One day during a class in Paris, a student asks me where to go to buy Tango clothes in Buenos Aires, but she tells me immediately, that she wants it to be very shiny and very glamorous, then the clothes of "Mimi Pinson" come to my mind. When I tell her the name of the store she is surprised and laughs and then says "yes, of course, it makes sense". This piques my curiosity to find out more about the story behind this tango.
So here we go with what I have found on the web.
In 1845, the great writer Alfred de Musset created a character that would become a source of inspiration, but also an emblem of an important female sector of Parisian society in the early twentieth century. Her name: Mimi Pinson, to whom he dedicated first a poem, then a song and then a short novel: "Mademoiselle Mimi Pinson: Profil de grisette".
Mimi embodied a specific prototype of a young working girl: the "grisette". Although in the 1694 edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française it already defined a woman of low status, by the 19th century it began to refer specifically to young women who worked, dressed in gray, in sewing workshops and as assistants in hat shops, and who were characterized by their coquetry. As can be seen through their fleeting appearance in various works of poets and painters such as Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Constantin Guys, Whistler and Gilbert.
With the passage of time, the "grisettes" dressmakers also became models for artists, their presence being popular among the bohemian circles of the Quartier Latin in Paris. Hence their recurring presence in the work of authors such as Daumier and Gavarni, but especially Eugene Sue, Victor Hugo and George Sand herself. However, although some of them came to have a name in the work of these authors, it was with Musset with whom her figure acquired greater humanity and, above all, artistic projection.
Gustave Charpentier, probably under the influence of the prevailing socialism and anarchism of his time, as well as by the idea of the "theater of the people" of which Michelet spoke, premiered in 1900, with libretto and music of his authorship, what would be his master opera: "Louise", about the life of a "grisette" in love with her poet neighbor, proceeding to found, two years later in the Montmartre district, one of the most "sui generis" music conservatories of all time: the "Conservatoire Populaire de Mimi Pinson", where these young working girls, by then also called "modinettes", would take free lessons in singing, choir, harp, piano, dance and pantomime, offering public concerts and within the institution itself in support of charitable works.
Yes, Mimi Pinzon was destined to continue to prevail in the European collective imagination of the first half of the 20th century. The same through the operetta "La Cocarde de Mimi-Pinson" (1915), with libretto by Maurice Ordonneau and music by Henri Goublier, as through various minor works such as songs, Allier's mazurka and Tixhon's waltz. By then, the First World War is in full swing and the Mimi Pinson become bastions of support for the work of the Red Cross; in 1919 they are the first to call for women's suffrage and in 1924 Théo Bergerat dedicates a silent film in their honor. But it was not only Europe, since the end of the 19th century their legend had already begun to spread beyond the Atlantic Ocean, especially by the modernists.
In 1902 the character reached the Buenos Aires press through a chronicle by the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío in the newspaper La Nación entitled "The transformations of Mimi Pinson", in which he said that the "grisettes" after a day's work always found "time to see the fiancé or the lover, almost always a worker like them, but with whom, arm in arm, they always go smiling, in their springtime", thus emphasizing the libertine trait. Years later "Louise" was premiered in Buenos Aires (in 1918, the year of Debussy's death) and Mimi Pinson established herself as a figure of the marginal porteño environment.
Perhaps this is how this character came to the eyes of the Uruguayan poet Jose Rotulo, perhaps he went to the theater to see "Louise" and felt identified with the story...and from here he was inspired to write together with the Argentine violinist and composer Aquiles Roggero the Tango "Mimi Pinson" .
Our 3 favorite versions of this tango are:
Roberto Goyeneche's with Raul Garello: https://youtu.be/H-5fIyeEvzw?si=1_EuSKdSuE8oYO0v
The one by Juan D'Arienzo with Osvaldo Ramos https://youtu.be/aU3-VoeTab0?si=thXol_v3Lcr4mQG2
The one by Osmar Maderna with Adolfo Rivas https://youtu.be/34Rg5n0TyDc?si=bij8ZMrpMyXQUyPR
His lyrics say:
One more day,
one more year,
I'm lost in the mist...
In that fog of the Parisian night
that you went away never to return.
I called you,
because your eagerness to be flirtatious
was dragging you down just like the Griseta,
and the same evil,
and its end punished you.
I dreamed of you in Mussety's novel.
I found you later in my destiny...
How short were the paths of dreams
and how vain the efforts to save you from death!
The snow continues to punish the window,
and I with this loneliness...
I still look for you in the streets of Paris...
Just like yesterday I see you and feel you..;
but it's useless, you don't come to meet me,
One more year
that you are not here,
and again the neblinatra
what memories of my Parisian nights,
and in the memory, again, you come back...
You are in me,
I see you again...
And in my poet's delirium
I kiss your hands and the bunch of violets...
Just like yesterday,
just like today, always the same!
Information extracted from the writings of Betty Zanolli and Leticia Molinari.