Out of the Wings

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Stéfano (c.1928), Armando Discépolo

English title: Stéfano
Date written: c. 1928
First production date: 1928
Keywords: identity > class/social standing, identity > ethnicity, family > duty, history > memory, ideology > religion and faith, family > parents and children, art, Social > Hierarchy
Genre and type: grotesco criollo

Stéfano, a Neapolitan musician, uprooted his family from Italy to follow his dream of making his name and fortune in the New World, Argentina, as the composer of an opera.  Now he is old and his dream has failed, this is a lament for the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of three generations of an immigrant family.


Stéfano, a Neapolitan musician, is at the centre of this family drama of three generations.  It is a lament for an immigrant family who came to Argentina in the hope of finding a better life, only to face disillusionment, suffering, poverty and the loss of their dreams.

Stéfano yearned to compose a celebrated opera which would bring him recognition and financial stability in a new land of possibility.  He convinced his parents (Don Alfonso and María Rosa) to uproot themselves from their rural Italy because Argentina promised a better life.  He married an Argentine, Margarita, persuaded her of his future success as a composer, and had three children, Esteban, Ñeca and Redamés.   Redamés is an idiot boy, Ñeca is a waif-like timid girl devoted to her vulnerable father, and Esteban wants to become a poet, repeating his father’s aspiration for transcendence through art.

The play takes places after twenty years have gone by since immigrating, and now Stéfano is old, his family is poor and his opera remains unwritten.  Stéfano must bear the reproaches of his wife and parents, as their faith in his dream has been lost and their resentments build about the suffering it has brought on the family. Stéfano must also bear the devastating news that he has been replaced in the orchestra by his own pupil, Pastore.  Pastore is forced to explain this dismissal to Stéfano: his aging lips mean he can no longer play the trombone well, and he ends up making the instrument bleat like a goat.

In the epilogue tensions and lack of understanding between family members grow, as the family’s sorrows grow.  This culminates in Stéfano dying of a broken heart in a grotesque moment of bathos as he becomes the goat which describes the ugly sounds he makes on the trombone:

‘A goat … my goodness …. I’m dying … (He puts his face on the floor.) Ba a a … (He dies.)’

Critical response

The first production of Stéfano was met with a very positive reception.  It was seen as a departure from Discépolo’s previous plays in the sense that it consolidated his distinctive form of the grotesque.  A review published in the Revista Comedia described the play:

‘Observation, dialogue, situation, everything which drives a work towards perfection has been crafted by Discépolo with such originality and such intelligence that it would not be an exaggeration to say that Stéfano is the finest and most serious play this year.’

1928. ‘Stéfano’ de Discépolo’, Revista Comedia,  Año III, 37, May

  • Discépolo, Armando and Cossa, Roberto. 1986. El grotesco criollo: Discépolo-Cossa, antología. Buenos Aires, Colihue

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 23 November 2011.

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