Farewell to Concha Velasco, the joy and struggle of a country

A joy, joy, joy / we were born for joy”.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 December 2023 Saturday 22:15
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Farewell to Concha Velasco, the joy and struggle of a country

A joy, joy, joy / we were born for joy”. It was October 1988 and Concha Velasco was singing a libretto by Antonio Gala with scores by Juan Cánovas at the Calderón Theater in Madrid. The musical Carmen, Carmen was the first of two that Gala wrote for Concepción Velasco Varona (Valladolid, 1939 - Majadahonda, 2023), who also starred in four dramatic works by the Cordovan writer and the film adaptation of the his novel Más allá del jardín (1996). In Carmen, Carmen, Concha Velasco plays a reinterpretation of the character of Prosper Mérimée who faces four models of toxic Spanish masculinity – a very young Toni Cantó was walking around there – from the bullfighter to the politician. That Carmen de Gala was female joy and struggle, killed again and again by a Spanish masculinity complicated by women who make thunder and rain, like Velasco herself. Twelve minutes of ovation and bravos greeted that premiere that sanctioned Spain's hunger for modernity that was coming out of the hole.

As much money as he made with Carmen, Carmen, he would lose with La truhana, and those ups and downs were another of the constants of his professional career, forced to work beyond what would surely have been his will to recover from 'some of the bankruptcies she went through, not precisely because of her status as a spendthrift, but rather because of her fondness for the game of the great love of her life, Paco Marsó, whom she divorced in 2005. Two years earlier, due to financial distress, Velasco locked herself in a hotel room to take her own life, and was miraculously rescued by the laughter produced by a joke by Andreu Buenafuente on television, a story that ended up making them friends.

Thirty-five years have passed since that October night at the Calderón Theater, as modern as everything that the actress, singer and presenter embodied since she became the cheerful and determined face of desarrollismo, in her consecration in Las chicas de la Cruz Roja (1958), his second film as protagonist. The film was a resounding success at the box office and gave shape to one of the most profitable couples in Spanish cinema at the time, the one she formed with comedian Tony Leblanc, with whom she would repeat in another six titles that made her in the smile of a country that was beginning to push to leave behind the somber cobwebs of combs and mantles.

In front of the copla cinema, mal d'amors i quejíos, the titles that Velasco starred in from the late fifties until the transition, under the direction of Pedro Lazaga, José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, Fernando Palacios or Mariano Ozores, among others -and in which he shared the poster with the great faces of the time, from Alfredo Landa to José Luis López, passing through the giant Fernando Fernán Gómez-, they stuck to the genre of light comedy and, most of the time , urban Velasco was the face that paved the country and drove utility vehicles, the Spain that stopped crying about the malice of a green-eyed gypsy on the roads and put on a miniskirt. Concha was la Chica yeyé – a song by Augusto Algueró that appeared in Historias de la televisión (1965) and which became the actress' signature – in the country of María de la O. The closest thing she could afford the dusty Spain of that time in Katharine Hepburn, universal icon of the emancipated woman.

With the arrival of the seventies and, later, democracy, he left behind the girlfriends and wives of the comedy of manners and went on to accept dramatic roles, in titles such as No encontré rosas para mi madre (1973), Tormento (1974 ), La colmena (1982) or Esquilache (1989), this under the orders of Josefina Molina, who had given her one of the most important roles of her career, that of Teresa d'Ávila, in the TVE series Teresa de Jesús (1984).

Velasco always kept the attitude of the young woman ready to eat the world, the friendliness of an unbeatable smile - and crazy legs that she liked to brag about -, which also made her a favorite master of ceremonies on television and provided him with great theatrical successes that marked the eighties in Spain, such as Yo me bajo en la próxima, ¿y usted? (1981), by Adolfo Marsillach, which he starred in together with his friend Pepe Sacristán and which both would bring to the cinema in 1992.

The irreverent spirit was embodied yesterday in front of the burning chapel of Velasco by the actress Marisa Paredes when she saw the president of Madrid: “Isabel Díaz Ayuso? For the love of God! What are you doing here? Out!". The disdain of the veteran mourning actress who was always a proud socialist – in 2008 she founded the PAZ (Platform of Support for Zapatero) – recalled the intemperance of Fernán Gómez when he threw an admirer out of a book signing bad manners A journalist explained the reason for the insolence: "He does it because he can afford it." Concha Velasco said that Fernán Gómez was the Spanish actor who gave the best kisses and that he wouldn't have minded at all having had an affair with him. "But Emma Cohen arrived and it was over." He also knew how to lose.