End of Season SALE!

Save 20% in all tickets. EnterTANGOTIX at checkout. Great Seats! Free Cancellation!

An Evening with Alberto Podestá in El Faro - Tango in Buenos Aires

(Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)


The entire atmosphere had me pinching myself to see if I was truly experiencing this. Several large cheese ladened pizzas had arrived for the table to share, complete with one large green olive per slice. Note - Argentine pizza uses cheese with reckless abandon and it can be one of the most addictive and delicious things ever.   Do not even look at this thing if you are on a low-calorie diet. The table contained several bottles of the familiar blue label of Quilmes beer, shared generously between friends.  With the place so crowded, I was locked in the middle of the table with my back up against the wall. I admit that I was a little smug with satisfaction that I had remembered every good mother´s advice about going to the toilet before you leave the house, as there was no conceivable way to make to the bathroom besides climbing on the table. Spanish words warmed up the room quickly as friends greeted each other with embraces and kisses and we squished up to give more space to accommodate new arrivals.

Saying that the tiny corner bar was packed was an understatement. We were gathered at El Faro, a local bar and café in Villa Urquiza. Established in 1931, its name means ´the lighthouse´ which its website suggests could be because it was a beacon of hope during the difficult times in the 1930s. It proudly declares its loyalty to the tango spirit that haunts these historic cafes, continuing to provide the local neighbourhood with tango music, performances and good home cooking.  Waiters could not make it to the front of the crowd so orders, beer and empanadas were passed with good humour from table to table. The sense of festivity pervaded the air and this wasn't just a gathering of strangers to watch some music. This was a community and neighbourhood banding together to support and share an evening together.

A hush settled over the crowd, rippling out from the front door. Everyone stood up as a gentle old man slowly entered the bar. Even the music and current performer slowly faded out in honour of this entrance. Soft applause ushered the gentlemen to his chair and patrons created space where there was none before to let him pass. A grin broke out on his face as he warmly greeted friends and fans alike. His smile lit up the room and will forever have a place in my heart and memory.

This is Alberto Podestá, the last reigning king of the original tango singers. A charming gentleman from a fabulous era, he has a cheeky smile of a rascal that easily conveys the mischievous and wicked sense of humour within him. It goes without saying that this smile is usually extra bright for the women in the room, with the usual additional twinkle in the eye, but it´s all part of the culture here.

With limited spanish at the time, I felt slightly out of place and awkward sitting in this family gathering type setting. But as Podestá began to sing, this was forgotten as my body seemed to understand the music without needing to understand the words. Listening to tango music sung or played live, readily communicates the sentiments behind the songs without an explicit need to understand the lyrics.

I still feel the goosebumps on my arms whenever I remember the swelling opening notes that issued forth from within Podestá. I sat, entranced by his melody and interpretation of the songs I had been hearing on my ipod for weeks. Nothing compares to the emotion and expression of live performance and this was no different.  As a tourist to these parts, I had come to Buenos Aires to stay and experience how the porteños live their tango. Surrounded by people from all walks of life, I could feel the energy of the room swell with love and pride when Podestá began to sing ´Por Una Cabeza´. This song was made famous by Carlos Gardel in 1935, and for the younger generation, in the infamous scene in The Scent of a Woman starring Al Pacino.  Many people joined in, their chorus of voices supporting but never overwhelming the strength of Podestá.

The evening left me swept up in the romance that this city possesses and as we turned ourselves out into the street afterwards, the night seem less dark and the stars seemed brighter, just like how tango describes the swoon of the heart.

Things to Know

I was fortunate enough to find out about this gig through my friend, a local porteño in the tango scene. Podestá does not perform on a regular basis, but recently he has been singing at several milongas around town. These are advertised by flyers on the street so keep your eyes open for these stuck up on payphones or any flat surface available.

(Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)

El Faro is worth a visit during the day for café and medialunas or in the evening for beer and empanadas. It is listed as one of the Notable Cafes in Buenos Aires. Visit their website for more details including the menu, photos and what shows are on.  The only two days it claims to be closed is Christmas and New Year and is open from 6.30am until 21.00pm Mon – Sat and 8.00am – 14.00pm on Sundays.



Collectivos 108, 111, 110 and 168 run from the centre of the city, or Recoleta, to nearby El Faro. It is also possible to take the subte Linea B until Echeverria and walk for about 15 minutes if it is a nice day. It is located in a residential suburb with some very old houses so it is worth digging out the map to wander around what Buenos Aires suburbs used to look like 20 years ago.



There are no comments yet

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up