Ricardo García Blaya

he was born in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo, in the city of Buenos Aires. She arrived in tango thanks to Carlos Roldán, a friend of her family who introduced her to Francisco Canaro, who later was her bandleader. Some additional information: her younger sister, Irma Gay, was the last Canaro’s wife and mother of his two daughters.

Her mezzosoprano range, with velvet-like color and an expressive phrasing, deeply feminine and well rooted in tango, made her a very interesting female singer. It turns out difficult to find an explanation why she did not receive a wider acclaim. Possibly, it was because she had to struggle in the sixties which was a difficult period for tango.

Her rendition of “De mi barrio” recorded for the Odeon label, disc 52715, matrix 26631, on July 14, 1961, is excellent. The same happens with “Lo han visto con otra”, recorded in Japan, that same year.

In 1944, Carlos Roldán, who at that time was vocalist of the Canaro orchestra, introduced her to Pirincho, who impressed by Enriqueta’s beauty and charm, included her as dancer in his company to appear at the play Dos corazones, by Canaro and Ivo Pelay, at the Teatro Alvear. When the season was over, the comedy was staged in Montevideo.

By that time, her métier was closer to dancing than to singing.
In 1947 the comic actor Mario Fortuna, encouraged her to begin vocalization training and, so, she started her career as tango female singer. Her debut was that same year at the Teatro Maipo. But that tenure was short because she married and quit show business.

However, three years later, she reappeared as showgirl at the Comedia theater, in La Revista de los Campeones, along with Blanquita Amaro, Jovita Luna and other great artists. She was also starred in the movies with a role in the film Locuras, tiros y mambos, with Los Cinco Grandes del Buen Humor.

Thereafter, Alberto Castillo included her on his tour of Chile and Brazil, in which she devoted herself only to singing tangos. On her comeback to Buenos Aires, she appeared in several venues and scenarios, in the afternoons, at the Bohemian Club accompanied by a piano, at the L’Aiglon Noir tearoom and at the Tabarís, where she shared the bill with Juan Carlos Copes, and with an orchestra also at the Tibidabo cabaret, on Corrientes Street.

In 1957, after an audition as singer, Francisco Canaro hired her and changed her name for the sobriquet Isabel de Grana, and made her debut with his orchestra in the musical Tangolandia, by Canaro and Pelay, once again at the Teatro Alvear. Among the tango stars who appeared at that play, we can mention: Tito Lusiardo, Jorge Vidal, Juan Carlos Rolón, Francisco Amor, Alba Solís, Beba Bidart, the ballet led by Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves. Isabel sang the Canaro and Pelay’s waltz “Noche deseada” teaming up with Rolón as a duo and, on her own, she sang the Canaro’s tango “No te doy bolilla”, which was committed to record by the singer Marcelo Paz in 1959. That comedy was a smash hit and was staged throughout the country with many tours of the company.

Furthermore, she had frequent appearances on Radio Libertad, El Mundo, Belgrano and TV Channel 7. In the summer of 1960, the orchestra played at the Glostora Tango Club, when Alfredo De Angelis was appearing in the seashore area and Isabel’s partner was Eduardo Adrián. In 1961 she was included on the tour of Japan, teaming with Ernesto Herrera as vocal duo.

She recorded ten tracks with the orchestra, five of them in Japan. She appeared in several programs on TV Channel 13: Casino Philips, El Show de Juan Carlos Mareco and Sábados circulares, emceed by Pipo Mancera. She appeared at the Teatro El Nacional in Alberto Vaccarezza’s plays, alongside the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra.

When Canaro died, in December 1964, Isabel reappeared as soloist on radio, television and different night venues of Buenos Aires. She also made tours of Uruguay, Chile and Colombia. In the latter country she was widely acclaimed. When she was in Chile she recorded three songs with the orchestra led by Carlos Arci: “Gloria”, “Garufa” and “De mi barrio”.

In 1969, surely, due to scarce attendance to tango shows, she decided to put an end to her career.