Amália Rodrigues: new edition of Busto

This post is also available in: Português (Portuguese (Portugal))

  • First recordings with Alain Oulman dictated the future of fado
  • Triple disc includes studio recording, rehearsals, acting and interview
  • Special limited edition with DVD of recital at RTP in 1961
  • Disc now available

It was Amália’s meeting with Alain Oulman that created modernity in Fado. A conscious but not premeditated revolution that many felt alienated, foreign, but that forever elevated the musical and poetic quality of the fado repertoire, expanding its audience and the artistic implications of the genre itself.

The first recording sessions they did together, and which gave rise to Disco do Busto, took place at Teatro Taborda, in Castelo, at dawn, between 1960 and 1962, and remain what best transports us to that refounding moment of Portuguese music.

Amália’s long experience in the more traditionalist environment of fado, since 1939, alongside Alfredo Marceneiro or Armandinho, Hermínia Silva or Lucília do Carmo, Berta Cardoso or Filipe Pinto, later allowed her, with Alain Oulman, to achieve immense artistic sophistication without ever losing authenticity. Amália enrolled Fado in the disciplines of international spectacle but kept in it the basic respect for the essence of the genre and deep knowledge of the repertoire and the ways of singing that preceded it. The attraction to Oulman’s sophisticated music was a natural and exquisite flowering of those roots, never turning into experimentalism without consequences for the future. If Oulman’s Fados bring new harmonic chains and new melodic amplitudes, they respect the structures and liturgy of Fado.
Guitarist José Nunes’ famous phrase “let’s go to the operas”, when referring to them, condenses the strangeness and reverence that this song aroused.

But Amália, in this Disco do Busto, didn’t just reveal Oulman’s innovative music. She also affirmed the first versions of her two most emblematic traditional fados, “Povo que Lavas no Rio” and “Estranha Forma de Vida”. Transfigured by the erudite musical phrasing she invented and the literary cut of the verses she chose, by Pedro Homem de Mello and herself, Amália transformed Joaquim Campos’ “Fado Vitória” and Alfredo Marceneiro’s “Fado Bailado” in the two most recognizable strophic fados still today by the general public. The resonance of (and in) the Oulman environment was lapidary.

At Teatro Taborda, the first fado was also recorded on a poem by Camões, “Dura Memória”, which, as it was not part of the Disco do Busto, was hardly noticed at the time – the controversy over the “daring” would only emerge years later, with the name of poet visible on the cover. The sonnet opened the second album produced in these sessions, the LP Amália 1963 (which would never be published in Portugal), and it is restored here in this significant place.

When, in 1961, Amália sang it on television, asking who the
verses, she just replied: “They were in a book…” It was the response of someone who, for not wanting to break with anything, could change everything.

Another decisive achievement of Amália, so well felt by the composer, was having transformed Fado into a vehicle of high musical virtuosity, due to the absolute control of her unsurpassed vocality and the invention of the colour she adapted to the dramaturgy that she made of each poem. It was her musical and interpretive genius that allowed Amália to enshrine Fado on stage without ever reducing it to an ethnological curiosity.

This was what fell in love, in Paris, in 1959, by the highly erudite Alain Bertrand Robert Oulman.
From there, he just for that voice wanted to write. In one of the most unpredictable and luminous complicity in the history of artistic creation, Amália and Alain found for Fado its contemporary definition, its timelessness, the reinvention of a traditional melancholy.

If right away in Paris, at this first meeting, Alain offers him the melody of “Vagamundo”, and after a short time Amália sings it live, it is in the artistic and personal intimacy experienced between a camp in Ericeira, the rehearsals at her house and the recordings at Teatro Taborda that the connection deepens. In this edition we can hear all known records of these steps, some of which are unpublished.

Amália and Alain Oulman soon sensed that many of the fados they created, so linked to Poetry, found their perfect place in an album to listen to at home, much more than at the speed of the stage. In the intimacy of the record, they also find the perpetuity that the show cannot achieve or we ourselves have not achieved. It is in this sense of civilizational legacy that these sessions, more than witness the rebirth of a genre, achieve, in their artistic purity and eternal modernity, the longed-for interruption of Time.

Frederico Santiago

“Busto” music list

Disc 1
1 – Asas Fechadas
2 – Cais de Outrora
3 – Estranha Forma de Vida
4 – Maria Lisboa
5 – Madrugada de Alfama
6 – Abandono
7 – Aves Agoirentas
8 – Povo Que Lavas No Rio
9 – Vagamundo

Disc 2
1 – Dura Memoria
2 – Acho Inúteis as Palavras
3 – Algemas
4 – Vida Enganada
5 – Rasga o Passado
6 – Caminhos de Deus
7 – Espelho Quebrado
8 – Assim Nasceu Este Fado
9 – Eu Queria Cantar-te Um Fado
10 – Na Rua do Silencio
11 – Espelho Quebrado (take alternativo)
12 – Eu Queria Cantar-te um Fado (take alternativo)

Disc 3
Monte Carlo, July 25, 1959
1 – Vagamundo – Luís de Macedo | Alain Oulman

Restaurante Galo, Rio de Janeiro, night from the 26th to the 27th of January 1960
2 – Vagamundo (ensaio) – Luís de Macedo | Alain Oulman
3 – Povo que Lavas no Rio (ensaio) – Pedro Homem de Mello | Joaquim Campos

Lisbon, 1960
4 – Espelho Quebrado (ensaio)
5 – Maria Lisboa (ensaio)
6 – Abandono (ensaio)

Tivoli, November 29, 1962
7 – Estranha Forma de Vida
8 – Cansaço
9 – Madrugada de Alfama
10 – Povo que Lavas no Rio
11 – Um Fado Nasce
12 – Espelho Quebrado
13 – Lá Porque Tens Cinco Pedras
14 – Maria Lisboa

Amália’s House, December 6, 1962
15 – Entrevista a Amália, David Mourão-Ferreira e Alain Oulman por Henrique Mendes

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