Amelita Baltar

Real name: Baltar, María Amelia
(24 September 1940 - )
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
José Pedro Aresi

t is not easy to enter the music world of Amelita Baltar, a figure of singing that arrived at tango along non-traditional roads. She is not the girl in the neighborhood that became well-known after passing an exam before friends and relatives, after appearing at contests looking for a new voice or after gigs in tango venues.

Amelita came to face big audiences after her gigs as folk singer, singing ballads slightly linked to tango and she got involved, maybe unintentionally, in the eternal argument that we all know. Many regard her as an invention of Piazzolla, others say that she means a new voice with overtones of hallucination and sensuality rooted in the River Plate song.

She stepped into the scene along with the Piazzolla-Ferrer team at a very special time which the commentator Néstor Dante González describes as follows: «The city was giving birth to triplets, two madmen and a crazy woman that revolutionized tango, the city music or as you may call it, it’s the same for me, but they would carry the perfume of Buenos Aires to all places in the world. The musician (Piazzolla), the poet (Ferrer) and the female singer (Baltar) made something absolutely new and as all the new things it had its detractors and its admirers.»

Then Amelita is placed in the vortex of new musical and poetic forms that strive for being different and that some people stubbornly call avant-garde tango.

She was born in what is wrongly called Barrio Norte, a name that does not appear in cadastral records but which defines an area of the neighborhood of Palermo, the wealthy zone, today the habitat of the well-to-do porteño but which long ago sheltered tenement houses as well.

She studied and graduated as schoolteacher in La Annunziata catholic high school. She studied guitar with maestro Vicente Di Giovanni and had singing instruction with María Contreras. At age twenty-two she started her career as singer joining the Quinteto Sombras (a vocal folk group) with whom she recorded her early records. In the early 1968, now as soloist, she cut her first LP. For that she was awarded the first prize at the Festival del Disco in Mar del Plata.

Astor Piazzolla heard her sing, by chance, and was attracted to her mezzosoprano hoarse voice. He offered her to appear alongside Héctor De Rosas in the little opera María de Buenos Aires, that initially had had Egle Martin as female singer before the opening. About this episode De Rosas says that when Piazzolla was forced to look for a substitute, the former accompanied the latter to a folk venue to listen to Baltar and the first thing that Astor praised when he came to know her was, not precisely her voice, but her legs.

Unknowingly, the turning pointof her musical career had come for Amelita, because from then on she became the most representative voice of the Piazzolla-Ferrer team. She premiered all their pieces and, especially, on November 16, 1969, she sang for the first time the one that she would never do without: “Balada para un loco”.

Accompanying Astor she appeared on different stages in our nation and abroad, as well as on the French, Italian, Swiss and German television. On the latter she premiered the oratorio El pueblo joven. In 1972 she premiered “La primera palabra” at the Festival Onda Nueva in Caracas and, some months later, “Las ciudades” at the Maracanãzinho in Río de Janeiro.

Her singing never pretended to be popular. She was a “piece” that adorned a bandoneon and said the lyrics written by Horacio Ferrer. The latter when talking about Amelita commented: «With her mysterious, suggestive and darkened by tobacco distinct voice, with her temper and authenticity of woman of the modern Buenos Aires, she created a new way of interpreting tango. In her talent, our numbers found the exact echo that we were looking for».

After the sentimental and artistic breakup with Piazzolla she appeared as soloist either in folk music or in tango at several theater and music hall shows. Together with Susana Rinaldi and Marikena Monti she appeared at the show Tres mujeres para el show and with the comic actor Jorge Luz, in Cocktail para tres.

She came back to Europe to perform at the Olympia of Paris and also on Italian, French and Dutch television programs. At the Festival de Palma de Mallorca she was awarded for her rendering of “Los pájaros perdidos”. Later she appeared in Chile and in the city of Los Angeles in the United States. Thereafter she returned to Europe where she repeated her previous successful appearances.

During this stage, besides Piazzolla's pieces, she included in her songbook traditional tango numbers, trying to perform them in her personal way of interpretation.

Her style was always a broken, sensual, well-modulated way of saying, but for me it was kind of slow and lacking in tango nuances. In her interpretations the outskirts rites are absent and she evidences a sophisticated way foreign to the genre.

However, I think, there is an exception to this particular way of singing. Her rendition in French of “Che tango che” (Piazzolla and Carrier) shows a disposition not frequent in her by which she allows to be carried away by the tango excitement.

Amelita conveys the idea of being, above all, an artist who makes use of music and lyrics recreating characters through the use of pauses and with the help of her hands and arms. On each rendition she achieves the sensual, poetic and mysterious mood that she aims for. At times we see her on the stage like a skylark that flies over the scene and, sometimes, like a feline in a sweet disguise ready to catch her prey, the audience.

Without postures and cadences originated in the outskirts she dares to face mainstream tango and in this task she shows her charm of enticing woman. By holding up her arms and through her peculiar voice color she captivates the audience and, I think, she carries out her career with quality and warmth.

At present, Amelita Baltar continues touring countries where her presence is awaited and acclaimed. Her appearances were never subject to improvisation. On the contrary, her shows always previously planned and programmed. She is an artist and as such, she sticks to a script that she performs to perfection. For example, she sings “Balada para un loco” at the beginning of her show and Amelita explains why: «I start with it to avoid suspense and so, when relaxed, I can offer what I like to do».

She was starred in two films. The first, in 1976, was directed by Fernando Ayala and Héctor Olivera with the title El canto cuenta su historia. In it outstanding musicians and performers of tango and folk music were featured as well. Much later, in 1990, under the direction of Alejandro Agresti, she appeared in Luba alongside Elio Marchi, Bozena Lasota and Viveca Lindfors.

Her recordings date back to the time when she was a folk singer. With Piazzolla she premiered and recorded many songs, such as: “Chiquilín de Bachín”, “La bicicleta blanca”, “Balada para mi muerte”, “Fábula para Gardel”, “Los paraguas de Buenos Aires”, “Las ciudades”, “La última grela” and the one which is now a classic: “Balada para un loco” that she recorded many times, at different periods and with different musical accompaniments. In the traditional tango field “Nostalgias”, “Sur”, “Che bandoneón”, “Los mareados”, “Yuyo verde”, “Gricel”, “De mi barrio” and “Cambalache” stand out.

Lastly, there is nothing better than her own words to express her intimate feeling: «Each day I'm getting more involved with my profession. But nobody is a prophet in his land. Now I'm getting back something of what I have given for thirty-eight years: coherence, seriousness, responsibility and the willingness to do my best, to step on a stage and give everything. Several years back I used to dig folk music but in 1968, Piazzolla called me to play the role of “María de Buenos Aires”. I came to tango in a different way, I started with Piazzolla and now I am with traditional tango».