Carmelita Aubert

Real name: Recasens Aubert, Carmen
(6 January 1912 - 1979)
Place of birth:
Barcelona (Barcelona) Spain
Xavier Quiñones

orn in Barcelona, her mother Rafaela Aubert, was a vaudeville actress and dancer known as Guayabita. After being enrolled by her mother in the Cariteu School (one of the many artistic academies then existing in Barcelona) she was first discovered by Carlos Saldaña, Alady, a well known actor and comedian who immediately noticed the possibilities of Aubert's gifted voice once he heard her singing to his own piano-playing.

Under the Carmencita Aubert name, she made her artistic debut in 1931 in Arenys de Mar. Her stage partner was Alady himself. That same year she appeared in the Follies de 1931 variety show directed by the black dancer Harry Flemming. After the opening at the Nuevo theatre in Barcelona, the show was featured at Madrid's Romea theatre to great success. Back in Barcelona, Aubert briefly sang with the young tango vocalist/guitar player Mario Visconti, with whom she made the Odeon recordings “Con todo amor”, “No olvides, no” and “Devuélveme mis besos”, all three numbers written by Rosendo Llurbá and Rafael Iriarte. After being praised by the El Tango de Moda magazine, she made some solo recordings of tangos and criollo waltzes, while numbers such as “La casita” kept enhancing her popularity.

Soon, she was hired by Jaime Planas for the Spanish tour of his then famous revue. Back in Barcelona again, she was starred in her first movie, Mercedes (1932), her screen partner for the occasion being the Argentine singer-song-writer Héctor Morel; Mercedes was directed by J.M.Casteliví and featured such popular artists of the time such as José Santpere, John Bux, Antoñita Colom‚ and Jaime Planas and his orchestra. The film was an enormous box-office success in Catalonia, while Aubert's recordings of “Alma de tango” and “Mercedes” (the waltz which was the main title of the movie) became a big hit at the radio.

Barcelona's star of the day by then, Carmencita Aubert made use, of a repertoire which included tangos such as “Silencio”, “El penado catorce” or “Presumidos”. While Imperio Argentina was recording for Parlophone, she cut some excellent sessions for Odeon; some hits from this period were “Danza maligna”, “Hacelo por la vieja”, “Mi caballo murió” and other tangos from the Tania’s and Libertad Lamarque’s songbooks (and from other local composers). She also covered screen hits such as Será un sueño (the Spanish version of Das Gibt's Nur Einmal, a number sung by Lilian Harvey in the movie “El Congreso se divierte” and “El vals de las sombras” (an adaptation by Gerardo Alcázar of the Harry Warren number “Shadow waltz” from the Warner production Vampiresas de 1933).

Included in the Ràdio Associació de Catalunya EAJ-15 artistic staff, Aubert frequently appeared with the Crazy Boys orchestra headed by Martín de la Rosa then performing at the Granja Royale bar; she also sang at an American-type show with the Bel Symphonic Boys, appearing at the Fantasio cinema, the Maison Dorée club and other hot spots of the city.

Dropping the name Carmencita for a new Carmelita Aubert denomination, she made a number of radio commercials; particularly popular were the Jaime Mestres songs she sang for the Cocaina en Flor perfume ads in 1935.

In 1935 Carmelita Aubert was starred in the musical film Abajo los hombres by Valentín R.González (and directed by J. M. Castellví), where she appeared alongside Pierre Clarel, a French actor much in demand after starring in the Paul Abraham operetta El Baile del Savoy alongside Celia Gámez in Madrid. Aubert was personally chosen to perform on Abajo los hombres by Valentín R.González (a man who during the Spanish civil war would direct several documentaries and a musical film, Nosotros Somos Así, for the CNT-FAI] anarchist union). “La colegiala” is a number inspired on “Saint James Infirmary” which Aubert sang alongside Antonio Matas y su Ritmo (pianist Matas had been the organizer of the first jazz festival in Barcelona, an event that took place at the Astoria cinema, where a number of short movies featuring Ina Ray Hutton's Melodears made a great sensation amongst the attendants); with the passing of time, “La colegiala” became a sort of an anthem for the local jazz musicians.

“Clemencia”, the tango Aubert sang in the movie, had censorship problems, as the authorities suspected that its title was calling for the official pardon for those charged with rebelliousness during the 1934 Asturias insurrection.

This musical film featured several popular jazzbands from Barcelona: M. Lizcano de la Rosa, Crazy Boys, Casanovas jazz, V.Montoliu jazz, Napoleon's jazz and the Pascual Godes band. The movie, which was screened at Madrid's Teatro de la Prensa on February 3, 1936 has recently been restored by the Saragossa Filmoteque.

Shortly after the release of the musical, impresario Ortigao Ramos hired Aubert to appear at the Lisbon carnival alongside Georges Milton. The outbreak of the Spanish civil war on July 1936 found her in Portugal, where she chose to stay, working as a variety show vedette.

On October 6, 1944 she returned to Spain with a friend, the Portuguese actress Maria Luisa Vicente. Even if Aubert was only returning to make some recordings in Barcelona and to appear on a color co-production, she was immediately arrested in Madrid as a political suspect. When the news reached Portugal, local artists and musicians decided to demonstrate in front of the Spanish embassy, demanding Aubert's immediate release. The Franco government was forced to give up and, on October 26, she made a triumphant return to Lisbon. When the Madrid train reached the Portuguese capital that day the reception was overhelming: artists, civil servants, carpenters, seamstresses and doormen crowded the station platform to welcome her with flowers. Still, Aubert never had the chance to make that last movie in Spain and was never able to visit her family in Barcelona.

Carmen Aubert became Portugal's most popular variety vedette and enjoyed tremendous success on the Avenida, Apolo, and Maria Victoria theaters with productions such as Las canciones unidas (1946) or Ela aí está (1949).

Years later, married and retired from the stages, Carmelita Aubert had the chance to visit Spain for the last time before she passed away in Portugal in 1979.

Extracted from the CD BMCD 7602, Blue Moon label, Cancionero de Oro series, edited in Spain.