Néstor Pinsón

t was said that Juan D'Arienzo was the one who recommended him to Francisco Canaro. They were having dinner at a cheap restaurant on Paraná Street. Pirincho commented that he needed a singer because he only had Guillermo Rico then his name sprang up. Carlos Roldán had left, a new theater play was to be premiered and there was not enough time.

Already aware, Alberto Guida turned up —that was his sobriquet then— at Canaro’s office located on 600 Montevideo Street. Mariano Mores was also there. They made him sing “Dicen que dicen”, “Pan” and some other tangos. They were satisfied, and as Canaro was quick to make decisions, he immediately hired him. Before leaving they handed him several sheets with written music so that he would learn them. Among them was “Adiós pampa mía”.

It was 1945 and the new theater play was a free adaptation of El tango en París, by Enrique García Velloso, premiered in 1913 by Florencio Parravicini at the Teatro Argentino. This time it was at the Teatro Presidente Alvear, with script by Ivo Pelay and music by Canaro and Mores. The young lady was Alicia Vignoli and an experienced cast for these plays with humor, romance and music. “Adiós pampa mía” was premiered, and was a hit, an international classic of the level of “La cumparsita”, “A media luz”, “Caminito” and “El choclo”. Guillermo Rico sang “Niebla”. Ibis Blanco and Oscar Villa, aka Villita, were the dancers and they sang the milonga “Serafín y Julia Paz”. Vignoli in a duo with Rico sang the waltz “No llores más”.

The theater was crowded at every performance until the end of the season. Later, as was Canaro’s habit, it was staged for a time at the Teatro Artigas of Montevideo.

At that play there was a character, a herdsman, called Alberto Arenas in the fiction. Canaro had an idea and he soon called his vocalist to tell him that since then he would be named Alberto Arenas. The public was attracted to his strong voice and challenging figure.

On July 5, 1946 the play which had been Canaro’s first theater venture in 1932 was reprised, the famous Canción de los barrios, but this time without Tita Merello. Her role was played by Virginia Luque, with the notable María Esther Gamas in the supporting role. Enrique Lucero, Mores’s brother, played the role that had been Guillermo Rico’s. Virginia sang the tango “Si tú me quisieras”, composed by Canaro for this reprise, and obviously was not in the earlier version. As usual there was popular acclaim.

In 1947, an Argentine-Mexican pastiche with actors and music of both countries was premiered: The lead actor was Jorge Negrete. The play was successful in Buenos Aires, but when it was staged in Montevideo a scandal sprang up. The Mexican had said things that the Uruguayan disliked and every time he was on the stage the public complained.

Arenas also appeared in the following play, in 1949, Con la música en el alma. Two years later its adaptation for the movies was premiered in the Río de La Plata company, owned by the leader. It was a failure. There Alberto Arenas is featured singing a tune on horseback during a roundup, with a background of the Avenida General Paz almost deserted.

When they traveled to Montevideo, Radio Carve was always waiting for them. There our singer appeared, as well as in the carnival celebrations, performing on both banks of the River Plate.

The Arenas-Canaro team lasted until 1957. There were many radio cycles, some of them well-remembered, like their appearance at the Glostora tango club, on Radio El Mundo. They also appeared on Radio Splendid and, of course, in the recording studios.

Between 1951 and 1954 they made tours of Brazil and numerous presentations in Argentine cities of the central and northern areas of the country. His presence alongside Canaro was enough so that his name would be included in any review of the history of tango.

But there was a time prior to 1945, when his career was on a scarcely secondary level. He was a soloist singer, accompanied by three guitars, on the short-lived Radio La Nación. As well Radio Porteña and Callao had his name in their casts. He had a brief tenure with the Alberto Pugliese's orchestra which sometimes had Osvaldo on piano. Later, an outfit that was even less outstanding, Mario Rocha's, with José Basso on piano on some occasion.

After Canaro he fell into a progressive oblivion. He was a singer that received the popularity of the orchestra, of its followers. His personal capabilities did not generaban, by themselves, a adhesión. It was the beginning of the end. He worked as a taxi driver to make for a living and, secondarily, to music.

So he sang at a quartet led by Vicente Fiorentino. Later came different performances and a deserved comeback, at age 65, with the quartet led by Enrique Mora. He recorded with it a disc with two numbers. In the early 80s he joined, together with Roberto Maida and Ernesto Famá, an embassy for nostalgic people and so they went on a tour of Colombia for a couple of weeks.

His first recording was made on August 24, 1945 with “Adiós pampa mía”. With Canaro he recorded 80 numbers, the last one as soloist, possibly, an attention by the leader, the piece “Copa de silencio” whose lyric and music are mentioned as they were his own. He closed his cycle of recordings with two duets with the singer Juan Carlos Rolón, accompanied by guitars.