Príncipe Azul

Real name: de Costa, Herberto Emiliano
Singer and lyricist
(11 September 1901 - 9 September 1935)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

he event took place on a Monday before he was 34 years old and the following Saturday, the popular magazine Antena published in its central note: «He was after success but was surprised by death».

Everything seemed to indicate that he was at the peak of his career, he was about to sign a contract with the National Broadcasting Company of Nueva York and he had the possibility of appearing in two films. However, death in the middle of a trip spoiled this project. He was not a consecrated star, but he was indeed one of the outstanding singers of the second level of tango vocalists.

He was speaker in the beginnings of radio and, like other colleagues, he was fond of singing.

He made his professional debut with the accompaniment of a young pianist, José Tinelli. Since this debut in 1924 eleven years passed until the unexpected death of Carlos Gardel left an open door in the international market for another Argentine tango singer.

The American impresarios seemed to foresee this new possibility for the movies and decided to look for a substitute for El Morocho. The candidate had to fit into the profile of a Latin star, within the musical framework of tango, with the finality of coping the wide Spanish-speaking market and, apparently, they chose him.

He was an educated boy, graduated in high school. He had studied philosophy and studied a few years in the School of Medicine.

After several recordings in Brazil with the José Luis Andreoni Orchestra he returned to Argentina in 1930 to replace Charlo in the Francisco Lomuto Orchestra. With the latter he recorded 14 numbers, among them, a tango by Antonio Sureda, “Nunca”, with lyrics by Celedonio Flores.

He continued with his labor as refrain singer in the Roberto Firpo Orchestra and recorded around 40 numbers, among which a piece by Firpo himself, “Honda tristeza” with lyrics by Planells del Campo and “La que murió en París”, that beautiful classic by Maciel and Blomberg are standouts. Also in duo with Dorita Davis: the tango “Pensando en ti” with music and lyrics by Firpo and the ranchera “Titina”, by Firpo and Nicolás Trimani.

In 1932 he resumed his career as soloist on Radio Belgrano and later on Radio La Nación which belonged to the newspaper of the same name. He was starred in the movie Canillita alongside Amanda Ledesma and Lopecito, also featuring the Pedro Maffia Orchestra. The young vocalist began to be successful and his performances were well paid. He himself said that he even collected five hundred pesos per show.

Going back to the interview by the Antena magazine with which I began this sketch, the singer tells us that there were no mediators for his trip to the United States and added: «On August 24 I sailed on the American Legion and I could have had a signed contract with National Broadcasting, but I talked to the managers of an American agency in Buenos Aires and we agreed that it would be better to sign in the States. It’s for appearing on radio and shooting two movies, I’m not staying abroad for over a year. Luckily! I’m traveling with my friend Héctor Quesada, an expert in show business and he will help me with his advise to overcome the first obstacles that may appear».

All his enthusiasm was frustrated by a sudden ailment that resulted in his death. He was taken to the isle of Trinidad for a better treatment, but it was useless.

About this episode with tragic finale, I allow myself thinking aloud: What would have happened had not Gardel had died? Would a proposal by the entrepreneurs have existed? Was in fact a real invitation or an attempt of the singer that foresaw his great chance?

Finally, this is not something I make up in order to overshadow the artist’s values, but simply because at his time there were singers, as good as he was and even better, that never had such an offer.

As for his fellow traveler, friend and guide, Héctor Quesada, he was the pianist and composer with whom Francisco Lomuto began his recordings as piano duo in 1922. They recorded eight numbers. The orchestra led by Pancho Lomuto recorded the following Quesada's tangos: “Indio manso”, “De vez en cuando”, “Lomuto” and “No te vendas”. Héctor Quesada was born on October 4 1899 and died on April 28 1969. In his latter years he was agent for several artists, among them, Hugo Del Carril and Carmen Del Moral.

My friend, the researcher Oscar Zucchi, in one of his works concerning the estribillistas (refrain singers), concisely defined Príncipe Azul, he said: «Besides his natural appearance the special attraction of his baritone-like vocal timbre and the romantic hallo of his sobriquet were added». An exquisite ending for this memory.