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Inside Tango Argentino The Story of the Most Important Tango Show of All Time Ant贸n Gazenbeek

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ISBN: 978-1-304-69202-3 ebook edition by: Enrico Massetti Plublishing

Inside Tango Argentino Š 2013 Anton Gazenbeek


This book is dedicated to Mr. Claudio Segovia and his vision, the late Hector Orezzoli, and to all the artists who made Tango Argentino the success that it was. May their hard work, talent, and artistry be remembered ‌ forever. A very special thanks also to Sergio Segura for all his hard work, endless support of this project, his beautiful graphic design of this book and the many hours shared interviewing, researching, and preparing this book. Gracias chabon!

Disclaimer This book is the result of over eight years of intense research conducted in Buenos Aires and around the world. Personal interviews were conducted with each of the surviving members of the cast of the show, and countless documents, programs, newspaper and magazine archives, films, videos, audio records, and photographs were consulted. This accumulated material constitutes the bulk of the source material for this book. This book reflects how the events occurred to the best of my knowledge, and no personal opinions on my part were included. It is a non-biased study of the existing facts regarding the show. This book is intended to show great respect to each and every member of the cast, both onstage and off. Anton Gazenbeek

Foreword The tango always gives us surprises. That a young Dutch boy could be so attracted to the music and dance of the Rio de la Plata, as has happened with him, seemed strange to me and almost as if it was a fable, until one day I met him personally and convincingly discovered that to have been born in Holland, with all respect, was a mistake, as the tango is present in his entire body and mind and that through study, sacrifice and a dedication which deserves full respect and admiration as “work” which he has done from the heart, I hope the diffusion of this book will be a success and hope it will be accepted and understood in its true dimension. As I, Juan Carlos Copes do, I wish him the best of triumphs in all the facets of his tanguero career. Strength, a hug and that his “message” continues conquering land and admirers all over the world. All the best, Juan Carlos Copes Buenos Aires October 2008 El Tango siempre nos depara una sorpresa. Que un joven holandés, se sienta atraído por la música y danza, del Rió de la Plata, como ha sucedido con él, me sonaba extraño y hasta casi una fábula, hasta que lo conocí personalmente y comprobar fehacientemente, que haber nacido en holanda, con todo respeto, fué un accidente, ya que en todo su cuerpo y mente, el tango esta presente, a base de estudio, sacrificio y una dedicación digna de todo respeto y admiración como “trabajo”, esta hecho con el corazón,espero que su difusión y éxito sea entendido y comprendido, en su verdadera dimensión; como hago yo, Juan Carlos Copes, que le desea el mayor de los triunfos, en todos sus ciclos tangueros. Fuerza, un abrazo y que su “mensaje”, siga conquistando plazas y admiradores en todo el mundo. Lo Mejor. Juan Carlos Copes Buenos Aires Octubre 2008

Introduction Thirty-three popular Argentine artists reunite in Paris to play, sing, and dance tango. An orchestra of twelve musicians. Five singers. Six dancing couples. An actor. The dance floor: Bordello, European Cabaret, Buenos Aires Cabaret, Dance Salon, Neighborhood Club. A black background. The sky of Buenos Aires. A selection of tangos that recounts the true history of tango. Each artist has their own role. Each artist is an authentic Porteño. This was Tango Argentino. What was Tango Argentino? Why was it so important? Who created it? Who starred in it? Why did it have such worldwide success? Why did it stop? In the pages of this book you will find the answers to all these questions and more. Inside Tango Argentino is an academic, almost scientific study of the world’s first and most important international tango show, Tango Argentino. Tango Argentino was the creation of two very talented theater directors and designers, Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli. It was the most magnificent show the world had ever seen in its time, and it spent ten years touring the world. It appeared in France, Italy, the United States, Canada, Broadway, Japan, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, over 52 North American cities, Venezuela, Holland, England and in its homeland Argentina. It had such unprecedented success everywhere that it appeared that a whole “tangomanía” or tango craze was set off. People began to go into the streets and to the theater dressed in clothes that mimicked the dancers in the show. Men began to slick their hair back with shiny gel to style themselves after the men in the show. Women began to wear long, elegant, black dresses with high slits, modeling themselves after the women in the show. Fashion designers began to pick up on this and designed “tango- inspired” clothing lines. Vogue magazine photographed the cast of the show on more than three occasions. Famous celebrities from all fields became what one could call “groupies” of the show. Liza Minelli saw it on numerous occasions, Robert Duvall (who later, thanks to this show, became a tango fanatic, and continues to dance to this day), Anthony Quinn, Andy Warhol, Princess Diana, and others were just some of those who fell under the show’s spell.

Apart from the fashion and hairstyles, the most important part of all this craze was that Tango Argentino started a boom of interest in tango dancing. Thousands of people clamored at the stage door after every performance, begging the dancers to give them classes in authentic Argentine Tango. After holding back and resisting for quite a long time, the dancers finally agreed and a whole tango dance craze took off from Broadway to Paris to Tokyo, and back to Buenos Aires where the dance had originated but been forgotten and suffered many years of neglect. Tango classes started up everywhere in dance studios and dance halls. Tango professors came out of the woodwork claiming to teach authentic tango. Milongas (social tango dances) started up in many cities all over the world, and continue to this day. As a result of all this interest in tango, a tremendous tango tourism business started in Buenos Aires. In the year 1986 there had been three Americans who went to Argentina specifically to study tango: Robert Duvall was the first, and next was a couple named Al and Barbara Garvey, who later went on to become important tango teachers and the founders of the San Francisco tango community. After 1986 a steady increase in tango tourism started that burgeoned into the thousands within two years. It seemed that every city where Tango Argentino went was inspired by what it saw in the show and had an appetite to learn more. And Tango Argentino, or more importantly its story, is inspiring. It is the story of the fight of two men. The fight to keep a dying art form alive and present it to the world. This is the story of Tango Argentino.

1 - THE CREATORS: CLAUDIO SEGOVIA AND HECTOR OREZZOLI The story of Tango Argentino really starts with the story of its creators Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli. Both were porteños, or natives of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and both grew up with close contact to the tango. Segovia came from a highly artistic family and since his childhood had a great interest in the theater, music, dance, song and all forms of art. He grew up next door to an Andalusian flamenco peña. Many years later this inspired him to create together with Héctor Orezzoli the spectacular show Flamenco Puro which, like Tango Argentino, had great international success and triumphed all over the world. At the age of 20, Claudio Segovia graduated from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, where he studied theater design, set design, costume design and other arts. He also graduated from the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes. In 1965 he started his work as a theater designer, and already showing extraordinary talent for his craft, he designed the sets and costumes for works by Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, and Ibsen, among others. However Segovia always had a strong interest in popular art forms and this led him to create in 1966 the spectacular show Baguala with Mercedes Sosa, with whom he traveled throughout Europe, the United States and the then Soviet Union. Segovia quickly converted himself into one of the greatest music-hall directors in Argentina at the time and had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest Argentine artists of his time, such as Astor Piazzolla, Ernesto Sabato, Antonio Gasalla, Nélida Lobato and Eduardo Falu.

With the collaboration of his long-time associate and friend Jorge Lavelli, Segovia worked for many years on important opera production in theaters across Brazil, Argentina and France. In spite of all his work in the finer arts, Segovia never forgot that little flamenco peña near his childhood home. In the year 1980 after many years of hard work and investigation, Segovia, together with his longtime partner and collaborator Héctor Orezzoli, presented the show Flamenco Puro in Seville, Spain. Flamenco Puro brought together the most authentic gypsy flamenco artists in Spain and presented the music, song and dance on stage in its most authentic form. The finest clothes, costumes and makeup were used, all without losing the authentic, “earthy” roots of the genre. This was the basis of all the work that Segovia and Orezzoli did together: Bring a popular, dying, forgotten art form to the stage with its most authentic and true singers, dancers and musicians, present a high quality show with unparalleled costumes, exquisite lighting design and spectacular hair and makeup, and share the heart and soul of the art form and the artists with the world. Segovia

did this on more than one occasion. After Flamenco Puro debuted in Seville, it later continued on to the Festival D’Automne in Paris, a tour of Europe, and over 50 North American cities, including Broadway. Segovia continued the idea of shows like Flamenco Puro and went on to design, direct and produce four other great mega-shows: Tango Argentino, Black and Blue, Noche Tropical, and Brasil Brasileiro. All of these shows always conserved Segovia’s striving and determination to present authenticity in all his work. In today’s world, where authenticity is scarce and almost impossible to find, that is a very admirable trait. Héctor Orezzoli We must not forget that Tango Argentino was not the creation of Claudio Segovia alone. It was also the creation of Segovia’s longtime partner, Héctor Orezzoli. Orezzoli was born and raised in Buenos Aires. Orezzoli was quite a different child from Segovia and had a different way of viewing the world. Although extremely artistic, he had a more business-like way of seeing things. He was, in short, what every great artist lacks and needs: the business side of the art, the organizational side, the brains. Orezzoli studied literature, psychology and theater at the University of Buenos Aires, where he graduated in the early 1970s. Orezzoli always worked in the theater. In 1974 he created the costumes and sets for the show “Honeymoon” of Sonia Delaunay. He went on to design other prominent and important shows as well.

In the early 1970s as if by destiny, the paths of Claudio Segovia and HÊctor Orezzoli crossed. It was the meeting of two great men, two great artists and two great lovers, who together would change the world’s view of theater. Together Segovia and Orezzoli worked on many theater productions and won many prestigious awards for their work. They won the grand prize at the Biennale de Sao Paulo, the Prix Moliere, and the premier prize from the Fond National des Arts. In 1974 Orezzoli and Segovia presented the show Carnaval de Venise at the Festival Aix- en-Provence, with scene and costume design by the two, and direction by Jorge Lavelli. In 1975 they toured Europe and Latin America with some of the great shows they created. In 1980 came the debut of Flamenco Puro after many years of hard work and deep investigation into the roots of the flamenco art form. Around 1976 Segovia began toying with the idea of putting together a large scale tango show that placed all the best dancers, singers and musicians on the same stage at the same time. This had never been done before, and he thought it an interesting idea. He talked with a few people in the show business industry and was met with one unanimous answer: impossible. They all though it would be impossible to convince so many artists, all of whom had an ego the size of the Moon, to appear on the same stage at the same time. Segovia, however, being as persistent as he is, did not give up.

At the time the great Juan Carlos Copes and his partner Maria Nieves and their tango ballet were performing in the nightclub Sans Souci on Corrientes and 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires. Segovia approached Copes after the show, explained his idea to him, the two men exchanged cards and parted. Copes said to Maria, “What a stupid idea. This man is crazy. He will never do it.” But no amount of discouragement was enough to kill the idea in Segovia’s head. He continued to develop it in his imagination, tweak it, perfect it. He continued with other projects in the meantime, but it was always in the back of his mind. We must not forget that Tango Argentino (and therefore other shows like Flamenco Puro and Black and Blue) did not only have these two great creators. There were whole teams of extremely talented artists, each one a master in his or her field, who contributed to the magic, the excellence, the success of Tango Argentino. Hilda Curletto Hilda Curletto was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She showed signs of extreme talent from a very young age. Hilda is a very special, very generous woman. Very quiet, observant, extremely intelligent and wildly creative. She is a woman who knows how to take an idea and make it reality. She listens, and then she creates. Hilda was the costume maker and restorer for Tango Argentino, as well as Black and Blue, Noche Tropical and Brasil Brasileira. She is best known for her extraordinary work in the field of vintage costume restoration, repair and re- creation. She has the ability to take a 200 year old piece of clothing and restore it into its original form until it looks as spectacular as it did the first day it was worn. This was her talent in Tango Argentino. She also aided Segovia in the design of many of the costumes and added her expertise helping Claudio select the right fabrics, colors and textures for what was needed. Jean-Luc Don Vito Jean-Luc Don Vito was a talented young, French makeup artist and hairdresser who already had great experience as one of the top stylists for the photo shoots of the major French and European fashion magazines. He was in great demand to makeup the important models of the time and seldom found himself without work. Through a relationship with the Argentine theater director Alfredo Arias, who for many years resided in Paris, Jean-Luc found his way to Tango Argentino. Arias, a close friend of Segovia, recommended him as a good choice to be the makeup artist and hairdresser for the show. Segovia saw his work, liked it very much and plans were under way to discuss the look Segovia and Orezzoli wanted for their show.

2 - The Preparation Claudio Segovia spent years scouring Argentina looking for the best dancers, singers and musicians to be part of his show. He went night after night to all the tourist show houses, such as Casa Blanca, Michelangelo, El Viejo Almacén and Rugantino, looking for the best dancers he could find. With his strict eye for talent and his knowledge of what he wanted for his show, after years of careful scouting Segovia found what and who he wanted. The first dancers with whom Segovia spoke in the early part of 1983 were Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves. Copes and Nieves, who were already well known and respected dancers, choreographers and artists, were at the time working in Sans Souci, a popular tango show house in Buenos Aires. In 1976 Segovia went to see the show and afterwards went backstage to the dressing room to speak with them. Copes listened to what Segovia had to say, said, “We'll keep in touch,” and said to Nieves when Segovia left, “This guy is crazy. His idea is stupid and he will never ever be able to do a project like that. It will never happen.” Well, 7 years later Segovia went back to see Copes, told him that his project was a reality and that it was going to happen, and that he wanted Juan Carlos and María to be a main couple in the show. He also called upon Juan to be choreographer of the group numbers of the show, as well as the finale and a number of the solo pieces. Juan agreed and began to work side by side with a man who just a few years before he had thought was crazy. Copes quickly realized that this man was not crazy, but rather a genius and a visionary with a magnificent idea and concepts that were ahead of their time. For example, for the scene of La Cumparsita, which was to show tango as it would have been danced in Paris in 1913, as there were no documents or films of the way tango was danced at that time, Segovia showed Copes many old vintage French postcards of tango couples posing. Copes laid them out on the floor with Segovia, arranged them, rearranged them in a different order, and from those poses, with a few linking steps, the choreography to La Cumparsita was born. Copes and Nieves were fine, but Segovia needed five other couples. He recruited Nélida and Nelson, who at the time were artistic directors and choreographers at Michelángelo. They were already a well known couple in Argentina and abroad, as they had been working since 1971 in the tango show business. They had appeared on stage, on television and in the theater with the best orchestras and singers, and they had their own ballet in large and important cabarets such as King and Rugantino. They were well known for their high speed dancing and their acrobatic steps, which were unusual for that time, but all this would soon be changed by Segovia, as he was looking

for a different kind of dance for his show – a more elegant, dignified, respectful dance on the floor. Carlos and María Rivarola were then added to the cast, even though they were considerably younger than the rest of those in the cast. Carlos was considered (and is still considered to this day) to be a very physically attractive and beautiful man. He was tall and elegant, with extremely strong facial features and dark, slanted, almost Asianlooking eyes. He was quite striking in his appearance, and his wife María was even more so. With her long legs, shapely dancer’s body and piercing blue eyes, it was a well known fact that María used to cause traffic accidents on the streets of Buenos Aires, as the eyes of all male (and some female) drivers were on her and not on the traffic when she crossed the street! Carlos was to dance one of the main roles in the show, La Cumparsita, with a then-famed vedette showgirl named Cecilia Narova. Segovia had worked with Narova in various revistas porteñas that he had directed in the Teatro Maipo with Antonio Gasalla, Nélida Lobato and other great artists. In late 1982 when Lobato, the top showgirl at the time in Argentina, became ill and died unexpectedly, Cecilia, who was a dancer in the chorus, was called in to replace her. This was a very important step for Cecilia, and one that could have shot her to high fame. But shortly after her promotion, Segovia called her for his new project. She was exactly what he had imagined for two roles in his show: the elegant, high class, Parisian salon dancer in La Cumparsita, and the dark, morocha, girl of the barrio turned prostitute for Milonguíta. Narova was to dance La Cumparsita with Carlos Rivarola and Milonguíta with María Nieves and all the male dancers in the show. Narova fit her role to a “T”, and it became one of the most recognized roles of her career. The next couple added to the cast was Mayoral and Elsa María. Both were already very well known dancers in Argentina and abroad, but not so much in the tourist show market as were the other dancers. Mayoral had his own ballet for many years, the Instrumental Ballet, in which all the members danced, sang and played a musical instrument. The ballet had great success in the 1970s and traveled all over South and Latin America. It won many important prizes and awards and appeared at all the major festivals. Mayoral and Elsa María also had filmed a series of television programs that taught simple salón tango. These programs were broadcast all over South America and not only helped to spread tango dance to the general public, but also helped Mayoral and his wife to gain recognition on a grander scale. The style of Mayoral and Elsa María was that of tango salón, a very simple yet highly dignified dance full of small, playful movements by Mayoral. Mayoral had a tremendous sense of humor and playfulness in his dance, and this was a delight to see. Instead of the typical stiff, straight-forward tango that was popular at the time, his was a dance full of character and personality.

Gloria and Eduardo had originally been called by Segovia, but because Gloria was about to give birth to their first child, traveling on a large tour was not an option. Their time would come only a short year later when they would join the show for a second tour. Gloria and Rodolfo Dinzel also were called by Segovia to take part in the first show. He went to see them perform at El Viejo Almacén, liked their look on stage and arranged a meeting with them. After long negotiations, the Dinzels decided not to do the tour. Segovia did not want to give them a solo number to dance. They were to be like all the other dancers and dance as part of an ensemble. The only solos were given to Copes and Nieves, Nélida and Nelson, and Mayoral and Elsa María. The Dinzels, especially Gloria, did not like this one bit, and both turned down Segovia’s offer. They too, like Gloria and Eduardo, would have a second chance a year later to join the show. A young couple was needed, so Segovia called on Mónica Canda and Luciano Frías. Mónica and Luciano, although both only in their mid-twenties, had already built an impressive career. They both had danced in the ballet of Copes, performed on important television programs such as Grandes Valores del Tango, toured Colombia, Brazil, Chile, performed with orchestras like the Sexteto Mayor and Sexteto Tango, and starred in the shows of the very important Argentine actor Hugo del Carril. Mónica and Luciano were well known on the scene for two things: his extreme physical beauty, and her strong appearance on stage. Luciano was famous for his slicked back black hair, which when well done gave the impression of an extremely reflective mirror. It was quite a sight to see, and no other male tango dancer after him has been able to replicate the look. Mónica, on the other hand, was an unusual beauty. Although she did not possess the typical “dancer’s body”, she had a pair of eyes that could light up the lighthouse of Alexandria! With her long, curly hair, ample bosom and shapely legs, she was just what Segovia was looking for. So they were in. One more couple was missing. Segovia had seen every major and minor tango couple in Buenos Aires but had not found that last couple he needed. One day, speaking with Nelson, Nélida said to him, “And that large man that is your friend. What is his name? The one who we saw dance on the street for pennies? Where is he?” That “large man” of course was Virulazo. Nelson liked the idea very much and set out with a friend to search for Virulazo and his wife, Elvira. That would prove to be no easy task. Virulazo had given up on tango and was tired of dancing for such little money. He had a family to support and was no longer interested in the hard lifestyle he had suffered due to tango. As he was quite bohemian, he and his family moved often, so it was quite difficult to track them down. Nelson and his friend walked around Virulazo’s old neighborhood knocking on doors, asking for the whereabouts of the dancer. No one knew anything until in San Justo (a neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires) one man said, “Oh, yes! El Gordo (the fat man)! He works in the butcher shop on the corner.”

So to the corner they went and found Viru covered in blood, working at his new job. They explained to him what was happening with Segovia and his new project. Virulazo wanted nothing to do with it; he didn’t care if they did it in Buenos Aires, or Paris or on the moon itself. He said he no longer danced, didn’t want to dance and was not going to dance. When they mentioned the idea of an audition, he nearly hit the roof. He said, “I am Virulazo and I do not have to audition for anybody! Especially not some frou-frou theater designers!” Finally Nelson convinced Virulazo to do it. So one day, while the rehearsals for the show were well under way, Nelson took Virulazo and Elvira to El Viejo Café Nacional where there was a small stage where the audition was to be held. José Libertella was there with some of his musicians, and Segovia was introduced to Virulazo and Elvira. He was extremely skeptical at first. Virulazo and Elvira were not the typical image of a tango dancer. They were not the typical image of any kind of dancer! Virulazo was well over six feet tall, towered over most averaged sized people and was overweight by about 120 pounds. He, like many Argentines of his generation, lived on a diet of asado (barbecued beef), beer and cigarettes. Elvira, on the other hand, was over six feet tall as well, slender, sinewy and muscular with long, thin legs, long arms and a somewhat “handsome” face. With her short, boyish, black hair, “feminine” was not a word that described her well. Segovia was extremely hesitant and had his doubts, but he agreed to let them dance. He asked them what song they would like and Virulazo said, “Tanguera”. The orchestra played Tanguera, they did their best, but it was not the best audition of all time. It simply was not the right musical choice for their personality. So Segovia asked them to do another one, and this time Virulazo chose Orgullo Criollo. The music started, Virulazo and Elvira danced, and everyone in the café froze, stopped what they were doing, approached the stage, and stood there mesmerized as to what they were seeing. The music ended, and Segovia, in shock, stood up, applauded wildly, and hired them on the spot. “El Gordo” from San Justo was about to debut in Paris. There are, of course many dance couples who were bending over backwards to get into the show at that time. It is known that a young bricklayer named Miguel Ángel Zotto attempted to join the cast in 1983, but was turned down, as were other prominent couples such as Los de Cobre, Los del Plata, Marinel and others. With the dancing couples already chosen, an orchestra and a musical director needed to be found. Segovia had originally spoken with the legendary bandoneónist Aníbal Troilo “Pichuco” to be musical director of the show, but shortly after on the 18th of May 1975, Pichuco passed away leaving behind him an unforgettable musical legacy. Next Segovia spoke with Astor Piazzolla. However, Astor started putting conditions: He would only play in the show if all the musical pieces were his own. This, of course, was

impossible, as the idea of the show was to take the audience on a journey through the history of tango and the evolution of the genre. Piazzolla also was overly anxious to finalize everything and sign a contract, another impossible condition, as Segovia had not completed the design of his show, let alone the casting of artists. He had not even written his own contract. Segovia decided against it, and Astor went on his way. The Sexteto Mayor orchestra debuted at the Casa de Carlos Gardel in Buenos Aires on the 29th of April 1973 and played every night to a full house. The orchestra immediately became a success with the public and the press. International tours to all of Latin, South and Central America followed, as did tours to Japan, Asia, and Europe. Around 1981/1982 the orchestra was enjoying great success at the Trottoirs de Buenos Aires in Paris. The Trottoirs was a legendary old tango café opened by Susana Rinaldi, Antonio Cantón and Tomás Barna, and was where all the best tango musicians and singers in the world performed when in Paris. The Sexteto Mayor played at the grand opening of the Trottoirs on the 19th of November 1981. At this time Claudio Segovia, who had been living and working in Paris for many years, got word of this new orchestra and went to hear them. Segovia spoke with José Libertella, who together with Luís Stazo was the director of the orchestra. The Sexteto had a great repertoire and could give Segovia what he needed, so it was agreed to include them in the cast of the show. Discussions got under way and Segovia explained to Libertella his idea to present all the musical styles and time periods of tango from the earliest Milongas to the most modern compositions of Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer. From the very beginning most of the musical arrangements were adapted by José Libertella. Libertella, who was born in Italy, but moved to Argentina when he was only a few months old,. He was very well known for his talent as a musical arranger. Segovia had already been to see him in 1976 when he originally wanted to debut his show. Initially Segovia wanted the great Aníbal Troilo to be musical director of the show and to have his orchestra on stage. However due to Troilo’s death in 1974, this was not a possibility. An interesting note is that each performance of Tango Argentino began and ended with Quejas de Bandoneón as a homage to the great “Pichuco”. Most of the musical arrangements in the show are those of Troilo that Libertella “adapted”, but basically they are the arrangements of Troilo. Next Segovia called Horácio Salgán, a magnificent tango pianist and composer who played in a successful duo with Ubáldo de Lío. Salgán and de Lío had played together in the Trottoirs de Buenos Aires in Paris in 1982 and caused such a sensation that a live recording of the concert was made. There are still Parisians who to this day vividly remember those concerts. Salgán was and forever will be a legend in Argentine musical history, writing such songs as A Fuego Lento, A Don Augustín Bardi, and Oratorio Carlos Gardel. Salgán had an extremely modern style for the time and had been part of many important orchestras, such as those of Roberto Firpo, Edmundo Rivero and others. In 1960 he had

created the Quinteto Real, which had tremendous success all over the world. He later created the Nuevo Quinteto Real, which had even greater success than the first. Ubáldo de Lío had always played in duo with Salgán in all their concerts and recitals. They both had recorded many Long Play records and cassettes, and their music was known the world over, especially in Japan where they had a large number of followers. Both were added to the cast. With the cast complete and the organization of the show well under way, rehearsal space was another issue that the company had to deal with. In an interview with Gloria and Rodolfo Dinzel by Luís Tarantino in the magazine Tango XXI, the couple said, “Many people denied Segovia the use of rehearsal halls for the first Tango Argentino. We rehearsed in the old Cano 14. Even with the triumph and with the success it was that way. In reality the first one to give us any attention when we came back from Paris was Alejandro Romay in Canal 9. He gave us a plaque. I think nobody realized what had happened; we hadn't gone to Broadway yet. Romay realized something was about to happen.”

3 - The Dream: Paris 1983 As has been mentioned before, Segovia found no support whatsoever in his homeland. After spending years pitching the idea for his project to all the major and minor theater directors in the country, he was always met with a unanimous “No!” Not discouraged, he began to search outside Argentina, although his dream really was to present the show for the first time in the birthplace of tango. This was not to be, and it was thanks to his longtime friend and supporter Jorge Lavelli that he was able to procure a spot at the Festival d'Automne in Paris. The Festival d'Automne was a long running, highly prestigious arts festival known for presenting avant garde works, many of which went on to become iconic in their field. The slot was for six days only, but at a most unusual theater: the legendary Théâtre Châtelet. It is joked many years later that most members of that first cast immediately said “yes” simply upon hearing the word Châtelet! No one wanted to pass up the opportunity to perform on the same stage on which the Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo had debuted. No one wanted to pass up the opportunity to perform on the same stage on which Vaslav Nijinsky had once leapt and pirouetted. Grease was not the word, but Châtelet was! Segovia and Orezzoli were familiar with the Festival d’Automne as they had presented their highly successful show Flamenco Puro there a few years earlier and met with great success. Their work had the integrity to be part of a festival like this, and Tango Argentino was no exception. The company did one dress rehearsal in the Teatro Alveár in Buenos Aires before they departed for Paris. A small group of family members and friends was invited to see the incomplete show. Many of the costumes were not even bought yet, the makeup had not been designed and the order of the show was rather disorganized. The few people who were privileged to be there all had negative feedback for Segovia. They thought it a pity that people with such talent were going to go to Paris and show something as low class as tango, especially with dancers who were middle-aged and overweight. As Segovia found little to no support for his show in Argentina or elsewhere, he had to bend the rules to convince a friend of his with ties in the Argentine Air Force to procure the company members passage on a military cargo plane that was en route to Paris. The story goes as follows: The Falkland Islands War had just ended a few months prior and there was a French Exocet missle that was fired, but did not explode on the islands. As it was officially French property, it needed to be returned to its mother country. Segovia’s friend got wind of this and enabled the cast to travel along with the missile in the small passenger area in the cargo plane.

On the day of departure the 30 members of the show, uneasy but at the same time excited, ascended the steps into a strange plane with a strange route to a very uncertain future. Only time would tell how this experience would turn out for them all. As there was no on-board service on the military plane, food had to be bought for the passengers, so Nelson, Nelida and Elvira were sent out to buy a few sandwiches and other small items to tide the passengers over until the plane reached its destination. It did not, however, reach Paris without making numerous stops along the way. The plane refueled in the Canary Islands, and the passengers were anxious to exit the plane, enter the terminal and refresh themselves. They discovered upon opening the plane’s door and being literally “hit” with 110 degree heat, that they would not be allowed to leave the vicinity of the plane, as they had landed at a military base and were traveling in a military jet. So there they were, the haggard members of Tango Argentino, allowed to walk in the 110 degree heat of the Canary Islands only around the steps of the plane, which were surrounded by armed Spanish soldiers. It was a sight that had to be seen to be believed! After numerous other stops, the plane finally landed in Paris and the company said goodbye to their military transport, never again to travel in similar style. It was not until the cast got to Paris that Jean-Luc met the people he was to make up for what would be the next 10 years, so he had to study their individual features, their faces, their angles. He began to apply their makeup and hair and, following Segovia’s strict guidelines and vision, adapt it to the individuality of each artist. Time was of the essence and efficiency was crucial. Costuming was an issue, and other pieces of clothing were purchased to supplement the wardrobe of the show. Assistants scoured flea markets and antique shops in Paris, looking for particular vintage era pieces that Segovia felt he needed to give the show the necessary authenticity. Although they were on a very limited budget, no expense was spared. The company arrived to Paris after a very long, tiring trip on the military plane and immediately began to rehearse in the theater. The Théâtre Châtelet was an enormous space, and many of the dancers in the show were not accustomed to performing in spaces that large. That was about to change. They had to make their movements larger, stretch out the space more. However, when the stage filled at the end for Danzarín and Quejas de Bandoneón, they had to respect each others' space. One day in 1984 in Venice, Jorge Reeves, dancing with Cecilia Narova at the time, crossed into Virulazo and Elvira’s space. Virulazo was so angered that backstage after the show he pulled out a knife that he had in his belt and threatened Reeves. This type of behavior was common in the days of the compadritos to which Virulazo was accustomed, but not on a stage in Venice. Virulazo was reprimanded by Segovia, and the act was never repeated again. Although the company arrived without fanfare and without hype, the news did get to the press, and a small article appeared in the La Liberation newspaper on Thursday, the 10th of November 1983, the day before the debut. The article said, “With costumes and

bandoneóns, they arrived to Paris in a military plane lent to them by the government of Buenos Aires. Final destination: the Châtelet. Thirty-three argentine porteños accompanied by two directors, will from the 11th to the 17th of November present the show <<Tango Argentin>>. It has not been seen yet. The Festival d'Automne threw an idea into the air: to mount a show on authentic tango in Paris. Dance, song, and music. Two argentines, in Europe for many years after leaving Argentina, took up the challenge: Claudio Segovia, creator of musical shows that went on tour with Mercedes Sosa, who in collaboration with Jorge Lavelli created <<Flamenco Puro>> in 1980 in Seville, and Héctor Orezzoli, costumer and decorator, co-creator with Segovia of many successful music-hall shows. Buenos Aires, the small world of tango, is chaotic, unacceptable, impossible. The project with the participation of Astor Piazzolla echoue. The idea to incorporate the Orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese, one of the greats of tango, was also abandoned. The dancers, just like the actor Jorge Luz, is confident in his intuition, free of choreographic indications… Some of the artists have already toured Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Latin America. But most of them are discovering Paris with amazement, trusting in the reception which will be given to them by France. All their dreams are allowed. One dance couple sees it as a springboard to stardom. Another envisions settling down some time ‘if we want to.’ One musician cites the need to breath creatively. Others do not have faith yet. But tomorrow, ‘If God wants it,’ the response is in the Châtelet.” This article gave a general impression of the feeling amongst the cast as they had just arrived to Paris. It was a feeling of great uncertainty, but at the same time of great hope, dreams and faith. Many of the members in the cast had very different agendas. Cecilia Narova, for example, had always dreamed of being a showgirl in the Lido or Folies Bergere, and her dream was to be “discovered” by someone from there and become the star of a Parisian cabaret show. Jovita Luna wanted to relive her glory days of when she had been a star in the theaters and cabarets of the city. Carlos and María Rivarola just wanted to see Paris. The article also gives an uncanny premonition of what was about to come, and as the suspense grew everyone knew the moment for the test would be in the Châtelet. When the cast arrived in Paris the director of the Festival D'Automne, Michel Guy, asked Segovia to give a special dress rehearsal for the press. Segovia said it was impossible, as many of the costumes were not yet ready, the lighting was not set, and the equipment and technology in the theater was not adequately set up for the show. Guy opened the curtain of the stage, and Segovia saw a theater full of press, reporters, journalists and photographers waiting for the performance. In shock, he decided to have Jovita Luna sing Baláda Para Mi Muerte and to show the last scene in the show, that of Danzarín and Quejas de Bandoneón. Jovita sang, and when she finished, the photographers' flashes went off like wildfire. The dancers entered, danced, and when they finished, the entire theater jumped to its feet screaming, and flashes went off all around the theater. No one could believe what they had just seen. History was about to be made.

And so it was. After 10 years of struggling, fighting and never losing faith in his dream, Claudio Segovia's dream came true. Tango Argentin debuted at the Théâtre Musical de Paris Châtelet on the 11th of November 1983 to a full house of 2,500 spectators. It was a smash hit from the moment the curtain was raised. After every number, whether it was song, music or dance, a tremendous thunder of applause and stamping was heard all the way to the dressing rooms of the theater. When Carlos Rivarola and Cecilia Narova entered the stage to dance La Cumparsita, the most well-known tango in the world, the audience burst into applause at the sight and sound of something very beautiful and familiar: Parisian tango. Rivarola came out in his elegant black tail coat, white bow tie, slicked back hair in the style of Rudolph Valentino, and Narova more beautiful than ever in her gold floor-length dress, black bejeweled lace overdress, and her spectacular pearl headdress with a white egret feather that seemed to reach the heavens. On the final pose of the dance, the famous soupleé, the theater went wild. When Nélida and Nelson finished performing their solo of Celos, they went to the edge of the stage, embraced and wept at the response with which they were received. They exited the stage crying. Even after having been professional dancers for over 20 years before Tango Argentino, they had never been received with such warmth and such passion by an audience. Copes, who had been watching in the wings, told them, “Chicos, take this choreography, put it in a box with a little ribbon, and display it on your mantle, because it is a beauty. This is the choreography that the world will remember you for.” And so it was.

An interesting anecdote is that when Virulazo and Elvira finished dancing their solo, Virulazo returned to the men's dressing room and said, “Guys, did you hear all that noise?” and Carlos Rivarola replied, “What noise? You mean you fell down again and dented the stage?” Virulazo spent the next few minutes chasing him around the dressing room, both of them laughing hysterically. However when the lights slowly came up on Jorge Luz for his scene of Amorpho-tango, no one in the audience quite knew what to think. Here was a 60-year-old man dressed in a black satin dress, one shoulder exposed, completely white face with black eyes, red cheeks and lips, and wig. To complete the ensemble Jorge wore the most curious of footwear: black ballet point shoes. As the scene continued, this amazingly talented actor impersonated every major tango singer from Libertad Lamarque to Tita Merello to Roberto Goyenéche, copying their accents, movements and mannerisms perfectly. He then entered into a demented argument with a farol (lamp post), which he insulted, punched, kicked, and ended up “killing” in compadrito style with a strong stab of a knife. Jorge then danced a four minute improvised dance on point to Piazzolla's Lo Que Vendrá, which for a man of well over 60 years with no ballet training is no easy task. He ended in the famous pose of the Dying Swan from Swan Lake: the ballerina on one knee on the floor, other leg extended in front of her, her hands crossed towards her toes and head bowed in a position of submission to death. The audience, after a few moments of stunned shock for what they had just seen, burst into spontaneous and wild applause showing their appreciation for a truly talented actor (and dancer).

But nothing could have prepared the audience for what they were about to see next. The stage was black, a light blue almost moonlight-type light lit up the backdrop, and the orchestra started to play the first few phrases of Danzarín. One by one the couples entered the stage. The men in their elegant black double-breasted pinstriped suits. The women in the most elegant and fine black satin dresses since Rita Hayworth and the movie Gilda. As the stage filled with these mysterious, black-clad couples, dancing so solemnly, so serious, so dignified, Paris was about to find a new obsession. A new exotic desire. A new fashion. And that fashion would stay forever. During the bows on the first night of the debut of the show, Claudio Segovia came out onto the stage to take a bow. He even danced a few steps with María Nieves in one of the bis or encores, La Cumparsita. Three encores were danced that night and all subsequent nights thereafter as the audience demanded more and more. The following is the program for the debut of Tango Argentin when it appeared at the Théâtre Châtelet as part of the Festival D’Automne 1983: •

Overture: Quejas de Bandoneón by the Sexteto Mayor

El Apache Argentino ballet by the male dancers

El Esquinazo ballet by the couples with the entrance of the female dancers

La Puñalada orchestral piece by Horacio Salgan, Ubáldo de Lío and orchestra

El Porteñito song by Jovita Luna

El Tortazo song by Elba Berón

La Morocha dance by Mónica and María del Carmen

Mi Noche Triste song by Raúl Lavié

La Cumparsita dance by Cecilia Narova and Carlos Rivarola

El Choclo song by Elba Berón

El Amanecer orchestral piece by Horácio Salgán and Ubáldo de Lío

De Mi Barrio song by Jovita Luna

Orgullo Criollo dance by Virulazo and Elvira

El Marne and Taconeándo bandoneón solos by Libertella, Stazo, Pareta, and Ricciardi

Milonguíta ballet by all dancers and Cecilia Narova Amorpho-tango comical act by Jorge Luz Nostalgias orchestral piece by the Sexteto Mayor Cuesta Abajo song by Raúl Lavié

Canción Desesperada song by Maria Grana

La Yumba and La Gran Muñeca dances by Héctor

Mayoral and Elsa María

Caserón de Tejas song by María Grana

Canaro en Paris orchestral piece by Horácio Salgán and

Ubáldo de Lío

Los Mareados song by Maria Grana with accompaniment by Horácio Salgán and Ubáldo de Lío

Sin Palabras song by María Grana

Nunca Tuvo Novio song by Raúl Lavié

Lluvia de Estrellas orchestral piece by the Sexteto Mayor

Celos dance by Nélida and Nelson

Y A mi Que and Desencuentro songs by Elba Berón

A Fuego Lento song by Horácio Salgán, Ubáldo de Lío and orchestra

Balada Para Mi Muerte song by Jovita Luna

Verano Porteño dance by Juan Carlos Copes and María


Los Pájaros Perdidos song by Raúl Lavié with accompaniment by the orchestra

Adiós Nonino orchestral piece by the Sexteto Mayor

Malena, El Motivo, La Ultima Curda, Garúa songs by

Roberto Goyenéche

“Hommage a Aníbal Troilo” - Danzarín and Quejas de

Bandoneón ballet by all the dancers

The show played from the 11th of November until the 17th of November 1983 to a sold out house every night. Such was the craze over the show in Paris that long lines of people formed around the block of the theater, waiting in the cold snow for the chance to get tickets. People waited outside the stage door with signs that said to the cast, “Don't leave. Please stay forever.” The city of Paris was under a true spell.

The newspaper and press reviews of the show praised the show for the exoticness it showed and for the quality of the production. On the 13th of November 1983 Le Mond newspaper's headline read “Le triomphe du tango a Paris”(The triumph of tango in Paris). The article continued, “On Friday, the 2,500 spectators gave a standing ovation in the Theatre musical de Paris to the premiere of the show <<Tango Argentin>>, directed by Claudio Segovia…The place for the true tango. Between men and women with the sound of monotonous chants charged of sensuality. The scenario is always the same: approach, seduction, hesitation, conquest, heat, rebellion and finally death like when a child is seduced by a slick hooligan, perishing under his dagger. Brutal. On stage, an orchestra of 12 musicians - the <<Sexteto Mayor>>, five singers, six couples of dancers. The men have the look of macho seducers and the girls have the incandescent glance which gives shivers everywhere.” The Liberation newspaper on the 14th of November 1983 had a headline that said, “The bandoneón keels over, the bodies seduce, the voices charm: <<tango argentin>>, thirty three Porteños for a magic evoked in black and white.” The article continued, “The tango had never really disappeared from Paris… and it lived sparsely, without history, in the dance halls…Imagine a ‘digest’ of the Old and New Testament. Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli, in charge of 31 participants… and with all the repertoire, all sounds, all steps and especially all ambiguities which make the tango. The entrance of the dancers is already in itself a short cut of the philo-tangosophie: the three couples which penetrate the stage are male and awkward, thus with the manliness learned between them, they seduce the senoras … they have already made the bed of the tango… It is true that the first evening, the choreographies appeared in precarious equilibrium in the premiere, but by the second evening everything was forgotten with the embroideries of Horácio Salgán, the voices going between caress and danger of the three female singers, and the perilous scissor-like legs of Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves.” The article gave particular praise to Jorge Luz and Roberto Goyenéche, “There remain two characters whom one regrets not seeing more of on stage: Jorge Luz, dazzling actor who, dressed up in drag plays the one hundred year old hero of vicissitudes, does a duet with a rubber lamppost, until he makes love to it. It is a laughing evocation of a man who knows how to be exempt from drama. And then Roberto Goyenéche, pathetic silhouette and voice who can dry any throat only by singing the Porteño phonebook, petrified a whole room while singing La Última Curda.” One of the headlines of an article on the show in the early days after the debut read, “One step of Virulazo is worth ten choreographies of Bejart.” This is a reference to the modern dance choreographer Maurice Bejart and his modern dance ballet. One must understand that at that time in Europe, Bejart was at the height of his success and to compare a completely unknown street dancer from Argentina to him, and claim that only one single step of the latter was more valuable than entire choreographic works of the other, really is quite high praise. The writing was already on the wall and not only was this show going

to change the course of history, but the dance form was going to change many things as well. These were exciting times. One reviewer, Rene Sirvin, wrote in an article on Monday, the 14th of November 1983, “The dances are very varied. Dances of salon, cabaret, tango on point, a parody number, dance between men, between women and between girls, dances of competition, of seduction, dance-passion and dance of death. The tango is all that, the most dramatic and most expressive of all the dances.” Rene finished the article with these words to the public, "The voices split open the air, the heels stamp the floor, the music stirs the blood. Don't miss this invitation to dance. It is unique."

Demand for tickets reached a high as the days went by and time came for the show to pack up. Ticket scalpers and resellers lined the streets trying to sell tickets at exorbitant prices. People stood in the cold, snowy, wintery Paris streets with signs that said, “Please don’t go! Please stay forever!” The last night it was decided to open the doors to the theater and let all those who had no tickets enter to have the opportunity to see the show. People were seated in the aisles, on top of people, sharing seats. There were even people out in the avenue looking in through the open doors, down the aisle onto the stage. It was a craziness one would expect from a

rock concert, not a tango show. But it was obvious this was not a mere tango show, but rather muchmore than that, and soon the world would see. Such was the popularity of the show and the artists in it that the prestigious fashion magazine Vogue did a six page photo shoot with the dancers from the show. Juan Carlos Copes, María Nieves, Nelson, Cecilia Narova, Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli posed in tango poses in the latest fashions by big name designers such as Lorís Azzaro and Emanuel Ungaro. There were even photos of Segovia doing a "boleo" with Nieves. After the miracle that had just occurred it was time to go back home to Buenos Aires. This time not on a military cargo plane, but on Air France.

This is the actual boarding pass used by Juan Carlos Copes to return to Buenos Aires (BUE) on the 18 th of November, the day after the show closed.

When the plane landed at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires, the cast expected to see journalists, photographers, reporters. There was nothing, there was no one. In typical Argentine fashion, anything related to the success of tango was simply and plainly ignored. One photo of the show appeared in the newspaper Semanario, but only because José Libertella had given it to a friend of his that worked in the editorial office of that newspaper. The small note dated the 23rd of November 1983 said the following, “Those who have been wandering around Chacarita these last few days say that Gardel, immortalized in the now classic statue, has been smiling more than usual. It is because the tango has just produced a phenomenon in the Festival D'Automne in the Châtelet Theater in Paris. Raúl Lavié, María Graña, the Sexteto Mayor, Juan Carlos Copes, el ‘polaco’ Goyenéche, Ubáldo de Lío, Elba Berón, Jovita Luna, Horácio Salgán, Mayoral y Elsa María among a delegation of 35 people,sang and danced unforgettable tangos in front of 1,200 French fans of ‘the city music of the Plata’ in the two hours daily that was reserved by the festival between the 11th and 17th of November. For more than one ‘criollo’ that is exiled in Paris a tear was shed upon hearing the sounds of tango along the banks of the Seine and upon hearing such complaints [quejas] of the Bandoneón.”

This article, translated above from Argentine Spanish, contained an amazing amount of tango-related slang, and the way in which it was written involved the titles of many tangos and the lyrics of many tangos as well. It indirectly included the titles of many of the songs that were used in the show, but in a sarcastic way.

Index Inside Tango Argentino


Books, ebooks, DVDs, rare Tango CDs - mp3s:












2 - The Preparation


3 - The Dream: Paris 1983


4 - The Return: Italy/Paris 1984


5 - The Miracle: Broadway 1985


6 - The Boom: Japan 1987


7 - The Worldwide Tour: 1988, 1989, 1991


8 - The Beginning of the End: Buenos Aires 1992


9 - The Show


10 - Inside the Show : The Music The Costumes The Hair and Makeup Scene Design and Lighting

104 104 110 118 122

11 - The Artists Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves Rego Nélida and Nelson Carlos and María Rivarola Gloria Barrios Gloria and Rodolfo Dinzel Mayoral and Elsa María Cecilia Narova

130 131 133 134 135 136 137 139

Mónica and Luciano Naanim Timoyko Omar Mazzei Giselle Anne Zorzenon de Naveira Carolina Iotti Norma Acosta and Luís Pereyra Gloria and Eduardo Cristina Cinza Virulazo and Elvira Jorge Reeves Miguel Ángel Zotto and Milena Plebs Carlos and Ines Borquez Horácio Salgán José Libertella Luís Stazo Osvaldo Berlingieri Sexteto Mayor Ubáldo de Lío Orlando Trípodi Mario Abromovich Lisandro Adrover Enrique Diaz Elba Berón Alba Solis Raúl Lavié Roberto Goyenéche María Graña

141 143 144 145 147 148 150 152 153 154 155 157 161 163 164 166 168 170 171 171 171 172 175 177 181 182 183

12 - Epilogue


Appendices Tango Argentino Casts Cities in which Tango Argentino triumphed Fun facts

189 189 194 195



Inside Tango Argentino  

Tango Argentino was the groundbreaking show that led to the renaissance of interest in Argentine Tango. It premiered in Paris, then conquere...

Inside Tango Argentino  

Tango Argentino was the groundbreaking show that led to the renaissance of interest in Argentine Tango. It premiered in Paris, then conquere...