Gaspar Astarita
| Néstor Pinsón

e don’t know if she was porteña or, as I have read somewhere, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Neither is easy to determine her date of birth. For some, on March 3, 1899, for others, on February 25, 1898, and also, others mention the same date but in 1901.

She belonged to a period when the short theatrical plays, which later were known as the género chico, began to be popular. Plays whose object was only to draw the attention of popular audiences that needed a passing entertainment with dramatic plots that finally ended well or, comedies in a romantic mood spiced with humor and songs included, mainly, tangos. When lyrics began to appear after 1917, each one of them was already a plot to develop onstage.

Until then the Spanish music was predominating and the actresses became singers, treble voices. Hence many names sprang up that later sang tangos. This is the case of Manolita.

Her mother was singer at the zarzuelas, like her sister Marta, married with the actor and singer José Muñiz. Her debut probably was in Montevideo, with a forgotten theater company, as second treble voice and, later, in 1914, in the Argentine company Vittone-Pomar.

Her family moved to Buenos Aires and here, in 1917, she joined the Muiño-Alippi cast. During her career she joined other groups and made a tour of Mexico.

This genre was declining and she continued her career in the movies. First with a Julio Irigoyen’s film Los misterios del turf argentino. Another anodyne film by this director. Much later, in 1938, by the same director, Plegaria gaucha. In it she is starred as leading actress. In 1948 she accompanied Fernando Ochoa in the movie: Don Bildigerno en Pago Milagro, directed by Antonio Ber Ciani. And in 1950 in the unsuccessful Los Pérez García, unforgettable boom on the radio but a failure in the movies, directed by Don Napy and Fernando Bolín, with music by Argentino Galván.

But she found her true place on the radio. She belonged to the Radio El Mundo staff for over twenty years. The radio soap operas on Saturday nights were directed by Armando Discépolo.

Photographs of that time show her tall, slim, quite elegant. Enrique Puccia in his book Intimidades de Buenos Aires recalls: «her graceful, slim figure, her finesse in her way of talking, her soft voice, caressing and with a tinge of nostalgia, made her be respected and loved by the public».

But all what was said above become secondary. Her name shall be always be remembered linked to a precise date, April 26, 1918. It was when the Muiño-Alippi company at the Buenos Aires theater staged the play Los dientes del perro, written by José González Castillo and Alberto Weisbach. Under those circumstances to heighten the spirit of an audience with scarce enthusiasm they decided to include the tango “Mi noche triste (Lita)”, which by need of the script its character had to sing. They achieved an outstanding success and the recording made by Gardel one year before, only then began to be avidly requested.

Manolita as well was responsible for premiering other songs at the theater, as follows:

1. “Royal Pigall (Qué has hecho de mi cariño)” which replaced “Mi noche triste (Lita)” in the season following Los dientes del perro.

2. “A la gran muñeca”, premiered in 1920, is the title song and dedicated to Manolita.

3. “Melenita de oro”, on March 25, 1922, at the Teatro Nacional, in the play Milonguita by Samuel Linnig.

4. “París [b]”, a shimmy written by Manuel Jovés and Manuel Romero for En el fango de París, directed by Romero. In it is also premiered the tango “Buenos Aires” written by the above authors, but performed by the actor Carlos Morganti.

5. “Campana de plata”, premiered in Puente Alsina, written by Linnig, at the Teatro Nacional on June 10, 1925.

6. “Mujer”, in La luz del cabaret, written by Julio Traversa and Jorge Luque Lobos, at the Teatro Maipo on July 7, 1923.

7. “No le digas que la quiero”, in Alberto Vaccarezza’s Chacarita, in August 1924 by the Muiño-Alippi company.

8. “Qué lindo es estar metido”, title song of the one-act farce by Pascual Contursi and Domingo Parra, on December 9, 1927 by the Enrique Muiño’s company.

9. “Muchachita de Montmartre”, tango written by Osvaldo Fresedo and José Saldías, in La muchacha de Montmartre, written by Saldías at the Teatro Nacional on August 7, 1925. Here there is a doubt about who premiered it if it was Manolita or José Cicarelli, as is written on the script, but it’s possible that in the last minute she had to sing it.

10. “Pinta maleva”, tango by Luis Teisseire from the play Cipriano del arrabal written by Vázquez and Riese. Premiered at the Teatro Buenos Aires on May 21, 1929 by the Muiño’s company.