." Like many other tangos, the crowd knows this poetry by heart and sings with her when she turns the microphone towards us.

“Old San Juan and Boedo…..”

We tremble.

We shout. “Vamos tana” (Go Tana – Tana means Italian-).


She seems quite emotional and yet contained in her rather conservative day time attire. Up to this moment, in my mind, she has been a tall priestess dressed in a long white gown with snow-white short hair, the way she appeared on the stage of the opera house three years ago at a performance I attended.

She proceeds to sing “Maria” a capella. The music soon joins her voice. Rinaldi’s whole body sings Catulo Castillo’s poetry. How harmonious are the music, her singing and her emotions. She places her hands on her abdomen, her core, as if being in excruciating pain.

When the next song begins her right arm extends forward with an accusatory index finger while her other hand holds her forehead. Ah…”Uno” by Discepolo. She sings the tragedy and anger of its poetry with full force but without exaggeration.

Si yo tuviera el corazon,
el corazon que di...

If I had the heart…
the heart I gave away...

Shouting: “Te quiero Susana, te quiero”

We get quiet as we hear the first chords of “El ultimo cafe." Rinaldi closes her eyes. Her body is more collected. No arm movements, only facial expressions. The instrument of her voice follows the nostalgic mood of Manzi’s poetry.

Recuerdo tu desdén,
te evoco sin razón,
te escucho sin que estés:
"Lo nuestro terminó",
dijiste en un adiós
de azúcar y de hiel...

(The poet remembers his lover’s derisive departure, he realizes that evoking her is senseless, he hears her bittersweet good bye: “what happened between us is over”)

Two more by Catulo Castillo are the dessert: “Desencuentro” (“Dis-encounter”) and “Y a mi que” (“Who cares?”). This will be her last song, she announces.

Protest: “No Tana. No, no te vayas (Don’t leave Tana. No. No)."

Rinaldi says she is too old to keep on singing; she calms us down and invites us to listen to the tango’s fabulous verses; we join in singing the verse “Y a mi que."

The show is over. The crowd disbands slowly. I run to the back of the stage to catch her. People want autographs. I just want to touch her; I extend my hand and she shakes it. With the feeling of the small, warm and a bit tremulous hand of the tall priestess in white…

I head towards the next café…

(Copyright (c) 2008 Beatriz Dujovne).

Posted by beatriz at December 9, 2008 01:55 PM


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