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October 30, 2009

Bernarda Jiménez Peña, "Bernarda de Utrera" died suddenly in Utrera Wednesday October 28th at five in the afternoon, and once again this important flamenco town must mourn the loss of one of the great representatives of its history.

Just three years ago the world of flamenco had to assimilate the death of her sister Fernanda, and ever since then the younger sister had been suffering declining health.  Inseparable in life, their bronze images have for several years stood in the plaza in front of the central market.

From the legendary family of Pinini, Bernarda was the last great star, and with her disappearance a glorious chapter comes to a close of a type of flamenco singing that no longer exists.  If Fernanda was the queen of soleares, Bernarda?s fame was always linked to bulerías, a form she not only commanded perfectly, but which she imbued with mystery and personality.

At the ongoing Seville Congress devoted to the Centennial of singer Antonio Mairena, activities were interrupted with the sad news of Bernarda?s death, and a minute of silence was observed.  It was Mairena himself who first recorded the two young girls which led to their becoming known to flamenco fans the world over.  Years earlier, in 1958, they also appeared briefly in Edgar Neville?s legendary film Duende y Misterio del Flamenco.  When Mairena passed away, Bernarda adapted the verse of a popular bulerías song, "La Senda del Viento", to dedicate it to the maestro.  In the same way, and with heavy hearts, we can honor the lady from Utrera:

Callarse por un momento
ya se acabó el cante grande
que ha muerto Bernarda de Utrera
que cantaba como nadie
(Hush for a moment
there?ll be no more great singing
Bernarda de Utrera has died
no one can sing as she did)

The mortal remains of one of Utrera?s Favorite Daughters, winner of the Oro al Mérito de las Bellas Artes, two prizes from Córdoba and so many other honors, were laid to rest Thursday, October 29th, in her hometown.  The Utrera municipal government has declared three days of official mourning.

Bernarda de Utrera . Photo: Rafael Manjavacas

Video - Bernarda de Utrera: Tribute to Fernando Montoro - Madrid Octubre 2006