Carmen Duval

Real name: Simone, Carmen Leonor
(3 October 1918 - 21 March 2012)
Place of birth:
(Entre Ríos) Argentina
Gaspar Astarita

t a time when the great and qualified female tango voices proliferated —in the 30s and the 40s— Carmen Duval succeeded to outstand due to a series of qualities which harmonically coincided to furnish her and her voice, with style and personality. I don’t think it is exaggerated —it is a strictly personal opinion— the eulogy of regarding her nearly at the same level of Mercedes Simone, considered by everybody as the great female voice of tango.

On this respect I can be contradicted by being objected with the names of other great artists: Nelly Omar, Libertad Lamarque, Azucena Maizani, Amanda Ledesma, etc. But all of them stood out due to other features: Nelly Omar, by the diversity of her repertoire and because of her emphasis and modality,she went beyond the purely city-inspired themes to approach song, with the amplitude and ductility needed to tackle compositions typical of different places (country and town); Libertad Lamarque and Amanda Ledesma —good singers as well— reached fame and prestige backed by their work in the national movie industry; and Azucena Maizani —the unforgettable Ñata Gaucha— achieved her enormous acclaim and boom with a singing style in which predominated the temperamental spirit over the interpretative neatness (although she was otherwise blessed with an exquisite voice).

And so many names of famous female singers.

But Carmen Duval’s career in tango was something very special. She daringly approached the most difficult works to vocalize, included those always regarded as classics in the instrumental repertoire (“Recuerdo”, “Ojos negros”, “Entre sueños”, “Inspiración”, etc.). And on all them she evidenced a perfect command of the vocal tool to which she added a much polished clear diction, pondering the emphasis so as not to fall into the vain and unnecessary rapture. Warm suggestive accent and, with delicate nuances, to which she knew how to imprint —according to the material— an exact dramatic progression. Carmen Duval’s contralto voice was further distinguished for frequently exploiting a certain modality of delay, «to hold the note», but she was used to never get near overemphasis.

Even in that trend which was for her a natural interpretative virtuosity, Carmen Duval knew how to fix the exact limit so as her singing remained exclusively within the confines of vocal art. Gestures, bombasts and theatrical attitudes —so much in vogue with many of our present female singers— were useless for her. She never had to turn to them. All what she did was by singing.

Furthermore it is necessary to highlight that to convey all those attributes, Carmen Duval summoned excellent orchestral accompaniments to back her. Examples of that are the pianist Antonio Macri, down there in her beginnings on Radio Stentor, to which later followed the trio formed by Horacio Salgán (piano), Gregorio Suriff (violin) and Marcos Madrigal (bandoneon); subsequently Héctor Artola, the Radio El Mundo Orchestra and, especially, Argentino Galván, they were who provided to Carmen Duval’s singing the support, and the assurance that the artist and her art demanded throughout her career. She found in those notable directors, the professionals who knew how to faithfully interpret her carefulness, assisting her voice to reach us always stupendously magnified.

Carmen Duval is from Entre Ríos, born on 3 October 1918. Later based in Buenos Aires where she attended high school, in the mid-30s she took part at a contest for male and female singers on Radio Stentor where she won the first prize for female voice and Andrés Falgás, for male voice. On that porteña broadcast —she had already quit her studies— she started her career, later carrying out an intense activity accompanied by the trio of the pianist Antonio Macri. And from then on she launched into popular acclaim.

In 1938 on El Mundo radio station she is already accompanied by Horacio Salgán —whom she would marry— performing presentations in special programs. All that period in the late 30s would find her completely established, reaching her cycle of highest impact in the next decade. Her major labor was on broadcasts, where she enjoyed consideration, respect and acclaim. She made presentations at other places and made some tours, but the important part of her career took place in the Buenos Aires broadcasting media.

Unfortunately she was not starred in movies and the recording companies were reluctant to her art. She only recorded eight numbers, two for RCA-Victor and six for Odeon. To them we must add others which have been recorded from broadcast takes, an interest to be praised on the record collectors’ side, who have traced those very dear documents and made them known through different radio spaces.

We think that with the modern recording methods available today, that discography scattered among the specialists could be recovered, put it together with the professional recordings made on 78 rpm discs (today unavailable) to release a long playing record that allows the great legion formed by those who admired her, to have in their record library the magnificent sound testimony of her voice and of her art.

Originally published in the magazine Tango y Lunfardo, Nº 48, Chivilcoy, 23 October 1989.