Corrientes y Esmeralda by Osvaldo Pugliese

Orchester Osvaldo Pugliese
Vok: Roberto Chanel
T: 2:52, BPM: 57

Music: Francisco Pracánico

Lyrics:Celedonio Esteban Flores

Recordings: Francisco Lomuto (1934, Díaz), Aníbal Troilo (1942, Fiorentino), Osvaldo Pugliese (1944, Chanel), Astor Piazzolla (1945, Fiorentino), Juan D’Arianzo (1945, Echagüe) u.a.



Shortly after 1900, the Calle Corrientes between Esmeralda and Callao streets already attracted people. Porteños flocked to the numerous cafés, confiterias, theatres, cinemas and bookshops around the clock. It was and is considered the street that never sleeps.


And of course Corrientes y Esmeralda is not just any street corner, no, this is where the tango heart of Buenos Aires beat for many decades. Carlos Gardel El Zorzal frequented the Café Guaraní with his guitarist Razzano, and the famous Teatro Maipo, the Cabaret Royall Pigall and the Teatro Odeón with over 1800 seats welcomed their guests here. Writers, tango musicians, poets, artists and night owls gathered here.


The Corrientes has always been a central axis of the city. But until the early 1930s it was still possible to talk from window to window across the street, only beeing interrupted by the tranvía scraping along the kerb in the narrow street alignment. Due to the rapid growth of the city, the government had already decided in 1910, on the occasion of the city's 100th anniversary, to expand Corrientes together with other important streets into wide boulevards. Buenos Aires should justify its reputation as the Paris of South America.


But it was only between 1931 and 1936 that the houses on the north side had to move for the widening into a six-lane avenue. Today instead of the homely tranvia the Linea B races through the underground.


And since then, the famous obelisk at the intersection of Corrientes and the 16-lane Avenida 9 de Julio stretches more than 67 metres into the air. Since then, nostalgics and poets have been mourning the old Corrientes.


And so it comes as no surprise that in 1933 the composer Francisco Pracánico set to music the text written more than a decade earlier, whose lines celebrate the plump life of the old Corrientes with many facets, albeit full of clichés, full of contrasts.



The fact that these lines are not immediately obvious even to native Spanish speakers is due to the many terms that originate in Lunfardo (probably derived from "Lombardy").


Millions of often poorly educated European immigrants, especially Italians, met natives, gauchos and creoles in the confines of the suburbs and developed their very own language, which was later regularly reduced by intellectuals and nationalist politicians to being the language of crooks and criminals. The new authoritarian government of 1943 even forbid the use of Lunfardo. From 1910 on lunfardo also became literary. Tango poets and the poets of the very popular Argentine folk comedies called Sainetes used it to caricature the disreputable milieu of the tango world. Typical characters of the tango world, such as the compardrito, a boastful wannabe, could thus be portrayed ironically and exaggeratedly. On the one hand, this gave rise to new, artificial expressions that sounded like Lunfardo. Radio now carried this language, initially born in the suburbs of Buenos Aires to the whole country. Lunfardo is still alive and constantly developing, especially among young people.



Characteristics of the Lunfardo

Metaphors are very important. The thieves called the one who spied out the territory campana (bell), cana stands for police (fr. canne=stick). In addition, there are borrowings from immigrant languages (e.g. sánguche from English sandwich). Other neologisms are based on syllable twists. Thus, tango becomes gotan, viejo (the old man) becomes jovie or cabeza (the head) becomes zabeca. But abbreviations are also typical. A tano is a neapolitano, and comisario becomes sario.


The music

The magic of this musical poem is revealed above all in the subtle interpretation of the individual phrases, for the structure remains traditional: Refrain (A section) and verse (B section) are first heard instrumentally, in the second passage Chanel sings, but in the fifth section (A) takes over only the second 16 seconds, a variacion is missing. In contrast to many later Pugliese tangos the orchestra marks the beat still continuously and regularly. And although the yum-ba feeling is present, it does not force its way into the foreground.

The strings are in the foreground and Pugliese only uses the bandoneons with restraint, creating an airy overall impression.


The orchestra starts with a rhythmically characteristic double bar of partly syncopated jagged sixth notes. This pattern, which is repeated several times and brings the pulse of the street to life, is answered in each case by a quieter phrase, the last beats of which Pugliese refines modestly but virtuosically with a slowly swelling bass and sparkling melodies.


The tension, the magic of the music arises from the nuances in speed and dynamics that cannot be represented in notes. These small delays, this subtle waxing and waning also characterise Chanel's artfully phrased singing, which the orchestra initially accompanies only with powerful marcato, but from 1:48 onwards also with a beautiful countermelody from the violins.



Corrientes y Esmeralda - 1944 - Chanel
with many pictures

Corrientes y Esmeralda - 1944 - Chanel
Gaia Pisauro and Leandro Furlan - Berlin 2022

Angel Vargas

Edmundo Rivero

Adriana Varela

Osvaldo Fresedo mit Hector Pacheco





Corrientes y Esmeralda


Corrientes y Esmeralda


Amainaron guapos junto a tus ochavas

cuando un cajetilla los calzó de cross

y te dieron lustre las patotas bravas

allá por el año... novecientos dos...

The brawlers made themselves scarce

on your street corners, when a

fine bon vivant gave them a

A hook ;

And wild gangs 

Gave you glamour

in the year...

Nine hundred and two...

Esquina porteña, tu rante canguela

se hace una melange de caña, gin fitz,

pase inglés y monte, bacará y quiniela,

curdelas de grappa y locas de pris.

Street corner of my city,

your seedy festive congregation

makes itself a cocktail of

Brandy, Gin Fitz,

craps game

and Monte card game,

Baccarat and lotto betting,

grappa boozers

and light coke girls

El Odeón se manda la Real Academia

rebotando en tangos el viejo Pigall,

y se juega el resto la doliente anemia

que espera el tranvía para su arrabal.


The Odeon is showing the play

Royal Academy,

in which tangos of the old Pigall


and in it, with her last power

the suffering anaemia,

who waits for the tram

in the direction of the suburbs.

De Esmeralda al norte, del lao de Retiro,

franchutas papusas caen en la oración

a ligarse un viaje, si se pone a tiro,

gambeteando el lente que tira el botón.


From the Esmeralda towards the north,

on the Retiro side of the street,

light French women arrive in the evening

looking for customers -

if any can be caught -

constantly avoiding the watchful eyes of the policemen.

En tu esquina un día, Milonguita, aquella

papirusa criolla que Linnig mentó,

llevando un atado de ropa plebeya

al hombre tragedia tal vez encontró...

On your corner one day, perhaps, Milonguita,

that Argentine beauty

Linnig talked about, with an ordinary

cigarette in her hand, found

the waiting tragedy man...

Te glosa en poemas Carlos de la Púa

y el pobre Contursi fue tu amigo fiel...

En tu esquina rea, cualquier cacatúa

sueña con la pinta de Carlos Gardel.

You are mentioned in poems by Carlos de la Púa

And poor Contursi was your faithful friend....

On your gangster street corner

Even the last cockatoo dreams of looking

like a Carlos Gardel.

Esquina porteña, este milonguero

te ofrece su afecto más hondo y cordial.

Cuando con la vida esté cero a cero

te prometo el verso más rante y canero

para hacer el tango que te haga inmortal.

Corner of the city, this milonguero

here offers you his deepest and

heartfelt affection.

I promise you,

If I'm zero to zero

I will find the shabbiest and most

jailbird-esque verse,

to compose the tango

that will make you immortal.