Felipe Yofre

female singer with a vaudeville spirit. La Polaca backs her peculiar «vedette-singer» style, that she started in 1971, and she states she feels herself the follower of Roberto Goyeneche’s style.

We had an appointment at a tearoom near her house in the Finochietto thoroughfare. The block is short and at the back end a big wall that separates it from the first bridge of Constitución can be seen and, below we have «the roar of trains that wove iron labyrinths», admirably described by Jorge Luis Borges in “Matthew XXV 30”.

There, in that neighborhood, the whistle of the locomotives is mixed with the barking of the forty-seven dogs that, like Cátulo Castillo, our character accommodates in her dwelling as a trace of the country place where she was born.

Ruth Durante, we are talking about her, born in Balcarce to a humble farm home, was one of those who, hearing the radio, dreamed of being an actress and so reaching fortune and the financial prosperity that she thought was only reserved for the comedians.

In 1957 Radio Belgrano and the Radiofilm magazine organized a talent contest for new singers, and Ruth, who had never sung tangos, with a sheet music copy of “Bailemos”, went to the radio station to be a contestant. The pianist Miguel Nijensohn, who auditioned the contestants, was about to dismiss her because he thought she was a professional; she was able to continue and she reached the semi-finals at the Teatro Comedia where she was defeated in the middle of a big outrage.

Even though she was not awarded the first prize, Orestes Lacquanitti, art director of the radio station, recommended her for the Héctor Artola’s orchestra, teaming up with Carlos Yanel (today Siro San Román) and later to the Orquesta Símbolo «Osmar Maderna», led by Aquiles Roggero, with which she recorded an unavalaible “No no llores más”.

In 1971 she dared to appear on her own and since then she is soloist. One year later she appeared at the Lincoln Center of New York with the orchestra conducted by Mariano Mores.

From then on, the important venues in Buenos Aires had her as a featured artist: Caño 14, Relieve, Michelangelo, Karina, King and, mainly, Karim, where she had a fifteen-year tenure alongside greats like Aníbal Troilo, the Quinteto Real and, especially, Roberto Goyeneche. With the Polaco she opened the first tango venue in Mar del Plata. One evening when Ruth was swirling her long red hair, dressed up in transparent clothes, somebody in the audience shouted «¡Great, polaca!», and then Gagliardi gave her that sobriquet.

She appeared in 1977 at the third tango festival of La Falda (Córdoba) alongside Floreal Ruiz, Raúl Lavié, María de la Fuente, Héctor Varela, Mercedes Simone and Ángel Cárdenas.

She thinks she is taking over Goyeneche’s legacy, as a way of saying tango words, emphasizing the great lyrics of the genre.

She also highlights her condition of «vedette-singer», and the daring revue-like costumes with a revealing décolletage, sequins and high-heel shoes that she wore at the Teatro Maipo along with Jorge Porcel and Nélida Roca, and later in Spain, hired by Luis César Amadori.

Due to her unembarrassed way she realizes that she is criticized, but the Durante, because she is Taurus and stubborn, persists in that style and with an unconventional repertory, for example, “Y no puedo olvidarte”, a hit by her admired Alberto Morán.

She cut only one long-playing record 27 years ago (1970), for RCA-Victor (CAL-3244), along with Cacho Tirao, Hugo Baralis, Néstor Marconi and Omar Murtagh, among others, with anthological numbers.

Her dramatic vein also led her to bolero, “La noche de anoche” and “Cuánto te debo”, for example, turned out a true revelation. And also numbers of other genres, for example, the Peruvian waltz “Odiame”, that she admirably sings seated on a stool beside her bandoneon player and a faint light. That takes place at the venue La Cumparsita, on Chile and Balcarce, always crowded, while she waves her hand laden with pearls and sways the ruby mop of her hair.

Because the «polaca» Ruth is that way, the Lola Flores of tango, vehement and dramatic like a cante jondo, that tells her tangos like the sound of a bandoneon and among the folds of that instrument she keeps the plenitudes of her soul.

In the latter years she appeared in Mar del Plata, at the Café Orión, in the Tango Bravo Club musical company, fronted by Daniel Canales and featuring Rubén Cané.

Published in the La Nación newspaper on June 29, 1997.