Oscar Zucchi
| Néstor Pinsón

he obituary of the following day announced: «Yesterday, due to a heart problem, died one of the most representative tango singers of the so-called generation of the ‘25 and composer of one of the most lasting hits of the Buenos Aires songbook: “La vieja serenata”, with lyrics by Sandalio Gómez. He was blessed with a fine polished voice...»

The co-author of this portrayal, Oscar Zucchi, in a work published in September 1978, made his description: «He was gifted with a strong tenor register that allowed him to approach the high notes with confidence and a clear voice color, although, sometimes, some waggish publication of the time criticized its strength. In a simulated dialogue that appeared in the Sintonía magazine in 1934, the following was said: “Somebody told me that Ibáñez, the nice shorty Teófilo, sings much better that some months before. Why? Does he shout less? Because he used to bark so loud that the mike stumbled!”»

Born in Pamplona, he was only four months old when his family arrived at the neighborhood of Barracas from Navarra. At the time of grammar school he began to attend a school located on California and Herrera. Since he was a child he liked singing. At age nine he learnt the trade of butcher and time later he had his own booth at a market on the corner of Azara and Gualeguay.

His artistic dreams came true in the early 1928, in a rather casual manner. The singer himself tells us about it: «A friend of mine, Miguel Colantone, who was a record vendor in the Max Glücksmann house, introduced me to Roberto Firpo who was then auditioning singers. I went to his house and sang there, he liked me and he signed me. I made my debut with his orchestra at the Teatro Casino. I recall that I sang “Alma de bohemio” and “Ya no cantas chingolo (Chingolito)”».

His first session in a recording studio, for the Odeon label, was exactly on February 8,1928. That day he waxed four tangos: “Lamentos”, “Lechuza”, “¿Sos aquella mascarita?” and “Despedida”.

The Firpo Orchestra used to appear at the well-remembered contests organized by Max Glüsckmann at the Palace Theatre on Corrientes Street. As the pieces he had to learn in so short time were too much for his memory capacity, he turned to a prompter every time he had need of it. This task was carried out by Miguel Bucino, a good dancer and the best friend of many tango men. Teófilo said once in an interview: «We used to record three times a week and the company paid us 25 pesos per disc.»

Even though he, some time, said that with Firpo he surpassed 400 recordings, those who checked the files of the recording company counted approximately 140 numbers, until November 21, 1929, date when he ended his performances with the leader. “Tristezas”, “No es más que yo”, “Ahora no te quiero” were his last refrains (estribillos) cut. When he split with the orchestra led by Firpo he was replaced by Carlos Varela. Soon thereafter he tried some appearances in a duo with Néstor Feria but they soon split.

Time later he joined the Victor company to appear with the orchestras of the house. So he performed with Adolfo Carabelli, with the Orquesta Típica Porteña, with the Orquesta Victor Popular, with Los Provincianos, with the one led by Carlos Marcucci and also with the Orquesta Típica Victor itself.

In the mid- 1931 he switched to the Brunswick label to carry out a similar occupation, to record as vocalist with the aggregations that required it. With Julio De Caro outstanding numbers he recorded were the waltzes “Sueño de juventud” and “Serenata de ayer”. With Edgardo Donato he cut around thirty pieces, out of them I highlight the ranchera “Con tarjeta de cartón”. Very curious because its lyrics are based on a beautiful poem by Raúl González Tuñón. He also recorded with Ricardo Brignolo and over 20 tracks with Osvaldo Fresedo. He as well appeared with Rondalla Los Baturros and when the Brunswick label disappeared, after a fire, he returned to Victor.

Then his time as soloist singer came and as such he appeared at different venues and on radio. In 1934 he recorded again with the Carabelli Orchestra and with the Típica Victor. With the latter he cut a curious recording: the tango "Derecho viejo" composed by Arolas with lyrics by Andrés Baldesari. Gabriel Clausi in 1974 wrote another lyric and was committed to record by Nelly Omar. With the first lyric, possibly Teófilo's has been the only rendering but he only sings an excerpt. That took place on June 1, 1934.

Four years later, the pianist Rodolfo Biagi split with Juan D'Arienzo and formed his orchestra, his first vocalist was Teófilo Ibáñez. It was an eight-month tenure between 1938 and 1939, a period when they cut 8 well-remembered recordings: the tangos "Gólgota" and "Alma de bohemio", the waltzes "Viejo portón", "Loca de amor (La loca de amor)" and "Lejos de ti" , the milonga "Campo afuera" and, lastly, the tango "La novena", by Miguel Bonano and Alfredo Bigeschi, on which at the ending he only recites a portion of the lyrics.

The complete output of his recordings is over 260 numbers. He soon withdrew from show business, even though he went on singing in friendly coteries and at different reunions. He was author of some pieces, among them: "El mundo está loco", "Siempre soñar" and one which stood out above all and is in the hall of fame of the classic pieces of our popular music, the waltz "La vieja serenata", with the appropriate lyric written by Sandalio Gómez. Those lines that evoke the neighborhoods of his time and the chaste juvenile love affairs declared by the side of some window: «Mujer, mujer, no te olvides, de aquel que fue tu cantor...» (Woman, don't forget the one who was once your singer...)