Nilda Elvira Vattuone, known artistically as Nelly Omar, was born on September 10, 1911 in the Buenos Aires town of Bonifacio, although she was registered and raised in Guaminí, in the province of Buenos Aires. She grew up on a ranch in that town, in a family of ten siblings. His father, a Genoese foreman named Marcos, knew how to play the guitar and was one of those in charge of organizing the presentation of the duo of José Razzano and Carlos Gardel, which took place at the Teatro del Pueblo in 1918. That was where Nelly, who had always been encouraged in art and music, met Zorzal Criollo, who would inevitably mark her path.
In a note provided a few years ago, she recounted how she met Carlos Gardel: “My father was a very good friend of Gardel. In 1918, he came to my house in Guaminí, where we lived. My dad, like a good old-fashioned gringo, didn't allow us kids to deal with big men, much less artists! But I, through the blind, spied on him. There I saw him, a chubby man, with his hair in the middle, with some waves, Razzano was also there. Until he died, my father had a friendship with Gardel, he brought his records home.”
After the early death of her father, Nelly with her mother, Salistiana, and her brothers had to settle in Buenos Aires. There, when she was barely 12 years old, she was forced to work in a textile factory in order to survive. "She operated a stocking machine. She had to hook the needles in her heels. She had eyesight, she did it quickly. But she earned a pittance," she had said.
But her gift for singing, her great intonation and her phrasing, could not go unnoticed. So, after some performances at her school in El Palomar and other festivals, she was hired by the owner of the Cine Argos, located at that time on Av. Federico Lacroze 3457, and Alvarez Thomas, in the Colegiales neighborhood. . And after being heard by the singer Ignacio Corsini, at the age of 17 she began performing on powerful radio stations such as Splendid, Mayo and Rivadavia.
From then on, Nelly began an ascending career that had its splendor from the 1930s onwards. In that decade she joined the group Cuadros Argentinos. She stood out for her versions of “Callecita mia”, “Solo para ti”, “Latido tras latido” and “Intriga y passion”, among other songs.
Already baptized as "La Gardel con Polleras" - a nickname that would later be changed to "The dramatic voice of tango" -, she was summoned by Radio Belgrano where she met the poet Homero Manzi, in 1937, who would write her presentations and would end up madly in love with her. . They say that Manzi was inspired by her when he composed the famous tango “Malena”. And according to what Nelly stated in an interview, she was also her inspiring muse for the tangos “Sur” and “Solamente ella”. But they were both married and her clandestine love would be a whirlwind of comings and goings that Nelly Omar decided to put an end to in 1944. Homer died of cancer in 1951, when he was barely 41 years old and with a grief of love stuck in his heart.
Continuing with his artistic career, since 1946 at the «Odeón Record Company», through Francisco Canaro, he made recordings, with unforgettable hits such as: “Adiós pampa mia”, “Canción desperado”, “Roses of autumn”, and “ Desde el alma”, “It seems like a lie”, among many others.
At the same time, she developed a brief film career in films such as “Canto de amor” (1940), “Melodías de América” (1942) and “Mi vida por la tuya” (1951).
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Omar was a close friend of Eva Perón since '40, for whom she recorded the song "La descamisada". But such friendship meant that, with the arrival of the military dictatorship in 1955, Nelly became part of the "black lists" of artists. So, after wandering around in every way looking for work without getting it, she was forced to go into exile in Uruguay and then in Venezuela. She and she only returned to the country with the inauguration of Arturo Frondizi although, by then, her appearances began to be more sporadic. Only her career re-emerged with splendor in the 90s.
If she ever stopped believing in love? No way! In 1993, at age 82, Nelly met the composer Héctor Oviedo, whom she defined as an "excellent gentleman." "I fell in love, but he more. We were happy," she had said in one of her last reports, acknowledging, once again, that she had never felt for a man what they did feel for her.
Flirtatious like few others, at a certain point Nelly had decided not to appear in public anymore. "I'm not for photos," she said every time she was called for a note. However, she reappeared with everything in the last decade of her life and she celebrated her 100th birthday with a show at Luna Park, at Av. Eduardo Madero 470, in the Retiro neighborhood.
Nelly received multiple awards and honors towards the end of her life, such as the designation of Illustrious Citizen of the City of Buenos Aires in 1996 and Ambassador of Tango in 2010. She also received other awards such as the Raíz in 2007, the Clarín Espectáculos in 2009 and Pablo Podesta in 2010.
Omar died, at the age of 102, on December 20, 2013. “Singing I have to die, singing they have to bury me... From my mother's womb I came into this world to sing,” is how he quoted Martín Fierro in their shows. That free and rebellious spirit, that of the last “national singer”, seems to have known how to carry out her will. Behind her she left an immense legacy and great inspiration in new artists who firmly maintain her memory and interpretive style.