The Mexican tenor Néstor Mesta Chayres was born in Lerdo (Durango- Mexico) on the 26 of February of 1908.
His love for music started when he was still a child, listening to old opera records and trying to imitate the singers.
At 17 years old he was granted a scholarship to study at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. He graduated in 1930. His main professor there was the former Mexican tenor Lamberto Castañares. Later, in New York, he studied with the baritone Emilio de Gogorza. When he was still at the conservatory, in 1929, he made a debut as a soloist at the Teatro Bolívar, but later that same year he obtained national fame singing in a waltzes contest that took place at the Teatro Colón in Mexico City. He obtained a second place with the song "Divina Mujer" by Jorge del Moral.
When he left the conservatory he obtained a contract to sing at the XEB radio station having the composer Jorge del Moral at the piano. Later he was to become Chayres favourite composer, together with María Grever, Agustín Lara and Rafael Hernández who wrote songs specially for his voice.
In 1933 he presented, at the Teatro Politeama, for the first time the song "Españolerías" by Agustín Lara and made his first international tour to Cuba.
In 1934 he recorded his first record in Mexico, for the Peerless label, with the songs "Morena" (Jorge del Moral) and "Rocío" (Alfonso Esparza Oteo).
In 1942 he sang at the "Follies" (a varieties theatre in Mexico City) and his success was such that the public insisted that he had to sing the same song even eight times (songs like Padilla's "Princesita").
On the 25 of April of 1943 he sang at the Bellas Artes Theatre in Mexico City for Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt (USA) and Manuel Ávila Camacho (Mexico), with the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico conducted by André Kostelanetz.
The conductor was so enthusiastic with the voice of the Mexican tenor that called him to New York to sing for the CBS. In a short time he was also contracted by the NBC, and it is one of the few cases of an artist singing at the same time for the two most important broadcasting companies of America.
Chayres was also one of the few "pop" artists represented by the manager Sol Hurok who obtained for him many important tours throught the United States, Canada and Latin America countries.
As a CBS artist he appeared in countless programs of great popularity during the war years (1943-1945), such as "The Pause that Refreshes" auspiced by Coca Cola; "The Radio Hall of Fame" auspiced by Philco; "Viva America", "Starlight Serenade" and "Through the Years".
In June 1945 he sang in a concert of varieties at the Ziegfield Theatre in Broadway (36 performances).
On the 14th of November of 1945 he offered an apotheotic recital at the Town Hall. "The New York Times" commented the event as follows:
"Town Hall played host to the Mexican tenor, Nestor Chayres. Mr. Chayres well deserved his large and enthusiastic following, for he is a first rate artist. His voice is of a beautiful quality, and is used with intelligence and musicianship. Mr. Chayres also possesses an admirable stage presence which plays no small part in the effectiveness of his interpretations."
On 12 of May of 1946 he sang at the Carnegie Hall, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Alfredo Antonini. The program was broadcast by CBS under the name of the "Network of the Americas".
In June 1946 he made his debut in Canada with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He appeared in concerts also with Buffalo's Symphony Orchestra and at the Roxy Theatre in New York. He sang during 26 weeks in the radio programs auspiced by Conti Shampoo.
In 1946 he made one of his most successful Southamerican tours, including Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.
In Uruguay he sang a concert on the 6th of September of 1946 at the "Teatro 18 de Julio" in Montevideo. It was a classical program, as follows:
Paisiello "Nel cor più non mi sento" from opera La molinara
Lalo "Vainement ma bien aimée" from opera Le roi d'Ys
Martini "Plaisir d'amour"
A. Ann Scott "Think on me"
R. Hageman "Do not go, my love"
Falla "Asturiana" -- "El paño moruno" -- "Nana"
Obradors "Tres morillas" --"La guitarra sin prima" --"Aquel sombrero de Monte"
Cilea "Lamento de Federico" from opera L'Arlesiana
Nin "Montañesa" -- "Canto andaluz" -- "Granadina"
Del Moral "El camino canto"
M. Grever "Atardecer en España"
A. Lara "Granada"
DONATO COLACELLI at the piano
"El Diario" from Montevideo, on the 8 of September wrote the following: "He has a beautiful voice of warm quality. Educated in the Italian belcanto school, he possesses a pefect sense of melody which he expresses with the subtlest of shadings. An amazing control of sustained tone and temperament which he has mastered in the interest of a good melodic line."
From Uruguay he went to Santiago (Chile) singing in October of 1946 at the Salón Lucerna and recording for the Victor Company of Chile a dozen of songs. After Chile he visited Buenos Aires making appearances at Radio El Mundo. In that city he met the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla who taught him, personally, the details of his "Seven Spanish Popular Songs". De Falla would die little after in Argentina, on the 14 of November of 1946.
In December of 1946 he sang again in Canada, ath "Auditorium du Plateau" in Montreal, in the so-called "4 Soirées d'enchantement" with the soprano Ninon Vallin and the baritone Jacques Thibault. The "Daily News" from Montreal wrote:
"The great impression which Nestor Chayres made last June was more than confirmed at the Plateau Hall on Thursday evening. Before he had been singing more than ten minutes he made it clear that he was one of the best tenors that have been heard here in a long time, both in voice and in the way in which he uses it. It would be harder to find a singer with a purer tone and a more sure and smooth phrasing, and in addition to that a big range of feeling and expression. It is not every tenor that has so much sense of humour."
In February 1947 he made several successful appearances in Chicago. The "Chicago Tribune" commented:
"…phrases were exquisitely shaped, and the handling of voice color and tempo modifications suggested a deep absorption in an intuitive understanding of the content of the music."
And the "Chicago Daily News" wrote:
"Chayres possesses a mellow, liquid voice. His English , in caressing melodies like Ann Scott's "Think of me" and Hageman's "Do not go my love" was pure and limpid. Dramatic power blended with fine lyricism."
On the 30 of March of 1947, sang for the CBS in the show: "Fiesta in New York".
In October and November of 1947 sang in the Dominican Republic through " The Voice of Yuma" radio station and singing also at the Teatro Independencia and at the "Bazar del Aire". In July and August of 1948 he visited again this country.
In 1949 he visited Europe for the first time and sang in Holland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France and Spain. In this country he made several recordings for "His Master's Voice" label, among them the "pasodoble" "Silverio" by Agustín Lara, one of his most applauded creations.
On the 30 of March of 1950 he sang at the Auditorium Riverside of the Plaza Hotel in New York, in the Gala Annual Concert auspiced by the Italian newspaper "La Follia di New York". The other guest singers were the soprano Lushanya Mobley, the Chilean tenor Ramón Vinay and the Italian bass Italo Tajo. Emilio Roxas was at the piano.
Chayres sang "La playera" ("Spanish Dance Nº 5") by Enrique Granados and "Princesita" by José Padilla.
On July 8 and 9, 1951 Chayres sang at the open air stage of the Grant Park, along Lake Michigan in Chicago. Herva Nelli (one of Toscanini's favourite sopranos) also sang with him. The tenor obtained his greatest success with the song "Granada" by Agustín Lara. The "Chicago Tribune" critic, Claudia Cassidy wrote, "singing sweetly with a small voice made to order for intimate expresión of non provocative music".
In 1950 Chayres returned to Buenos Aires with several appearances at the Teatro Maipo.
In May 1951 on the Mother's Day he gave his mother the present of a new car. But, a few days later, as they were driving to visit his brother living in Celaya, they had a terrible accident resulting in the death of his mother. Chayres was so shocked that for sometime he was unable to sing at all. Professor Ernest Belloc helped him to recover his voice and to continue his career, but he was never again the same singer.
Arístides Incháustegui in his book "Por amor al arte" writes: "In 1951 the Mexican tenor came to our country (Dominican Republic) in poor vocal condition due to the recent death of his mother, occurred in May of the same year, scarcely three months before coming to honour his contract." He sang at the IX Anniversary of the Dominican Voice. He came again and for the last time in 1955 for the XIII Anniversary of theat radio station.
The voice of Néstor Chayres was of a "tenore leggero" (tenore di grazia), with a sound similar to the voice of Tito Schipa. They say that in his best years (1930-1950) the voice of the Mexican tenor was intrinsically more beautiful than the voice of the Italian singer. His range was not exceptional, buy appropriate. His breath and musicianship were astonishing. He was an absolute master of the "rubato" and his phrasing was of a virtuosism and range not common in Latinamerican singers. He was very fond of Spanish music and was nicknamed "the gypsy from Mexico".
Néstor Mesta Chayres died on the 29 of June of 1971, at only 63 years old. They say it was of moral sorrow.
Néstor Chayres recorded a great number of 78 rpm records for several labels: Peerless, RCA Victor, Decca and Pro-Arte (SMC) in Mexico, USA, Spain, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile.
His recorded repertoire was essentially of Spanish and Latinamerican songs. And, as it has been already told, his greatest successes were the songs composed by Jorge del Moral, María Grever and Agustín Lara. He also recorded several Italian songs, "hits" by Tito Schipa (like, "Torna piccina"). His only classical recording was the complete "Siete Canciones Populares Españolas" by Manuel de Falla, with pianist Oscar Kosches.
JUAN DZAZOPULOS, May 2008