Antonio Domingo Podestá

Real name: Podestá, Antonio Domingo
Pianist, flutist, composer, leader and actor
(4 August 1868 - 17 November 1945)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Néstor Pinsón

e was born in Montevideo and belonged to a family of artists of the late nineteenth century. The family name was famous either because of him or his brothers and, later, because of his children and grandchildren who for a hundred years were at a privileged place at the venues of the River Plate.

From the mid- 1880 the circus run by their family was well-known. Its founders were the five Podestá brothers. The leader was José, creator of the famous clown Pepino el 88, and his brothers and partners were Jerónimo, Pablo, Juan and Antonio. Much time later would come María Esther, Jerónimo’s granddaughter who died in 1983, that at a very young age —only four years old— appeared at theater, radio, movies and television. And still in the memory of this outstanding family is the name of their aunt Blanca, a notable actress that as from 1967 appeared at the old Teatro Smart on Corrientes Avenue and Talcahuano.

Undoubtedly, we can state that the Podestás were founders of the criollo circus and responsible for the popular theater with their performances of Juan Moreira, a melodramatic novella by Eduardo Gutiérrez, adapted for the occasion, because the players did their job in the circus’ arena with mimicry and without words. It was Antonio the one who had the idea of adding music to the play to stage a better show.

According to the texts and notes researched, the premiere might have taken place in Montevideo on November 23, 1889 and later they crossed the river and presented it in Buenos Aires but this time on a stage. There is a suspicion that the researchers copied that information from each other but nobody knows who was the first one to ascertain that date. Then we have better to take for granted what the last of the Podestás, María Esther, said in her book of memoirs. There she says that they arrived at our river banks in 1884, and that they placed a circus in the new and almost deserted city of La Plata. It was at a square in front of a hut made of not plastered bricks which was then regarded as the government house. They reached public acclaim but the money was not enough for all of them. Then they traveled to the Federal Capital and were called to appear at the Teatro Politeama on 1490 Corrientes Street. And there the whole family premiered the pantomime Juan Moreira on July 2, 1884.

On that occasion, Antonio introduced —for the last section that took place at a house or a local in the outskirts—, a scene that included several couples dancing a milonga he had composed and was entitled “La estrella”. There were two performances more and, soon thereafter, a trip to Brazil where they appeared for four months.

Antonio quit acting and devoted himself only to music composition of the genre known as zarzuela criolla. He wrote the music for a large number of plays with traditional rhythms of our country, including tango. Several of those pieces were committed to record.

Some of his numbers, not in a chronological order, are as follows: “Abajo la careta” —title song of the play in which the author himself introduces it with his singing and which was recorded for the Victor label—, “La polca del espiante”, “El payador [b]” —committed to record by Arturo De Nava, among others—, “Fumadas” —title song of Enrique Buttaro’s play—, tango recorded for the ERA label, possibly in 1912, by the duo of Roberto Firpo (piano) and Ernesto Muñecas (violin). It was danced by Pablo Podestá onstage.

Also, “A Palermo” —recorded for the Columbia Record label—, “Calandria [c]” —play by Martiniano Leguizamón—, “Flor de ceibo [b]”, “La barredora” —co-written with Alfredo Logazio—, “Llanto de madre [b]” —with Enrique Maroni who reads the lyrics—, “La piedra del escándalo” —main theme of the successful play by Martín Coronado which was recorded on several occasions, among others, by Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi as soloist and also by his wife Flora Hortensia Rodríguez; “Tren de carga”, among many others.

Furthermore, even though it is not a tango, there is a folk song with wide acclaim: “Pericón por María”. It is the title song of his criolla opera dedicated to his niece María, Jerónimo’s daughter and María Esther’s aunt.

Finally, we mention again his milonga “La estrella” which has no recordings known and, possibly, there is no sheet music that has survived either.