Roberto Selles

Griseta - "Griseta" and french literature

aris was, for a long time, the goal of every porteño. Maybe because of that several of the tangos composed by Enrique Delfino are associated with France: “Belgique”, “Sans souci”, “Très sympathique”, “Frivolite”, “Francesita” and “Griseta”.

With the latter the so-called tango-romanza began, that is to say, the one inspired in the old romanzas, those tender and simple Italian airs. These are tango pieces characterized by their melodic nature, with no traces of the typical canyengue style, and with a musical technique more developed than the one that commonly appears in the genre.

That was, precisely, the air that suited lyrics that talked about a sentimental coquettish French girl («francesita/ que trajiste pizpireta,/ sentimental y coqueta,/ la poesía del quartier»). A lyrics that, like its music, no longer contained boastful expressions of tough guys or bullies but a clear romantic identity.

Those lines were written by José González Castillo, a man who, at a young age, had heard famous payadores (itinerant singers such as José Betinotti, Ambrosio Ríos, Federico Curlando and others) that used to meet at the barbershop where he worked. But his knowledge was beyond those spontaneous rhymes that left their mark in his early poems.

By that time González Castillo had already avidly devoured the greats of the French novel. And the characters of such works strangely reappeared in the stanzas of “Griseta”: Musette, Mimi and Rodolphe Schaunard, protagonists of the novel Scènes de la vie de Bohème (Scenes of the Bohemian Life) written by Henri Murger, who would inspire Verdi as well in his opera La traviata. We also find Des Grieux and Manon of Antoine Françios Prévost's play Story of Mr. Des Grieux and Manon Lescaut and Marguerite Gautier and Armand Duval, the well-known couple of La dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), by Alexandre Dumas (the younger).

Griseta (Spanish for the French grisette) was the name given to the seamstresses and working women because of a certain gray color in the cloth stamped with flowers of their dresses. «But those girls —says José Gobello— may have been loose enough, because in the nineteenth century the young bourgeois women that easily allowed men to court them were called grisettes». Just like the protagonist of the tango.

The tango piece was premiered on October 27, 1924 by Raúl Laborde at the Mario Rada's sainete (one-act farce) Hoy transmite Ratti Cultura, staged at the Teatro Sarmiento by César Ratti's theater company. Its title may have surprised many Buenos Aires citizens because the surname Ratti substituted for the word radio.

Gardel recorded it that same year and Ignacio Corsini also committed it to record in a quite original rendition in which he sings the refrain in falsetto.

Recordings of “Griseta”:

Conjunto Alfredo Moreno —Los Solistas—, Instrumental.
Cuarteto Jose Colángelo, Instrumental.
Cuarteto Reynaldo Nichele, Instrumental.
Orquesta Atilio Stampone, Néstor Fabián.
Orquesta Osvaldo Berlingieri, Instrumental.
Solo de órgano de Mito Garcia, Instrumental.
Piano solo by Néstor D'Alessandro.
Guitarras de Barbieri y Ricardo, Carlos Gardel, 1924.
Orquesta Francisco Canaro, Instrumental, 1927.
Solo de piano de Enrique Delfino, Instrumental, 1927.
Solo de piano de Luis Visca, Instrumental, 1928.
Ignacio Corsini, con guitarras de Maciel, Pages y Pesoa, 1931.
Orquesta Rodolfo Biagi, Andrés Falgás, 1939.
Orquesta Carlos Di Sarli, Roberto Rufino, 1941.
Orquesta Osvaldo Fresedo, Instrumental, 1944.
Orquesta Francisco Canaro, Mario Alonso, 1953.
Cuarteto Los Poetas Del Tango, Instrumental, 1955.
Enzo Valentino, con orquesta, 1956.
Héctor Pacheco, con orq. Dir: Carlos Garcia, 1957.
Orquesta Los Astros del Tango Dir:Argentino Galván, Inst., 1958.
Orquesta Héctor Artola, Jorge Vidal, 1962.
Dúo de guit. Roberto Grela-Edmundo Zaldivar, Inst., 1964.
Cuarteto San Telmo Federico-Grela, Instrumental, 1966.
Orquesta Astor Piazzolla, Instrumental, 1967.
Cuarteto Ernesto Baffa, Instrumental, 1970.
Piano solo by Enrique Delfino