Néstor Pinsón

Valentino - Chat with Enzo Valentino

he singer, Enzo Valentino, was born on September 24, 1919, in Correa, province of Santa Fe. He is author, among others, of “Recuerdos de una madre”, with lyrics by Juan Pedro López and “Viejo sillón”, “Gigí” and “El nido vacío”, all them with Eduardo Moreno.

«My devotion for singing is something natural. As a child I heard my father sing in the early hours in the country town where I was born. Its name is Correa, near Cañada de Gómez and Rosario, province of Santa Fe. Dad used to sing among the carts and the herd of horses we had in that piece of land that still lives in my memory, and, logically, it was contagious.

«Dad was an Italian of low stature, slim as I am, a Roman like my mother. Hence I hummed those things and sang them at school and in church where there were weddings or baptisms. At the barrooms in my town I heard many payadores (itinerant singers), even Atahualpa Yupanqui in 1933, who then sang sitting on a billiards table. The payadores improvised on the people’s features, they looked at a peasant and sang even about his hat, his look, his espadrilles; this encouraged my passion for singing.

«I always had a passion for voice, the mystery of voice. But I only knew what a voice was when I arrived in Buenos Aires in 1937 to visit an aunt and then I stayed there forever. I already used to sing but I watched others that knew how to handle their voice in a way I still was not able to. For example, Charlo knew how to handle his voice, also Alberto Gómez in his style and Gardel that had reached perfection.

«I came to know the Zorzal in April 1933, in Cañada de Gómez, I heard him, ignorantly, as he were one more singer, I was a kid. He sang five numbers, “Rosa de otoño”, I recall as well “Silencio”, here with an introduction by Domingo Vivas, but on bandoneon, Pettorossi and Barbieri were also there. It was at the Verdi Theater of that city.

«It was Corsini who gave me the chance of staying in this city. The year of my arrival I sang on Radio Del Pueblo and everybody said that I was Corsini’s son and, honestly, I didn’t know who Corsini was. I sing like this because my father used to sing this way. The ancestors of a race had a lot to do, because French is spoken as if leaning on one’s nose; it is nasal and Italian has an Arab influence like Spanish and in low Italy the Romans sing everything like that, with the ritornello, that’s Arabic. The voice is not imitated, maybe during a passage of the song, but nothing more.

«On Radio Del Pueblo they put me a black mask, I sang with an audience in the studio and the sponsoring publicity encouraged the audience to guess who the masked singer was. As years went by I never had the intention of imitating Corsini. He had a light tenor range, he sang nearly in falsetto, with little appoggiatura, instead I’m a baritone. Gardel in his beginnings was a tenor, in their respective renditions of “Griseta”, for example, you can take one for the other. Gardel changed his voice pitch later, Corsini didn’t. When they unmasked me they named me Juan Pueblo and on a day Enrique Maciel came to see me and he introduced me to don Ignacio.

«When I signed for Radio Porteña I began to meet him very often because he appeared on the Belgrano and Mitre radio stations. The three broadcastings were located in the same building on Belgrano Avenue and Entre Ríos. We had long talks about singing and country life because he had been a peasant in Carlos Tejedor. He went there when he was a kid and he had been an ox driver too. We talked about sulkies and about saddles and breaking horses. Several times he told me that I was trying to imitate him and I answered to him that I didn’t, that it was naturally. When he spoke he had the pronunciation of an Italian. He was not acriollado, he seemed to be a foreigner.

«Once he came to my place, next door to SADAIC, on Lavalle 1555, I caught my little guitar and sang a waltz he used to sing, that one which says: «... ya en el rancho no nacen las flores, ni se ven las guitarras colgadas...», then he was convinced and told me: «You came as a singer from your mother's womb».

«I had the luck to meet the singer Domingo Conte, who gave me a card to introduce me to Zulema Ibarra, a singer in the Colón Theater. She told me: «You may succeed in singing very well, young man, but you need the knowledge to handle your voice properly». I started to study with her. Four months she had me practicing bocca chiusa, that is to say, with my mouth shut, making sounds with my closed mouth and I was already getting tired. But when I began to vocalize I noted a change, a better diction. So I learnt the technique, because of that I am still singing.

«Radio Del Pueblo was run by a man called Bernotti and the second in hierarchy was the payador Antonio Caggiano. The latter gave the name Juan Pueblo. Later I adopted the family name of my French grandmother, Valentino. Around 1937 I recall having appeared at Pacelli's inn on Centenera and Tabaré. I was there every evening with my guitarists. Generally they were the Legarreta brothers and Di Nápoli, although as well Pascual Avena, Toto, Demasi, César Bo. The owner placed a ladder for us to climb to the stage and later he withdrew it, when he thought that we had already fulfilled our task he put it back in its place so we can go down. By then I used to sing songs of payadores, also a waltz, “A mi bandera”, written by Generoso Damato, things that were not known: «...celeste y blanca son las cintas con que adornan / los troveros sus guitarras adoradas / como blancas son las canas de mi madre...».

«After Zulema Ibarra I tried with professor Bonessi, who taught a way of vocalizing very different to the one I knew. I also attended the academy run by the Rubistein brothers. When I arrived I saw Fidel Pintos alone sitting at the piano: «What's the matter, boy?», he asked me. «I would like to know how this is.» Then he told me about the admission fee, the price... «Do you sing?» «I'd like to learn» «What do you sing?», the song “Enamorado de ti” was then in vogue «Let's see, sing a little» and I sang for him. «Hey, you've got a nice little voice, Can you vocalize?».

«I sang in many cities of the country, at the cheap venues of the southern waterfront (costanera sur) and at La Querencia, a local visited by many tourists. Oscar Alonso, Hugo del Carril, Buono-Striano were there... I sang with Pedro Matasa's outfit, dressed in gaucho costume, with the look of young Italian that I always had. Teófilo Ibañez was there, we sang in a duo. Always a different repertory, of payadores, their songs such as “Mi poncho tucumano”: «En el vagar errabundo / con que mi vida desgrano / tengo un poncho tucumano / como no hay dos en el mundo...». People used to applaud wildly. There was as well this one: «Madre, vengo perseguido / me he juído del regimiento /hijo en este aposento hay un hueco como un nido... / tu abuelo estuvo escondido / hasta que Rosas cayó / cuando el mozo se ocultó / afuera se oyó un tropel /y como en la casa de él un sargento penetró»... This milonga was around an hour long and at the end the audience awarded us with an ovation.

«It was a different time. I also sang at The Matinees of Juan Manuel. Thereafter at La Enramada, a venue always crowded, with folklore and tango. Domingo Federico played there with Vidal and Larroca on vocals. One day Federico approached me: «Valentino, you would be a hit in my orchestra». Time later I joined it along with Mario Bustos, thereafter he had the good idea of adding a third vocalist, Hugo Rocca. We had a lot of work. I was for two years at Tango Bar, among other venues, later I continued as soloist.

«At the Teatro Apolo a play by Arsenio Mármol was to be premiered and they were looking for a singer. They auditioned many ones like Roberto Quiroga, Alfredo Arrocha and a long queue. When it was my turn I sang with the guitar accompaniment of Maciel. While I sang I saw Tito Lusiardo talking to one and later to another and finally they chose me. There were Tito's wife, Delia Codebó, José Tinelli with his orchestra, Leonor Rinaldi, Perla Santalla's debut. It was a lasting and remembered success.

«In the 50s it's the time of the recordings for the TK label, the shows on Radio Belgrano for Jabón Federal, the performances with the accompaniment of the Alfredo Attadía Orchestra even though I was not a member of the group.

«From time to time, not often, I return to my town, to my childhood and to some words my old man told me that I never forget: «Figlio, superior talent and la morale é di bravi, don't forget». I didn't know it, I learnt it when I was older in Buenos Aires. He was a good Italian, my old man worked during all his lifetime. When he was dying he heard him say: «How much I worked, figlio!»... and that phrase: «To be brave is to have dignity and honor».