True Name: Nilda Elvira Vattuone
(10 September 1911 - 20 December 2013)
er diction, her phrasing, her technical perfection, her good taste, in other words, her interpretative quality makes of Nelly Omar an example and the paradigm of a singer, who today when she is nearly ninety years old, keeps on pleasing us with her still fresh voice.
She was born in the city of Guaminí, west of the province of Buenos Aires, an agricultural and cattle area with large estancias. By the way, in one of them "La atrevida", his father, Don Marcos Vattuone, worked as foreman.
She inherited the craft of singing from her father that was guitar strummer. She had several brothers and sisters, but only two women followed her steps: Elena, called Gory, who later became the woman of the poet Julián Centeya, and Nélida.
Nelly herself told me that her father was an acquaintance of Carlos Gardel and, that on several occasions, when he visited the city of Buenos Aires, they went together to the races.
«When in 1918 Gardel with José Razzano came to town, my father and other neighbors were who sold the admission tickets and organized the presentation of the duo. The theater was crowded. Later they came home. We, my brothers, my sisters and I, watched everything through a window. My father, like a good Italian of then, did not allow us to mingle with adults. But his image remained in my memory. Gardel, fat and his straightened hair with a central parting.»
In 1924 Nelly was already in Buenos Aires. She went for an audition to complete the cast for the folk outfit "Cenizas del fogón", and she was accepted at once. The outfit played on Radio Rivadavia, and besides singing, our girl had brief performances as actress.
In the years 1932 and 1933, on the same broadcast and on other radios located at the same building (Radio Mayo and Splendid), she appeared together with her sister Nélida to sing as a duo. "We sang country tunes, airs from the province of Buenos Aires: milongas, estilos, songs. But I sang tangos as soloist."
As a curiosity we can highlight that the girls changed their names, our Nilda became Nélida, more precisely Nelly, and Nélida adopted her sister Nilda´s name.
Soon thereafter she joined another group of similar features: "Cuadros argentinos". A radio theater play on Radio Stentor that, after its end, was performed on different stages in neighborhoods and country towns.
"This group was led by the brothers Julio and Alfredo Navarrine, and by Antonio Molina as well. I married the latter in 1935, but it was an unfortunate mistake. I was married eight years and I ought to have broken up after the first two months, but the affection for my mother-in-law, a second mother for me, prevented me from doing so."
The then famous theater actor Enrique De Rosas stated: "She is a different voice."
Her presentations went on and her popularity was evidenced in 1937, when a great radio-phonic poll organized by the Caras y Caretas magazine recognized her as the best female singer.
In 1938, when she appeared at a cinema in the locality of Valentín Alsina, the announcer had the bad taste of calling her "La Gardel con polleras" (A Gardel with skirt), and through a long time and up to the present, the lack of imagination and the triviality of the announcers, keep repeating this somewhat unhappy nickname.
Then the time of splendor of our artist came when she appeared on the most important radios accompanied by the leading artists of the period, like Libertad Lamarque and Agustín Magaldi, among others. The ideas and the scripts of her programs were created by Enrique Cadícamo and Homero Manzi, with the latter she began a sentimental relationship which lasted several years.
Some people say that the lyrics of the tango "Ninguna" are inspired in her, possibly Manzi dedicated some others to her, but in no way "Malena" which he wrote inspired in Malena de Toledo, an Argentine singer that he had met in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when he was returning to Buenos Aires from a trip to Mexico.
She did not record according to her success and quality, something common for female voices, which were not attractive then for recording companies.
She finally recorded for the Odeon label in 1946, on Francisco Canaro´s recommendation. She committed to disc ten numbers: on January 28, "Adiós pampa mía" and "Canción desesperada"; on October 8: "El Morocho y el Oriental (Gardel-Razzano)" and "Rosas de otoño"; on March 26, the following year: "Sentimiento gaucho" and "Sus ojos se cerraron"; on May 28: "Déjame no quiero verte nunca más" and "La canción de Buenos Aires"; and finally, on October 22, her two remarkable hits: "Desde el alma" and "Nobleza de arrabal", the latter with lyrics by Homero Manzi.
At the movies she appeared in two "B" films, the first one in 1940 "Canto de amor", directed by Julio Irigoyen, where the singer Carlos Viván is starred as well. The other film is "Melodías de América", premiered in January 1942 and directed by Eduardo Morera, also responsible for Gardel's shorts, there she sang "El aguacero" by Cátulo Castillo and José González Castillo.
That same year, the Society of Authors and Composers paid homage to her at a night local called "Novelty"; they bestowed a medal on her and she was renamed "La voz dramática del tango".
Talking of her career, Nelly confessed to us that she does not like to beg, "to go around knocking doors. I would feel quite badly if I knew that I am singing because of a favor. Only once in my lifetime someone helped me, so as I would be allowed to appear on Radio Splendid. It was Evita, and it was not because I asked her. She did not understand why I was not given a space. She liked my singing and even more that I sang our music. I thanked her by recording the milonga "La descamisada" and the march "Es el pueblo"."
During the remaining time of the Peronist government, Nelly Omar sang at the big popular celebrations that the government organized. «I never had anything to do with politics, I took part because I was Peronist, fond of Perón and Evita.»
When the coup d´état that overthrew General Perón in 1955 called "Revolución Libertadora" took place, all the artists that had supported the overthrown government saw their possibilities of work cancelled, among them was Nelly Omar who was banned nearly until nowadays.
At those difficult times she went to Uruguay and later to Venezuela. In 1966 she briefly appeared on television and only in the late 70s and in the early 80s she recorded with the guitarists Roberto Grela, José Canet and later with the orchestra of Alberto Di Paulo.
In December 1997, when she was 86 years old and with a clear incredibly young voice, with the dignity of the great ones, she recorded a compact disc including some pieces recorded for the first time: "Comme il faut" by Arolas with lyrics by Gabriel Clausi, and other two, with lyrics of who had been his last partner in life, Héctor Oviedo: "La piel de vivir" and "Por la luz que me alumbra". The guitars of Bartolomé Palermo and Paco Peñalba accompanied her.