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CULTURE | 23-04-2020 07:58

Farewell to Marcos Mundstock, the voice and soul of Les Luthiers

Humourist Marcos Mundstock, the icon of the Les Luthiers musical ensemble, died on Wednesday at the age of 77.

Humourist Marcos Mundstock, the icon of the Les Luthiers musical ensemble, died on Wednesday at the age of 77.

It leaves Buenos Aires and Argentina mourning s the loss of one of its most illustrious maestros of laughter.

"After grappling for over a year with an irreversible health problem, our comrade and friend has finally left us,” the group informed in a communiqué. "The artist had been off the stage since the beginning of the year when it was informed that he would be resting for some months to continue treatment followed by the due process of rehabilitation."

It was not said then from what illness he was suffering, nor whether he was hospitalised, though local press reports said that the humourist died of cancer.

Mundstock studied engineering but, fortunately for the generations who enjoyed him, dedicated his life to making Argentina and the wider Spanish-speaking world chuckle.

The author of unforgettable monologues and hilarious scripts, Mundstock contributed to the group an exquisite and vivacious style of his own, which was a recipe for the success of unforgettable personalities without ever punching below the belt.

"I want to be a lawyer, engineer, aviator, cowboy, benefactor of all humanity, an opera tenor, Tarzan, a Latin lover, a football player and many other things,” he once said ironically about the destiny sending him to the stage.

Along with Daniel Rabinovich, who died in 2015, Mundstock was one of the main pillars of Les Luthiers.

'High' humour

Born in the province of Santa Fe, Mundstock was a founding member of the group, which emerged in 1967 at the University of Buenos Aires, the alma mater of the first seven Luthiers.

There he graduated in engineering while at the same time securing a parallel qualification as a radio announcer at the Instituto Superior de Enseñanza Radiofónica (ISER) in Buenos Aires.

Impeccably dressed in evening dress and bow ties, Les Luthiers mocked the social rigidity of the upper class. They also showed off the musical versatility of their members, taking on all genres from classical music to boleros, Mexican corridos, opera, zarzuelas and tango. Together the artists composed over 170 songs and invented more than  30 musical instruments.

Among countless awards recognising their talent, the group was awarded the prestigious  Princesa de Asturias prize in 2017.

"I’m not in the business of rejecting praise,” Mundstock said with typical roguish charm, when he heard about the prize. 

His pen and fantasy contributed to the creation of characters like Johann Sebastian Mastropiero, with whom Les Luthiers made packed audiences roar with laughter in hundreds of shows.

Together with Mundstock, Les Luthiers conquered the public throughout Latin America, also making long tours in Europe, above all Spain. In 2011 they received, among other prizes, the Latin Grammy Award for musical excellence.

In 1980 they staged one of their most unforgettable shows at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center de Nueva York, a show completely translated into English. And in 1986 they climbed for the first time onto the stage of the famed Teatro Colón, where 6,000 spectators gave them a standing ovation. 

"What we do has the cultural aspiration of elevating laughter,” Mundstock used to explain with that solemn voice with which he would parody pretentious posturing on the stage. 

His irreverent humour found its origins in the traditions of the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers and the Mexican Cantinflas.

"He will leave us with the memory of his daily jokes, rapid-fire and amazingly ingenious, ready to give us a spark of joy at any moment, whether good or bad,” Les Luthiers recalled on Wednesday in a statement to the press.

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by Sonia Avalos, AFP

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