Singer Esther Borja, considered one of Cuba’s greatest voices of the 20th century and particularly famous for her renditions of music by Ernesto Lecuona, died Saturday in Havana. She was 100, The Latin American Herald Tribune reports.
A report on state television said that Borja died before dawn Saturday and that an intimate vigil and cremation ceremony will be held for her.
Borja, who in 2002 was honored with the National Music Prize, was born in Havana on Dec. 5, 1913, and this month turned 100, out of the public eye due to an illness.
Her centennial was commemorated with tributes from artists and musicians of the island, where she had officially retired from the stage in 1984 after a career spanning more than half a century.
With her mezzosoprano voice, Esther Borja was considered the best performer of lyrics by the famous Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), a personal friend.
Borja not only popularized Lecuona’s work for many years, on the island and outside it, but also championed the music of other important figures of Cuban musical composition in the 20th century like Gonzalo Roig and Adolfo Guzman.
Known as the “damisela encantadora” (charming damsel) after the title of the Lecuona song with which she was most identified, Borja acted in operettas and the Spanish light operas known as zarzuelas, worked in radio and theater, movies and television, where she even hosted a musical program for several years.
Her professional career took off in 1935 with appearances in Havana’s leading theaters accompanied by Lecuona on piano.
Her international tours took her to such countries as Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and the United States.
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