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Amelita Baltar: “Piazzolla did not believe in inspiration, but in perspiration”

More than the muse of the genius of Astor Piazzolla in his most popular period, from the ballads to Libertango, Amelita Baltar will forever be Maria of Buenos Aires.

Amelita Baltar

Legend has it that Astor Piazzolla, Héctor De Rosas and Osvaldo Tarantino shared the table at Nuestro Tiempo, a bowling of contemporary music from the busy sixties of Buenos Aires. The bandoneonist was local because his ensembles performed several nights on the same stage since many before, when he was called -Tucuman- 676.   A slender blonde came out with her guitar with a folk repertoire to break it with sensuality and a unique phrasing.   Amelita Baltar   in 1968 it was the sensation of the “María de Buenos Aires” peñas, the operita of Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer, today in the canon of national music, was an even, more than complex project because the first choice of protagonist Egle Martín denied Astor's presence. Mess of jealous chickeras and husbands. De Rosas, vocalist of his Quintet in the remarkable performances of “Nostalgias” and “For the return,” distracted asked: “What do you think, Astor? “. And Piazzolla exclaimed: “What shrimps he has... what shrimps he has! ”.   And although Baltar was initially somewhat reluctant to Piazzolla's insistence, he didn't even know who the vanguard tanguero was, she rising star of folklore, was surrendered on the day of the musician's 47th birthday, and at the time he said, at the end of a long dinner in Hole 19,   “Well, you're Maria.” Three words that started a stormy musical and personal relationship of seven years, which left a mark on the Argentine music that the new generations continue to plow. And the Baltar contributed to tango — and Piazzolla — a different way of singing, with certain reminiscences of the hamlet, with all the current news of contemporary Buenos Aires.  


Journalist: How does an outstanding folklorist, awarded in Mar del Plata in 1968, arrive at Piazzolla-Ferrer's “María Buenos Aires”?

Amelita Baltar:   To this day I don't understand how I agreed to sing “Maria de Buenos Aires”   I didn't know anything about them but luckily Tata God helped, and we were able to realize that magical moment. And then, unfortunately I could not repeat it for almost 30 years because of differences with the widow of the author of the music, and with the poet himself. Fortunately four years ago I was able to sing in Tokyo the original full version, without Ferrer's later addition, and with the bandoneonist who performs Piazzolla in Japan. There they could see the real “Maria de Buenos Aires” Two years ago I repeated the launch in Athens again. It was an amazing version in a theatre of the year one hundred.

  Although the work in Buenos Aires was almost a commercial failure in 1968, and it wasn't so many people from May to August, what I realized is that in the world they have me like I'm Maria. And at my 80 years, it's not that I believe it, but I can assure you that every time I sing it, I feel it mine. It's a part of me (it gets excited)  

Amelita Baltar

Q: How were the rehearsals in the musician's department on Libertador Avenue?

AB: The truth is that there were not many. They were rather with Astor on the piano reviewing the score and worried that we knew the lyrics together De Rosas. So when we got to the Planet Room on Suipacha Street, we already had the operita well grabradita. There we met the musicians and they were some musicazos, among them -the guitarist- Cacho Tirao. We debuted in a small theatre that Carlos Gandolfo had directed wonderful works by Arturo Maly. I was very excited.


Q: What memories do you have about functions?

AB:   While the public number was decreasing function after function, all of us were going to see artists from all the clubs. And they all died. It was the total madness of freedom, in the middle of dictatorship. Actors, writers and painters applauded this mystery that Piazzolla and Ferrer had created.  

One day we're in the middle of a show, Astor turns around, and mumbles, they're pounding us. Surely someone is living, I retrick. No Amelita, they're pounding us, Piazzolla reaffirms. The next picture turns to Astor's voice, they're pounding us. It was hard to hear on stage, but Piazzolla was heading stuck to the venue. We went out into a small courtyard, which was not covered, and comes in a shouting Astor horn, who wants to go back into the room, and crap the horns on whoever had puted it.   And when he ends up saying that the door opens and Vinícius de Moraes enters with Elis Regina. And he tells us in Portuguese, “How cute, you're a bastard of argentinian music.”   Vinícius had a habit of sending you   filho de puta   as maximum recognition. Piazzolla was hard. The Brazilian poet said it was the most wonderful music he had ever heard. So we were happy to have dinner with tremendous artists from Brazil. That night we became very friends with Vinícius. And I followed many more years with the friendship of the carioca poet. We share many seasons in La Fusa in Punta del Este.

Amelita Baltar

  Go back to the future. Buenos Aires 1968.  

Q: What was tango in the late sixties like?

AB: What do you want me to tell you about the tango of that time if I was already involved in folklore, which was my first love, and I kept turning. Act a lot in the mythical Poncho Verde of San Telmo, which dragged more people than Caño 14, stuck to the side and with the huge Haníbal Troilo. It was because tango was the music my dad was listening to on the radio. I knew several of the lyrics to hear from babe, but I was light years of my interests. By that time there were no creators except Eladia Blázquez.

My tangueros adored me, -Atilio- Stampone, Pichuco Troilo, with whom we did a whole season in Mar del Plata in 1970, and was practically a guy who greeted me with his characteristic piquito, trademark of the affectionate Gordo. But I realized that they did the same thing every day, the same show, from Monday to Monday from 21 to 4 in the morning. Until one day, perhaps after listening to our “Maria de Buenos Aires”, they opened the door and realized that Buenos Aires had changed. And this city of 1960 no longer inspired them.   After —Homero- Manzi and —Enrique- Discépolo died in 51 not only were they left without poets, but seemed to have no desire to create new music according to the times. Astor himself said that since the mid-50's that he   traditional tango   he didn't run anymore, and he appeared with him   Renovator Octet.   And he told me what the only ones who were going to be talking to Buenos Aires would be the rockers.  

Who described the time of the Process as Discépolo had done with the Infamous Decade? That was   Charly Garcia.   No tanguero did a song as powerful as “The dinosaurs” Or the tangueros were all crap, or they didn't know their own city or their people.


Q: But Piazzolla was going elsewhere, for example in “Chiquilín de Bachín”...

AB: Everyone who came to see us in Sala Planeta and who came from rock were amazed, -Luis Alberto- Spinetta, -Litto- Nebbia, Billy Bond, and many more. And you know that I discovered that many years later when they started to approach my recitals and confessed that they had been before the public. And the generations that come later like Fito Paez took several things from Piazzolla's genius.   . Not exactly music but a way of feeling, a profound thing that connects with timeless Buenos Aires, a new way of describing a contemporary city   . Even the beginning did not come out tangos but half a century later, any rock musician, is the age he is, sure does a tango. Many lyrics also refer directly to tango at the beginning of Argentine rock with Manal and Pappo. This was all thanks to Piazzolla. He was the one who turned the blade.



Q: Was it one of Piazzolla's most popular moments?

AB: I don't know. It was one of his reconnaissance peaks, comparable to the eighties. So when I was introduced, I didn't know him, and that I was a lot in the music world. I finished my folklore show and they came to tell me that there was Mr. “short” who wanted to meet me. I eat every baby well I kindly approached to greet him without knowing at the volcano that I was getting into (laughter) I even asked my producer who it was because they didn't pass the radio. Neither did he have recorded records that could be easily obtained. He performed in small places 676, or Jamaica, for no more than 50 people, and that was usually places where bossa nova musicians did season like João ilberto. Astor said he had him half rotten Gilberto because every time he came to Tucumán 676 he would lock me up in a room, and if you asked him how he was, he said “sad” Piazzolla tried to encourage him with that the room was full, and he responded the same, so I never got to go. He spoke to him even though they existed mutual admiration.

Amelita Baltar


Q: I said why they are years of sales of thousands of records from the simple “Ballad para un mado” to the long play “La bicicicleta blanca”, perhaps the era of greatest mass bandoneonist...

AB:   And that surprised me quite because for example “Ballad for a madman” has a really puzzling lyrics (laughter) I think Ferrer's great merit is that he made people not think. He made people take it without prejudice and get into the spirit. He made people look up and look for the most beautiful plants on the balconies. People stopped looking at the floor and started dreaming looking at the sky. It's a song to love, very surreal   . Once we went to sing at the Hospital Neurosichiatricos- Borda and the inmates were fascinated by saying that we were the only ones who had written and sung to the madmen of Buenos Aires. Finally someone realized that madmen invented love (laughter) I rarely received as much love in my life as that day. They made me remember very much when I worked with children   down   And all they give is love, love, love in every embrace, in every caress, in every kiss.


Q: What is your favorite theme of the piazzolliano repertoire?

AB   : Ballad for my death “I will die in Buenos Aires, it will be early in the day/What is the time when those who know to die die/The perfumed mufa will float in my silence/From that verse I could never tell you/I will walk so many blocks and there in Plaza Francia/Like escaped shadows of a tired ballet/Repeating your name on a white street/I will leave my memories on foot dots” (sings and moves the journalist) I have no doubt that that slow, loving music and lyrics is the best way to say goodbye to the city you love   . Besides, I have a lot of memories of that square because I was a girl. There I learned to ride a bike when I came from the field. My aunts were taking me to play on that gigantic tree, in front of La Biela, if I would have climbed it up! I was also baptized in the Church of Pilar. Dad took me to La Biela, he asked himself a copetín, and for me there was a Miguelito, who had grenadine and some other juice. So I grew up in that neighborhood watching Dad take more than one, several copetines. My soul of Buenos Aires will die that neighborhood (pause).



  Piazzolla de entrecasa  

Q: How do you live with a genius?

AB: As with any gentleman (laughter) When they are saddled, they are entangled, when they are happy, they are happy. And Piazzolla, when he didn't have music to write, he got bored, and he got heavy. But when a job appeared, he got up early and went to write, and write, until the afternoon. Or when he was called from the recorder company he started to think about new arrangements for the classics, like “Goodbye Nonino”, or new compositions.   Astor needed to be surrounded by constant stimulation of laburo because what he was telling me was that he didn't believe inspiration, but in perspiration. More laburated, more creative. I remember that he sat on the piano and not that he wrote a fragment, or a melody, either for the Quintet or for the Nonnet, but he wrote, or rewrote, the whole song. And from a jerk they came out to the arrangements   . The song was ready to be performed immediately. I didn't even look out when he was in that creative process, and I'd bring him a plate with a sandwich, and a coffee, just quiet.

For example when I wrote “Libertango” in the apartment of we had rented in Rome I was going to give me a vueltita with the dog, but I was coming back soon because he didn't want to be alone. And then he wrote there “Summit Meeting” with Gerry Mulligan. The American was in Milan, didn't know anything about Piazzolla's music, and on a whole night he listened to a lot of records and went crazy. Then a producer we knew called, and I was the one who attended to introduce him to Astor. I immediately saw his face change and he was amazed. When he hung up he said to me perplexed, and excited, that he had agreed with Mulligan to record a record. And he got crazy writing the songs as soon as he hung up. All the songs were called “Reminiscences” in the original, because Astor argued that it was very easy for him to write songs than to put the titles.

  And in that I had a little role. I was reading “One hundred years of solitude” and suggested that some of the titles refer to the novel. Piazzolla didn't like him because he didn't want to have rights problems and Mulligan immediately replied that it was ideal for the melody he was playing. From “Years of Solitude” I still remember to listen to the essay and be in trance with my hand on the book of —Gabriel- García Márquez. I'd tell you the Colombian was with us, too.  


Q: Do we Argentines know Piazzolla 100 from his birth?

AB:   We have a huge legacy that is still not much known or spread. Notice that if you listen to radio, or television, hardly happen an entire Piazzolla theme, some of me ever capable, and it is very little   . I think there is still a lot of resistance to Astor's music even though young people accept it perfectly. Let's think of a producer under 30 years old, who if he didn't listen to Piazzolla's music at home, hardly schedule a segment. So he spreads it very little in the national media. Guillermo Fernández called from Switzerland to tell me that he was listening to the radio in the car and that he almost went crazy because they passed to Piazzolla, sung by me, and on a very popular AM program.

Amelita Baltar

I tell you more, in Brazil Piazzolla is a fundamental musician and is widely disseminated in the media. Every time I go touring, I have a wide impact with the Astor repertoire. They ask me to sing those songs because they know a lot of the work we did together. The last times we played we had a symphony at our disposal. Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Sao Paulo, on various sides we were greeted effusively. And what surprises me is that they know Argentine music and they know that they will listen to tango if we talk about Piazzolla. On the tour we did last year, after I had that LCA problem in the middle of my radio program - which was nothing, a treacherous venita - it was apotheotic, it did me very well, and I wanted to continue singing.   When the lights went on I could see the whole stall chanting “Amelita we are with you” (pause) Now that I have surgery on my hip and go on the route, let's wait in June, I'm going to feel less an old 80 (laughs).  


Q: We always talk about who Piazzolla was for Amelita, but who was the Baltar for Astor?

AB: A voice he never had, a way of interpreting that he had not found in anyone in 50 years. I must have been the voice that lasted the longest for Piazzolla, even if we add to the singers, José Ángel Trelles. Eventually, he acknowledged that they had searched for other tango singers with Ferrer in 1967, and they found none that could with that music, nor with those rare parliaments that talked about analysts and chimneys.   This is what Dedé, the mother of her children, told me: “No one sang his songs to him as you sang them.”  


Thank you to Daniel Perez.

Publication Date: 11/03/2021

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We suggest you continue reading the following notes:

Maria de Bs As Piazzolla and Ferrer, conjugated in an opera-tango in France
Astor's duel.



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