“Sorceress” Raquel Meller, TIME Magazine cover

Raquel Meller
This delectable flor del mal from Barcelona’s Poble Sec district is a daisychain from A Nun’s link to a review of a book dealing with degradation and deviancy in the same neighbourhood. New York, April 26 1926:

Ushers with tall combs and white mantillas stole back up the aisles as the house lights faded out. The orchestra blared some opening bars, then hushed to a faintly drumming vamp. Into a pool of amber light on the empty stage, stepped a small woman with hair of jet, a stocky little figure in velvet flounces, with a broad, flat face of extraordinary mobility. Her black eyes grew slowly wider and deeper as a spattering storm of applause burst upon her, swelled and rumbled with calls of “Brava! Brava!” which took five minutes to blow over… For the next-to-last of her baker’s dozen of songs, Meller chose “Flor del Mal” (Flower of Sin). It tells, with the utter simplicity of all Meller’s repertoire, the hopeless, disdainful story of a street girl. Her clothes were shoddy, ill-fitting; her hair slovenly, black about her forehead. Midway in the singing Meller moved out on a little platform almost over the heads of the first row, and lighted a cigaret. She smoked it singing and walked over to lean, dejected, against the stage wall. The song ended and she disappeared.

Other comments suggest the audience felt it had been had by the marketing of “the most successful Spanish artist of the 20th century“, a Rioja girl who made her debut in the now ruined Teatro Arnau on the Paralelo of Barcelona in 1908 (or perhaps “in a dingy Barcelona fishermen’s cafe“) and was apparently later sought by Chaplin to star in City lights. Her statue is opposite the Arnau, next to the Bagdad strip club. I think her singing is fairly ordinary–Barcelona’s music halls tended to be regarded as crass rather than class by foreigners–but we’re clearly dealing with A Star, three maids, eight dogs and 42 trunks and all:

Aside: I don’t read it nowadays, of course, but wasn’t TIME good between wars?

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