María Volonté

Real name: Pasquinelli, María Cristina
(16 December 1955 - )
Place of birth:
Ituzaingó (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Ricardo García Blaya

he first time I heard her singing was in the early 90s. I immediately liked her, not only because of her tango-oriented and melodious beautiful voice, but also because of her intonation and good taste. When I listen to her, I think that she would jauntily contend —and perfectly— with her peers of the forties and fifties. Her repertoire is different from the trite stereotype chosen by today female singers. She was one of the first to rediscover Laurenz’s and Contursi’s gem: “Como dos extraños”, achieving an excellent rendition. But later hundred of female singers would insist with this piece to boredom.

Her figure, slender and sensual, her expressiveness and her facility to approach other genres, make her a distinct artist, with a style of her own. She was awarded the Premio Gardel as best tango singer in 2004 and was nominated for the Latin Grammy.

She recorded five albums. The first of them, Tango y otras pasiones (1996) was included among the 100 best tango records by the La Nación newspaper. The next one, Cornisas del Corazón (1999), was recorded live at the Café Tortoni. Her third recording, Fuimos (2003), conceived together with the mythical pianist Horacio Larumbe, made her win the Premio Gardel 2004 as Best Tango Album and was nominated for the Latin Grammy. The fourth release in her discography Tangos (2004) includes a collection of classics of her songbook and was nominated for the Premio Gardel 2005. Her fifth disc, Yo soy María (2006) is a fusion of tango with jazz and bossa nova.

Besides her local appearances, she performed in Latin America, Europe and the United States. In Munich she appeared as the protagonist of the opera “María de Buenos Aires”, written by Horacio Ferrer and Astor Piazzolla, conducted by Gerardo Gandini. At the Helsinki Festival in 2005 her recital ended with a standing ovation. In the United States she sang at Yoshi’s, the famous jazz club. Since 1995, when she is in Buenos Aires, María has been singing at the Café Tortoni every Thursday.

To know more about her there is nothing better but her own words:

«I was born in Ituzaingó, province of Buenos Aires. When I began to sing as professional I chose my mother’s family name, Elvira Volonté.

«I lived with my parents and my five sisters at a large, bright house. Dad worked as a project draftsman and painted watercolors in an exquisite way. But above all he was a great showman that had been frustrated. He had spent the greatest portion of his youth acting, reciting and singing at cinemas, theaters and cabarets. As soon as he got married, his first wife made him clearly know that vaudeville and the delights of conjugal life were not compatible options. Since then, he devoted himself to transfer to his daughters all his fascination for the world of the stage.

«Dad introduced us into an universe of creative provocation: oil, pastel, tempera paintings, masks and homemade fancy dresses, books, pictures, films. A typical afternoon at home would be with our family in the kitchen while painted bed sheets were hanging as scenography background, with lamps that created a shadow play and improvised orchestras with rice cans, saucepans and wooden spoons that were never missing. Mom surrendered herself to this irrepressible chaos as best as she was able to, with an infinite patience.

«But above all was music that filled everything. We used to equally sing and listen to all the genres: tango, folk music, bolero, flamenco, jazz, opera, musical comedies, French and Italian songs or Portuguese fados.

«One day when I was five, Dad came home with a Geloso, one of the first home tape recorders and recorded me singing “Catari” (“Cuore ingrato”), an old Neapolitan song. Today still I’m impressed by my small but decided voice mixed with my weeping because I was touched by the music and the lyrics. There was so much secret pain in that melody, so much love generously spread! That day I discovered, unknowingly, that singing is to allow oneself to be pierced by passion.

«After such a good breeding in the freedom of art, it turned out very difficult for me to get used to the rigor of school. I was anxiously waiting for the bell to ring announcing the time to go back home where my favorite occupations were reading, making up songs, putting on a fancy dress and playing with my sisters the theater plays that I myself imagined. I also enjoyed playing some old lacquer discs with classical music and staging choreographies.

«When I was ten as a gift Dad brought me my first guitar. The magic guitar, as we called it many years later, because in contact with it something within me changed for ever.

«Some years passed. Curiously, away from home I was an awfully shy teenager and music was my way of communication. When there were events at school I, alone or with my most willing schoolmates, used to sing folk tunes or rock songs written by Argentines. And thereafter in the 70s we used to mix the Argentine songbook with songs by Violeta Parra, Paco Ibáñez, Nicolás Guillén or Joan Manuel Serrat. The reunions full of songs with guitar accompaniment among friends, coteries and wine in the wee small hours of the morning were shaping my courage and warming up my voice.

«I started to sing professionally in the 80s. Just married, love was the great incentive to begin a new stage in my art career. It was an intense period of learning: I studied music, dance, theater, different body techniques. The singing classes began then and today still continue with maestro Julio Méndez.

«We lived in San Telmo and I was part of the movement that arose then by singing at the Plaza Dorrego and so many barrooms and large sheds of Buenos Aires. My friendship with several extraordinary musicians comes from that time. They were a never-stopping, original Ariel Prat; the beloved and subtle Horacio «Mono» Hurtado; the precocious ultra-talented Javier Malosetti. Furthermore I recorded with the latter two in my latest disc Yo soy María (2006).

«Although tango and folk music were something I was nurtured with during childhood, at that time my idea was to explore other roads trying to impregnate our city music with a Latin sensuality and the strength of rock. Several numbers that I composed with Timo Zorraquín, my husband, were born, for example “Arde un corazón”, recorded in my first disc Tango y otras pasiones (1996).

«We dived into the subterranean culture, along with a bunch of extraordinary characters like Jorge Pistocchi (creator of the El Expreso Imaginario and Pan Caliente magazines). The latter gave me the nickname La Musa del Underground. Others were Poly, Skay and El Indio Solari who by that time were beginning to be known as the Redonditos de Ricota.

«Even though I started my professional career by singing Latin rock numbers and city music of my own, one day I clearly realized that my destiny was in tango.»

I think that that’s all, folks. Maybe only one last comment: besides her very good singing, she writes stupendously.

Thanks, María, for your generous collaboration with Todo Tango.