About Chavela Vargas
Isabel "Chavela" Vargas was born in Costa Rica in 1917 and
arrived in Mexico as an adolescent, working as a chauffeur and a
street singer. Friends with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in the
1940s, she earned an important place in the vibrant music scene of
1950s Mexico City, unmasking the flamboyant ranchera music of the
day to reveal its deepest passions. For many, Chavela was the
greatest of all the artists who sung the classic rancheras written
by her great friend, the legendary composer José Alfredo
Admired by presidents and princesses, Chavela sung at one of
Elizabeth Taylor's weddings, and socialized with Ava Gardner and
Rock Hudson in Acapulco, although she always recognized her most
important public as the everyday people, with whom she most closely
identified. In 1976, worn down by the excesses of her trade,
Chavela decided to retire, although she returned with dramatic
success in 1991, beginning a decade of high-profile tours in
Europe, including a concert at the Olympia in Paris. In 2003, at
the age of 83, she made her Carnegie Hall debut.
Chavela's film career included La soldadera in 1966
and then, in the 1990s, she appeared in La flor de mi
secreto and Carne trémula—both directed by her great
friend Pedro Almodóvar. In 2002, she sang and appeared in Julie
Taymor's film Frida. Four years later, she performed on
the soundtrack of Babel.
Chavela's many prizes include the Gran Cruz Isabel la Católica,
presented to her by the president of Spain in 2000, and the Latin
Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Two years
later, she was proclaimed a Distinguished Citizen of Mexico City
and in 2012 she won the Lunas del auditorio for her concert with
Eugenia León and Martirio.
Chavela recorded more than 80 albums, including Chavela at
Carnegie Hall (2006) and La luna
grande (2012), her tribute to Spanish poet Federico
García Lorca. The decision to select and recite Lorca's poetry
marked a new and ambitious phase in her long career. Her
performance of this album at the Palacio de Bellas Artes
unknowingly served as her public farewell.
Chavela Vargas passed away in Mexico on August 5, 2012.