Juan Nepomuceno Arvizu Santelices, artistically known as Juan Arvizu "the silken voice tenor", was born in Querétaro (Mexico) on the 22 of May of 1900. At seven years old he started to sing at the "Orfeón" conducted by Agustín González. Then he had a soprano voice that later developed into contralto to become, after he was 19 years old, a lyric tenor.
His father was a telegraph operator and Arvizu himself learnt this job and worked himself as telegraph operator for some time. He moved to Mexico City in 1922 and studied with José Pierson who prepared him for an operatic career as a tenor and gave him free lessons.
In 1925 Arvizu married Ms. Amalia Romo. The couple had three children.
Juan Arvizu made his opera debut at the Teatro Esperanza Iris in Mexico City on the 13 of April
of 1927 as Elvino in “La Sonambula” with the soprano Consuelo Escobar (Amina), the bass Luis
G. Saldaña (Rodolfo), Amalia Isauri (Lisa) and conductor Alberto Flachebba. His second role
in the same theatre was Corentino in Meyerbeer’s “Dinorah”. He sang two performances on April
3rd and 12th, with the soprano Consuelo Escobar (Dinorah), the baritone Eduardo Lejarazu (Hoël) and the bass Luis G. Saldaña (a hunter). The conductor was again Alberto Flachebba.
After some recitals in Mexico City and Guadalajara (Teatro Degollado), Arvizu sang his last
operatic performance at a Gala organized by the “Compañía de Opera María Romero”, on the 4
of March of 1928 at the Teatro Colón, in Mexico City. The program included the first act of
“Don Pasquale”, the second act of Massenet’s “Manon” and the last act of Thomas’ “Hamlet”
with the Spanish soprano Angeles Ottein, the baritone Eduardo Lejarazu, the basses Luis G.
Saldaña and Ignacio Rufino. The conductor was Jesús M. Acuña.
In 1928 Arvizu sang with the "Compañía de Revistas de Pepe Campillo" at the Teatro Lírico, and also recorded for Brunswick label his first record, "Varita de Nardo" by Joaquín Pardavé.
"I wanted to be a lyric tenor and to be an opera singer. But I soon realized that to stand out in that field it was necessary to have extraordinary vocal conditions and so I accepted the proposal of Mr. Pepe Campillo who needed a tenor for a tour to Havana" "As my teacher told me I chose quantity instead of quality".
Arvizu started singing on radio programs in 1929 through the XEB "El Buen Tono" radio station. He was an immediate success singing romantic songs, boleros and tangos that were popular throughout Mexico. That same year he called the composer Agustín Lara to become his pianist in his presentations. Next year, on the 30 of September of 1930 Arvizu was invited to the inauguration of the XEW "La Voz de América Latina desde México" radio station. The other guest artists included the tenor Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, the tenor Néstor Mesta Chayres, the mezzosoprano Josefina "Chacha" Aguilar and the composers Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, Jorge del Moral and Agustín Lara.
He obtained a contract to make records in New York for the Victor Company.
In 1935 he made his first tour to Venezuela and Argentina. He arrived in Buenos Aires in November with a contract to inaugurate the Radio El Mundo (LR1). Though he was not an immediate success, after two months he was so popular that he was forced to stay in Argentina for long seasons.
Also, in October of 1935 Arvizu visited Chile for the first time and sang at the Teatro Imperio, in Santiago.
In 1939 he sang during six months at the Teatro Monumental in Buenos Aires and there was also exhibited for the first time his film "Ahora Seremos Felices" (Now we'll be happy) that he had filmed sometime earlier in Cuba with the Portorrican star Mapy Cortés.
.In January of 1940 he was again in Chile, singing by SNA Radio Agricultura and in Valparaiso at the Teatro Valparaíso. He also made some records in Santiago for the Victor Company of Chile.
In May of 1942 he was called to New York with a contract offered by the Columbia Broadcasting System to inaugurate the CBS programs and thus his fame spread to all the American continent.
In 1944 he returned to Buenos Aires and was received as "a hero" making triumphal presentations and recording many records for the RCA Víctor and the Columbia labels. He decided to live in Argentina and remained there for neary ten years.
He came back to Chile in three more opportunities, in 1943, 1945 and 1950, singing in radio, night clubs and theatres.
Arvizu acted and sang in four films: "Santa" (1931, with Lupita Tovar), "Reir Llorando", "Infidelidad" and the already mentioned "Ahora seremos felices" (1939, with Mapy Cortés).
He returned to his native country, Mexico, in 1953 but there his name had been forgotten and that meant a great bitterness for Arvizu.
Juan Arvizu has been considered a pioneer and, at the same time, one of the greatest interpreters of the "bolero", a musical rhythm enormously popular during the '40s and '50s in the twentieth century. It derived from the lyric song to the romantic songs of the '30s with authors like María Grever, Jorge del Moral and Agustín Lara. In the early '40s these same songs took a rhythmical form known as the "bolero". Juan Arvizu was unrivalled in this field.
Juan Arvizu died in Mexico City on the 19 of November of 1985 at 85 years old.
DISCOGRAFIA DE JUAN ARVIZU
Several sources inform us that Arvizu recorded more than 2.000 songs. It may be true and perhaps not. Who knows? His first recordings were made for the "Brunswick" label and included Mexican folklore songs (yucatecas, tabasqueñas) some of them in duets with the baritone and componer Mario Talavera and Pepe Gomez (making the second voice) and the orchestral direction of the Mexican composer Alfonso Esparza Oteo. His first record for that company was the song "Varita de Nardo"(by Joaquín Pardavé).
On the 26 of December of 1929 he made his first record for the Victor company: “Tú, tú y tú” (by María Grever) and “Por unos ojos” (by Jorge del Moral). It was for Victor label that he made his most
famous records, including some duets with Margarita Cueto, Ana María Fernández, Josefina
Aguilar, Margarita Carvajal, Juan Pulido and Héctor de Lara. As we have already said, in the '40s he also recorded in Chile and in Argentina, both for Victor and Columbia companies. In 1953 he made in Mexico a LP with his friends and colleagues, the tenors Alfonso Ortiz Tirado and Pedro Vargas. Arvizu was one of the first Mexican artists to introduce the Argentinean tango in Mexico and in other Latin America countries. He recorded more than 40 tangos.
Those who hear Arvizu's voice for the first time will be surprised by the similarity with Tito Schipa's voice. Undoubtly the Mexican singer had a great admiration for the Italian tenor and was influenced by his style and sound.
Though he had not the opportunity to record opera arias or classical music, his operatic roots can be appreciated in the famous "Berceuse" from Goddard's "Jocelyn", the waltz "Sobre las olas" by Juventino Rosas (that in the '50s Mario Lanza recorded as "The loveliest night of the year"), "La paloma" by Sebastián Yradier, "La golondrina" by Narciso Serradel and the beautiful tango by Eduardo Bianco, "Plegaria" (Prayer) in which the second voice is sung by the Spanish baritone Juan Pulido.
JUAN DZAZOPULOS E., MARCH 2008