Mario Battistella

Real name: Zoppi Battistella, Mario
Nicknames: A. Wood
Poet, lyricist and author
(5 November 1893 - 10 October 1968)
Place of birth:
Monforte (Verona) Italy
Néstor Pinsón

do not regard him as a forgotten one, but as someone who was set aside when the question about who are the best lyricists is made. To say the truth even a dozen of them are mentioned, those who deserve to be are included, but amazingly, no one mentions Battistella.

He boasted having written around 2000 lyrics, obviously most them were forgettable and were premiered at anodyne theater revues, which remained no more than a couple of weeks on stage. But numerous hits stand out among those lyrics made with a superior aim. One of his characteristics was his interest in social problems. That did not appear in many titles, but except Discépolo, how many lyricists approached it any time?

As he disliked heavy lunfardo and vulgar situations he wrote the lyrics of “P’al nene”, with music by Edmundo Rivero, as a response to "El nene del Abasto" written by Raúl Hormaza with music by Eladio Blanco, whose lyrics bothered him: «Because it showed the worst things in life, like teaching the techniques of theft, etc. I wanted to demonstrate how ridiculous the character is, because I think we have to do something useful once and for all. As I once told Gorrindo, we have to put aside, among other things, the notorious love triangle». (interview by Noemí Ulla).

In “P’al nene” he reproachfully says to the “guapetón” that the one who works is braver than the one who is proud of being a bully, a cheater. Morals simple and old as life itself. Also in collaboration with Edmundo Rivero, composer of the melody, he repeats the same idea in the tango “Pobre rico”: «he is not rich that who has more money/ but that one who has morals». Here, who is at stake is that character that from the tenement house climbs the social ladder without scruples.

Two more examples: “Al pie de la santa Cruz”, with music by Enrique Delfino which, besides the excellent rendition by Gardel, also has the outstanding interpretation by Alberto Gómez, and “Bronca” in collaboration with Edmundo Rivero, consecrated by Osvaldo Pugliese with Alfredo Belusi on vocals.

As for the former the poet comments: « evidence of an interest for social issues, this lyric was inspired by reality. During the first government of Hipólito Yrigoyen (1916-1922) a strike at the workshops of the Vasena metallurgical factories took place. There was a subsequent repression by law-enforcement forces whose death toll was bigger than what was said in the newspapers of the period. As well as the tragic events of the Patagonia, ferociously cracked down by the Argentine Army.»

The lyrics tell us the story of a man detained and of the consequences for his family. Battistella described it with rough strokes but not at all far from reality: «A strike is declared, there’s hunger at home/the task is hard and tough but the salary is scarce...» At the end of the lyric, and as curious information, it says: «Anchors were lifted and the last rope was loosened. The cursed ship is lost in the horizon and the poor woman fainted». That allusion to the ship indicates that it was bound to the dreadful prison of Tierra del Fuego (it was built in 1902 and was closed in 1947).

The second example, in the 60s, is undoubtedly his greatest achievement in the field of social protest, the tango “Bronca” with music by Rivero. Possibly someone would connect it to Discépolo because of the mood expressed through his plea, but the historical-political reality is nearer, possibly the last said by means of a tango, among other things, because the genre had already lost its hegemony. It was 1962, the president Arturo Frondizi had just been overthrown, a pact between civilians and armed forces allowed the senator for San Juan, José María Guido, to occupy the former’s office, but he was just a puppet in the hands of the military authorities who were the ones who really had the power.

He regarded his tango "Sueño querido" as the most satisfying. About it he said: «It has a strong autobiographical emphasis, in it a young guy leaves home after his dream. It happened to me when I was 14 and I tried to express how juvenile illusions can be destroyed in our lifetime leaving us only hopelessness». Dear dream, your carriage is gone away.

In this brief portrayal we cannot forget "Cuartito azul", in which a young student shares his dreams and wishes with his beloved place, with his small apartment. We cannot either leave out "Remembranza" that is a sentimental memory.

His tango "Canto" was one with a great number of recordings, its music was as well written by him. It was premiered in the motion picture Dancing, in 1933, and recorded for the first time by Francisco Canaro with Ernesto Famá on vocals in 1934. Many of its renditions were recorded in Europe; here it is an almost unknown tango.

Born in Verona, Italy, he arrived in our country in 1910 after spending a time studying in Paris and Vienna. In 1922 he made his debut as author of simple musical comedies alongside Francisco Bohigas, who composed the music. That same year he met Gardel.

In 1929 he traveled to Italy to visit his parents and later he went to France. There he got in touch with the Paramount motion pictures and translated silent movies into Spanish (the captions that appeared between scenes).

He was a close collaborator to Gardel when he arrived in Paris. Together with Alfredo Le Pera he wrote the script for the film Espérame. With the latter's brother, José Le Pera, he wrote the first book about El Zorzal: Carlos Gardel, Su Vida Artística y Anecdótica. In 1933 when Gardel left Buenos Aires for good, Gardel invited him to travel with him, but he had previous engagements and declined joining the tour.

In order to solve his financial needs he began to write scripts and lyrics for low quality musical comedies. He also wrote songs of very different kinds until he wrote his first tango with music composed by Charlo, "Pinta brava", that Charlo himself premiered with the Francisco Canaro Orchestra in 1928.

Between 1932 and 1933 Gardel committed to record ten of his titles: "Al pie de la Santa Cruz" with Enrique Delfino's music, "Criollita de mis ensueños", "Estudiante", "Mañanita de sol", "Me da pena confesarlo" and "Melodía de arrabal", all them with music by Gardel and in collaboration with Le Pera, "Cuando tú no estás" with Gardel and in collaboration with Lattes and Le Pera, "Desdén" with Gardel, "Medallita de la suerte" ("Mi alhaja") with Gardel and Razzano, and "Sueño querido", with Ángel Maffia.

Out of his extensive output he have to stand out as well the abovementioned "Cuartito azul" with music by Mariano Mores, "Remembranza" with Mario Melfi, "No aflojés" with Pedro Maffia and Sebastián Piana and "Tiernamente" with Agustín Bardi.

He was a simple but profound poet, unjustly displaced by the connoisseurs of tango poetry. Our site wants to recognize his talent and his compromise with the working class and popular struggles.