Biography of Asunción Balaguer, a prestigious and beloved Spanish actress, whose life is closely linked to that of the great actor Paco Rabal.
Asunción Balaguer’s family and studies
Asunción Balaguer was born in Manresa, Catalonia, on November 8, 1925.
Her parents were a wealthy family and belonged to the Catalan bourgeoisie. There were six brothers. Asunción learned to read from her brothers’ books.
From the age of thirteen, she studied declamation at the “Institut del Teatre” in Barcelona, where she was a student of Marta Grau.
Beginning of her artistic career
Asunción Balaguer made her debut as an actress in 1940, at the age of 15, playing a small role in a play by Lope de Vega, “La discreta enamorada”.
At that time, she studied Philosophy and Letters for a year. Very soon she dedicated her efforts to training to be a great actress.
She joined José Tamayo‘s “Lope de Vega” company, where she worked with magnificent actors such as Carlos Lemos, Alfonso Muñoz and Josefina Santaolalla.
With José Tamayo she worked on the montage of William Shakespeare‘s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The work was presented in Granada in 1946.
The young and beautiful Asunción already had a certain professional prestige when she debuted in Madrid in 1947.
Marriage of Asunción Balaguer with Paco Rabal
Asunción Balaguer was working in the company “Lope de Vega” when she met the actor Francisco Rabal, during the filming of the film “Perseguidos”.
It was the year 1949; They immediately felt a mutual attraction and spent a long time being partners before becoming boyfriends. They were both in their twenties.
Later, Paco Rabal said that, just beginning their relationship, they traveled to Rome to represent Calderón’s auto sacramental, in the Pious Rooms of the Vatican. After the performance, Pope Pius XII greeted and congratulated them.
On January 2, 1951, Asunción Balaguer and Paco Rabal got married in Barcelona.
Paco Rabal was a great actor, a very happy man, with enormous vitality and a friend of the whole world.
Asunción Balaguer did not separate from Paco until he died, after fifty years of marriage. Paco Rabal was the great love of her life. They both had the same profession and the same friends; they read the scripts together and discussed them.
Asunción Balaguer explained on several occasions that her love was so much, that she even forgave the infidelities that the actor had during her youth.
They had two children: Benito Rabal and Teresa Rabal. They have both been successful artists. Teresa was born in Barcelona on November 5, 1952. Benito was born in 1954.
In 1954, Asunción Balaguer acted in the play “Dialogue of Carmelites“, by the Frenchman Georges Bernanos, directed by José Tamayo. It was one of her great successes.
The popular actress Pilar Bardem in an interview with the newspaper El País, said that “it was impossible to remove the work that Balaguer did from the retina and memory.”
Shortly after, Asunción and Paco Rabal left the Tamayo theater company and started their own company.
Asunción Balaguer was the leading actress, and she continued to do so on tours of northern Spain and Central America.
Asunción Balaguer dedicated herself to her children
Asunción Balaguer interrupted her artistic activity to take care of her family and exercise her work as a mother.
She always assumed that her husband had a reputation as a playboy. Paco Rabal delicately told her about her mistakes, but without hurting her. No reproach ever came from the mouth of Asunción, who knew of Paco’s nobility and that she was his wife whom he really loved.
She made sporadic appearances in feature films, such as “El canto del gallo” by Rafael Gil (in 1955), “091 Police on speaking” by José María Forqué (in 1960) and “Las melancólicas” by Rafael Moreno Alba (in 1973).
Return of Asunción Balaguer to the scene
In the mid-1980s, with the firm support of Paco Rabal, her children and the public, Asunción Balaguer returned with renewed strength to the world of theater, film and television.
Her appearance on the television series “Teresa de Jesús” in 1984 was highly applauded. Frequent performances followed, such as “La hora bruja” (Jaime de Armiñán).
She also worked in “El hermano bastardo de Dios“, directed by her son Benito and starring alongside her husband Francisco Rabal.
Asunción Balaguer had a great success in the television series called “Juncal”, starring Francisco Rabal and Rafael Álvarez (“El brujo”).
In the 1980s, Asunción Balaguer went to live in the mountains of Madrid, in the town of Alpedrete. There she settled with her husband, the unforgettable actor Francisco Rabal, with whom she shared more than half a century of life.
In 1999 she received well-deserved awards from the world of cinema: the best actress award at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival and the Sant Jordi Award in 2000, shared with María Galiana.
Asunción Balaguer in the 21st century
On August 29, 2001, Paco Rabal died on the plane in which he was returning from the Montreal Festival.
Despite her advanced age, Asunción Balaguer continued her intense work of acting on television, theater and cinema until 2009.
In that last year she worked on “Little Lives” (by Enrique Gabriel) and on “Brain drain” (by Fernando González Molina).
Asunción Balaguer always had a beautiful smile that accompanied her until the last of her days. She was a vitalist woman and she preserved a good memory that allowed her to continue participating as an actress almost until the end of her days.
Between 2010 and 2013, he won four consecutive awards from the Union of Actors, the TP de Oro and the Max Award for the musical “Follies”, under the direction of Mario Gas, in which she sang and danced in the best scenes, earning the enthusiastic applause from the audience.
In 2014, Javier Espada dedicated a documentary to her entitled “A woman without a shadow”, in which Pilar Bardem, Sancho Gracia, Ángela Molina and Pepe Viyuela participated, among others.
The last years of Asunción Balaguer
Being a nonagenarian, the actress Asunción Balaguer went to her rehearsals by bus from Alpedrete to the city; and there she would take another transport to the theater to prepare her last great theatrical role: “Dreams and Visions of King Richard III”, José Sanchís Sinisterra’s version of the Shakespearean classic.
And it made her happy, cheerful, optimistic and grateful to have to tackle such a feat on a daily basis.
Even more exceptional was the fact that the entire theatrical and cinematographic profession adored her and no one has ever heard or hinted at a minimum criticism of this woman defined as a good companion and a good actress, which always resulted in greater success and a better atmosphere of job.
Seven years before her death, Asunción Balaguer presented at the Spanish Theater “Time is a dream”, an autobiographical monologue that Rafael Álvarez, well known as “El brujo”, had written and directed for her. In this monologue, she remembered how much the director José Tamayo and the “Lope de Vega Company” meant to her, where she met a very young Francisco Rabal.
In 2015 she had a participation in the TV3 series Merlí as the grandmother of the Rubio family.
Four years later, in 2019, the actress suffered a stroke when she was at her home in Alpedrete. She was admitted to Hospital La Fuenfría (Cercedilla), which welcomes patients referred from public hospitals in the Community of Madrid who require longer stays for Stroke Rehabilitation, Traumatology, Chronic Diseases or Palliative Care, among others.
A few days later, on November 23, 2019, she passed away at the age of ninety-four.
Asunción Balaguer’s body was cremated, and her children transferred her ashes to Águilas, where those of their beloved Paco Rabal rest.