Skip to main content

Una vez

In celebration of Renée's birthday, a tanda was played in which each tango named a Renée (or in one case a René): Charlemos, Carta Renée, El pescante and the 1946 Una vez. The latter was translated and recited for a well-wishing crowd. The real-life Renée pointed out that the Renée of the songs tends to be someone passed by or forgotten. Not so at La Esquina de Falucho at Café Argentino. Emiliano Messiez, piano, and Javier Sanchez, bandoneón, performed.

Una vez (1946)
Letra de Cátulo Castillo
Música de Osvaldo Pugliese

One Time (1946)
Lyrics by Cátulo Castillo, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Osvaldo Pugliese
Una vez fue su amor que llamó,
y después, sobre el abismo rodó,
la que amé más que a mí mismo fue.
Luz de su mirada, siempre, siempre helada.
Sabor de sinsabor, mi amor,
amor que no era nada.
Pequeñez, de su burla mordaz,
una vez, sólo en la vida, una vez.

Time it was that her love called me to it,
then stood at the abyss and fell into it,
she that I loved more than I cared for myself.
Icy light of her gaze, always, always freezing.
Disappointment of love on my tongue,
a love that wasn’t anything. 
It’s a little thing, her scorn, that I’m
unable to shake, once is all it takes, one time.

Pudo llamarse Renée,
o acaso fuera Manón,
ya no me importa quién fue,
Manón o Renée, si la olvidé…
Muchas llegaron a mí,
pero pasaron igual,
un mal querer me hizo así,
gané en el perder, ya no creí.

Then there was one called Renée,
or maybe her name was Manón,
it doesn’t matter either way,
Manón or Renée, which one I can’t say…
There were many more, you see,
but they let me go, every one.
Just one bad love is what damaged me,
my lesson in losing was never believe.

Una vez,
puse el vino y la miel de mi amor,
en su amargura de hiel.
Y en dolor, fue mi ternura flor.
Luz lejana y mansa
que ya no me alcanza,
mi voz gritó al ayer,
amor, amor, sin esperanza.
Una vez,
fue su espina tenaz,
una vez, sólo en la vida, una vez.
That one time,
that time I took the honey of my love with wine,
mixing her bitter honey in.
And a tender bud opened in the pain.
Beacon distant and steady
that no longer reaches me,
I cried out to yesterday,
to love, to love, to love, hopelessly.
That one time,
when she left me with a thorn
I can’t pull out, that’s all it took, her scorn.

Listen here to the Pugliese recording sung by Albert Morán:

This is an early Pugliese not to be confused with the 1943 Una vez by Lita Bayardo and Carlos Marcucci, though that too deals with the singular effect of an event in the speaker’s life. The title alone is a challenge to translate. Whether to go with “One Time,” “Once,” or something like “Just Once” means choosing between nuances that flow together in the original. The same challenge arises in the stanzas with the added difficulty of reflecting the poetics. I varied it, with some loss to the insistence of the phrase. The last stanza, as often happens in tango, is not sung in full; the honey, wine, and flower images are missing, and the final lines are replaced by those of the first stanza.
—John Osburn


Popular posts from this blog

Se dice de mí

Although written for the Uruguayan singer Carlos Roldán in 1943, Tita Merello made Se dice de mí  her own in 1954, and it has been sung by women ever since. At Milonga Falucho at Café Argentino in Brooklyn, Renée mimed the lyrics as John recited his English translation of the version made famous by Merello. It was the first milonga in this series. Live music for the evening was provided by Emiliano Messiez (piano) and Adolfo Trepiana (bandoneón).

Se dice de mí (1943) Milona
Letra de Ivo Pelay Música de Francisco Canaro

They Say This of Me (1943) Milonga
Lyrics by Ivo Pelay, trans. J. Osburn Music by Francisco Canaro
Se dice de mí... se dice de mí... se dice de mí... Se dice que soy fiera, que camino a lo malevo, que soy chueca y que me muevo con un aire compadrón, que parezco Leguisamo, mi nariz es puntiaguda, la figura no me ayuda y mi boca es un buzón.
They say this of me… They say this of me… They say this of me… They say that I’m a beast, that I swagger like a tough, that I strut like I’m hot stuff wit…

Gitana rusa

This is a different sort of tango. Although the themes of love and loss are familiar, the Slavic style and setting are unusual and the narrator's relationship to the woman he addresses is enigmatic. The music and the lyric have a murky provenance; it may originally have been composed under the title "Tus ojos" ("Your Eyes") by Severio Sadán in the Ukraine in honor of his unseen daughter-in-law in Buenos Aires, then modified by orchestra leader Juan Sánchez Gorio, who registered it in his name and asked Horacio Sanguimetti to write the words with which we are familiar. More of this tenuous history may be read here. In the event, Renée and José Luis Lavayen taught the pre-milonga class, and live music was enjoyed from Maricio Najt (piano) and Javier Sánchez (bandoneón).

Gitana rusa (1942) Letra de Horacio Sanguimetti Música de Juan Sánchez Gorio
Russian Gypsy (1942) Lyrics by Horacio Sanguimetti, trans. J. Osburn Music by Juan Sánchez Gorio
Pintó tus ojos
el azabach…

Bailarín compadrito

In the human comedy of tango, the compradito is a mythic figure, a sort of urban gaucho with a swaggering attitude, done up in a looped scarf and a slouched hat that mimicks upper class style and taunts its values. He's a stock character in tango shows and artistic depictions, and perhaps he resembles some types we see on our own dance floors. In dancing the song, one might take on or resist the persona. The composer-lyricist Miguel Eusebio Bucino was himself a dancer and bandoneón player who debuted at Teatro Maipu and performed internationally. DJ Carlos Quiroga played de Angelis's rousing version at Falucho/Chelsea following John and Renée's recitation.

Bailarín compadrito (1929) Letra y música de Miguel Eusebio Bucino

Upstart Dancer (1929) Lyrics & Music by Miguel Eusebio Bucino, trans. J. Osburn Vestido como un dandy, peinao a la gomina
y dueño de una mina más linda que una flor,
bailas en la milonga con aire de importancia,
luciendo la elegancia y haci…