Juan Viladomat

Real name: Viladomat i Massanas, Joan
(8 February 1885 - 19 December 1940)
Place of birth:
Manlleu (Barcelona) Spain
Juame Collell

his musician was born in Manlleu, Catalonia (Spain), an industrial town. Son of a barber and elder brother of the sculptor Josep Viladomat, at age fifteen he played in the municipal band.

He is composer of "Fumando espero", premiered in 1923 and published in Buenos Aires in the El Alma Que Canta magazine in 1928. It is the first tango that unusually traveled from Europe to South America, but not the only one by the composer because in his wide output there are several ones that stood out like "Celos no!", "Julieta" (Mi primer tango), which was awarded at a contest organized by the Vida Gráfica magazine in 1925, "Tango prohibido", "El tango de la mandra" with words by Amichatis, "Al Sena", a hit by Pilar Alonso, "Nubes de opio", "Vuelve a mí", "La canción de Margot", "Mina divina", "Vuelve", "Por ti", "Mi locura".

Viladomat studied at the Vic seminar, the conservatory of the Liceo de Barcelona and, according to the Espasa encyclopedia, he furthered his studies in Paris.

He married a tobacco seller of his town (quite a premonition for the composer that would dedicate his most famous piece to cigarette) and he settled at the Paralelo de Barcelona where he opened a Variety Academy. He gathered a group of musicians, copyists, lyricists, tonadilleras and impresarios with whom an authentic industry of cuplé was born under the ironic label of “género ínfimo” (extremely low genre). So he wrote and co-wrote around thirty numbers that included zarzuelas and revues.

The "Fox-trot de las campanas", released by the German publishing company Bote & Bock, was a boom in the German cabarets after World War I. His cuplé "El Regreso", which was published by Editions Francis Salabert in Paris, was also successful along the Seine boulevards in the twenties. The sardana "Catalunya plora", dedicated to the death of the poet Ángel Guimerá, is played in Catalonia up to now like the quite popular "El vestir de Pasqual".

In 1926 over 500 performances of the play “El tango de la cocaína” were staged at the Victoria theater of Barcelona. Viladomat’s legacy contains hundreds of pieces, manuscripts and printed music, and about twenty recordings in old discs.

But, undoubtedly, "Fumando espero", with lyrics by Félix Garzo, is his greatest hit in the genre and has been recorded in tens and tens of renditions.

It was premiered in 1923 in the musical revue La Nueva España, with music by Viladomat and Vicente Pastallé. In 1926 was recorded for the first time on a stone disc by Ramoncita Rovira. It was also recorded by Rosita Quiroga, Ignacio Corsini, Argentino Ledesma, Roberto Firpo, Carlos Dante with Alfredo De Angelis, Libertad Lamarque with Víctor Buchino, Héctor Varela, Carlos Acuña, La Bella Dorita, Imperio Argentina, Pilar Arcos and Mary Santpere, among others.

In the movie El último cuplé it reached its peak in popularity, box office boom in 1957, sung by Sara Montiel who included it in her songbook. In Argentina it was introduced by the group Los Mexicanos. This tango went on adding up renditions in Europe, America and Asia. But in Argentina is where it received greater acclaim, but its echo, according to the accounting of the Society of Composers, is repeated year after year in countries so different as Chile, France, Colombia, the United States, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Holland, Portugal, Ecuador, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Venezuela, Finland, Uruguay, Mexico, Germany, Bolivia, Turkey and Japan, among others.

- Family archives of the composer.
- Oral testimony by Maria Rosa Viladomat, granddaughter of the musician.
- Grané, Marta. Joan Viladomat, del carrer del pont al Paral·lel. Collell, Jaume. Viladomat, Buenos Aires, Berlin. Manlleu, músics del XX, Museu de Manlleu 1992.
- Collell, Jaume. Viladomat o la indústria del cuplet. L’Avenç magazine January 2011, pages 64-67.