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Naranjo en flor

Homero and Virgilio Expósito were twenty-two and sixteen years old when their first hit, the tango Farol, was recorded. A few years later, Naranjo en flor was picked up by a flurry of orquestas, including the great Anibal Troilo's (Cien tangos fundamentales, del Priore and Amuchástegui, BA, 1998). It is a classic song of youth, love, and the acquisition of wisdom. With spring approaching, its images fit the mood at Esquina de Falucho at Café Argentino. John recited, and the Troilo version was danced to. Carlos Urrego Gaviria deejayed and taught the pre-milonga class with Renée. Emilio Teubal (keyboard) and Leandro Ragusa (bandoneón) played the live tandas, Ragusa's farewell to New York before returning to Buenos Aires.

Naranjo en flor (1944)

Letra de Homero Expósito

Musica de Virgilio Expósito


Orange Tree in Bloom (1944)

Lyrics by Homero Expósito, trans. J. Osburn

Music by Virgilio Expósito


Era más blanda que el agua
Que el agua blanda
Era más fresca que el río,
Naranjo en flor
Y en esa calle de estío,
Calle perdida,
Dejó un pedazo de vida
Y se marchó.


She was softer than the water,

Than the purest water,

More refreshing than the river,

An orange tree in bloom,

And on that lovely street of summer,

Street gone forever,

She left a piece of what life is

And went her way.


Primero hay que saber sufrir,
Después amar, después partir
Y al fin andar sin pensamiento.
Perfume de naranjo en flor,
Promesas vanas de un amor
Que se escaparon en el viento.


At first you must know how to suffer,

And then to love, then release her,

In the end to move on without thinking.

The scent of an orange tree in bloom,

The vows and promises of a love,

Hopeless and vain, escaped on the wind.


Después, ¿qué importa del después? Toda mi vida es el ayer
Que me detiene en el pasado
Eterna y vieja juventud
Que me ha dejado acobardado
Como un pájaro sin luz.


And then—does it matter what comes then?

All of my life is a yesterday,

An unageing past that detains me,

A youth that is old and eternal,

That has left me outcast and cowardly,

Scared as a bird deprived of light.


Que le habrán hecho mis manos?
Que le habrán hecho,
Para dejarme en el pecho

Tanto dolor?
Dolor de vieja arboleda,
Canción de esquina,
Con un pedazo de vida,
Naranjo en flor.

What is it I’ve made with my own hands?

What is it I have done,

Leaving a hurt that can’t be undone,

So great a pain?

The pain of an old tree-lined street is

Now this song of the corner,

With a piece of what life is,

An orange tree in bloom.

Anibal Troilo's version with the singer Floreal Ruiz premiered in November of 1944:

Naranjo en flor is better known as a canción than a track for dancing, as Roberto Goyeneche's success with the song illustrated in later decades. But even the Goyeneche is danceable, as Osvaldo Zotto and Lorena Ermocida proved at Salón Canning in 2005:


Homero Expósito is known as one of the great lyricists, charting the course with Naranjo en flor for a renovation of tango poetry. Translating these delicate but powerful lyrics brought home how remarkable they are. The lyricist's craft is invisible and the union with his brother's music equally so; there is no tension between the two. Yet the words are speakable. Goyeneche's version is as much Sprechgesang or the diseur as full-throated song. The underlying musical traits—rhythm and pitch, tension and release, and above all, melody—merge with the poetic. They are there for singer or monologist, as the case may be, so long as they are not forgotten.

—John Osburn