Amália Rodrigues is one of the most important personalities in the cultural and artistic history of Portugal. Today marks 100 years since her birth and we invite you to come to know a little about her life and artistic journey.
Amália da Piedade Rebordão Rodrigues, better known as Amália Rodrigues, was born in Lisbon unexpectedly when her parents, Lucinda Rebordão and Albertino Rodrigues, were visiting their maternal grandparents. In her birth certificate the date of July 23, 1920, however, given that there are some reservations about the exact day, the artist adopted July 1st as her birthday for her entire life.
After 14 months of her birth, Amália‘s parents returned to Fundão, leaving her with her grandparents. When she was six years old, Amália moved with her grandparents to the neighborhood of Alcântara, where she lived until she was19, first with her grandparents and then with her parents.
After completing her primary education, the young woman abandoned her studies to help her family and had several jobs, as a seamstress, embroiderer, worker in a chocolate and candy factory, and, later with the help of her sister Celeste, selling fruit on the streets of Alcântara.
From a very early age she showed a taste for singing and, in 1935, she was chosen to sing “Fado Alcântara” as a soloist, in the festivities of Santos Populares, following the Popular March of her neighborhood.
In 1938, Amália auditions for the “Spring Competition“, where each neighborhood presented its competitors, competing for the Queen of Fado prize that year. Amália does not get to participate, but in this contest she met Francisco da Cruz, an amateur guitarist with whom, in 1940, she marries. This marriage does not last long and she remarries, in 1961, in Brazil, with Engineer César Henrique de Seabra Rangel.
Meanwhile she continues to sing at parties and verbenas under the name of Amália Rebordão. In that same year, a photo of the fado singer and a very praising criticism appeared in the press for the first time (“Guitarra de Portugal”, August 10, 1938). Only later she adopted the stage name of Amália Rodrigues.
Influenced by Santos Moreira, she performs at Retiro da Severa, and makes her professional debut in 1939, where she performs for 6 months before moving to Solar da Alegria and Café Mondego. Her success is such that she quickly becomes a headliner and, thanks to the intervention of José Melo, starts to sing at Café Luso with a cachet that reaches values never before paid to a fado singer.
At this point Amália no longer sings daily, doing it only 4 times a month and receiving per performance. From 1941, her performances will be less regular, but still a constant in the city of Lisbon until the early 1950s.
Only on 19 April 1985 she finally presents her first individual concert in Portugal, at the Coliseu dos Recreios, in Lisbon, which was repeated at the Coliseu do Porto on 26 April of the same year.
Her first departure from the country occurred in 1943, to perform at a party of the Portuguese Ambassador in Madrid, Dr. Pedro Teotónio Pereira. With Amália, also went the singer Júlio Proença and the instrumentalists Armandinho and Santos Moreira. The following year, she went to Brazil, where she performed at the Casino de Copacabana, Teatro João Caetano, and at Rádio Globo. In the meantime she would return to Brazil in 1945 where she records her first albums, eight editions of 78 rpm for the Continental label.
Amália’s travels follow one another, the destinations for acting abroad will be constant throughout her long career and span the five continents.
In 1949, at the invitation of António Ferro, the artist performed in Paris and London. In 1950 she went to Madeira and went abroad again, to participate in a series of shows sponsored by the Marshall Plan in Berlin, Rome, Trieste, Dublin, Bern, and Paris. Sings for the first time in New York, in 1952, at La Vie en Rose, where she spent 14 weeks on the poster. The following year, she performs in Mexico City and returns to New York where she participates in the Eddie Fisher program, being the first presentation by a Portuguese artist on American television.
Amália Rodrigues returns with several shows to Brazil, in 1960 and 1961. In 1963 she sings in the Church of São Francisco on the anniversary of the independence of Lebanon. In the 1960s she performed in Tunis, Algiers, Sidi Abbes, Brussels and Athens. Participates in the Edinburgh International Festival, sings in several cities in Israel, at the 1st Brasov International Light Music Festival in Leningrad, Moscow, Tiflis, Erivan and Baku, among other cities and countries.
In 1970 she was in Japan for the first time, to which she returned in 1976, 1986 and 1990. And in 1972 she performed in Australia, and, during this decade and the following, Amália continues her artistic tours in several countries.
In 1989 she recorded a show for Spanish television, inserted in a program presented by Sara Montiel. Still in that year, Amália celebrates fifty years of professional artistic activity, holding a great tour with shows in Spain, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Israel, India, Macau, Korea, Japan, Belgium, United States, and Italy.
The fadista’s debut in the theater took place in 1940, at Teatro Maria Vitória, with the play “Ora vai tu!” and until 1947, Amália Rodrigues participated in several magazines and operettas such as “Espera de Toiros” (Teatro Variedades, 1941), “Ó viva da costa!” and “A Senhora da Atalaia” (Teatro Apolo, 1944); and “Se que que a Gente Sente” (Teatro Variedades, 1946).
Her return to the theater will take place only in 1955 to participate in the replacement of the play “Severa”, taken to the scene by Vasco Morgado at Teatro Monumental.
Amália‘s relationship with cinema begins with the interpretation of the role of Maria Lisboa, alongside Alberto Ribeiro, in the film “Capas Negras“, by Armando Miranda. The film premieres at the Condes cinema on May 16, 1947.
In the same year, she starred, with Virgílio Teixeira, in “Fado, História de uma Cantadeira”, directed by Perdigão Queiroga, and participates with Jaime Santos and Santos Moreira in several short films made by Augusto Fraga such as “Fado da Rua do Sol”, “Fado Malhoa” and “Fado Amália”.
She returns to the cinema in 1949, with Manuel dos Santos in the film “Sol e Toiros” by José Buchs, in 1955 she participates with Daniel Gelin in the film “Les Amants du Tage” (“The Lovers of the Tagus”) by Henri Verneuil, and, still in 1955, with António dos Santos in the film “April in Portugal” by Evan Lloyd.
Her last interpretations for the big screen were in 1958, in the film “Sangue Toureiro”, by Augusto Fraga, in 1964 in the film “Fado Corrido”, by Jorge Brum do Canto, and in 1965, in the films “As Ilhas Encantadas” by Carlos Vilardebó.
Amália Rodrigues also stands out for the way in which she introduced innovations in the attitude and attire of the fadistas that came to be transformed into true performative conventions, as is the case with the systematic use of the black dress and shawl, and the positioning in front of the guitarists.
The interest in classical poetry is another novelty imposed by the fado singer. Thus, in the early 1950s, Amália Rodrigues recorded “Fria Claridade” by Pedro Homem de Mello and, in 1953, “Primavera” by David Mourão-Ferreira. Collaboration with these two poets will be constant and others will be part of their interpretations later.
In 1962, the fado singer released her first LP with compositions by Alain Oulman, often referred to as Amália‘s “operas“. In this album, “Busto” or “Asas Fechadas”, a connection begins that will last until 1975, and which includes recordings where, in addition to the aforementioned poets, the fado singer integrates poetry from the past, such as the Portuguese-Portuguese troubadours, Cancioneiro de Garcia de Resende or Camões, which will result in reference records in the history of Fado: “Fado Português”, “Fado’67”, “Vou dar de beber à dor” and“Com que voz”.
Amália was the author of many poems that she interpreted and edited on the disc, some of them are among the tracks that most celebrated her. These poems were published in the book “Versos“ by Cotovia, in 1997.
In 1987 her official biography, written by Vítor Pavão dos Santos, was released, based on interviews conducted between 15 November 1985 and 16 September 1986.
After her departure from the stage in 1994, Amália continued to be a guest of honor at numerous cultural events, namely during the exhibition of the Popular Marches on the day of Santo António, in Lisbon. In 1998, he was the target of a public tribute during a show at Expo’98, in Parque das Nações.
Throughout her career, she has won dozens of awards and accolades including the SNI Award for Best Actress of the Year in 1948, the Grand Silver Medal of the City of Paris in 1959, the M.I.D.E.M. for the record sales in the Portuguese record market in 1967, 1968 and 1969, Degree of Grand Officer of the Order of Infante D. Henrique in 1980, Gold Medal of the City of Porto in 1986, among many others.
Amália Rodrigues died on October 6, 1999 and her funeral was a great and felt manifestation of pain and longing like never before. The whole country wept for his Fado Diva. Her remains are now in the National Pantheon after being transferred from the Cemitério dos Prazeres on July 8, 2001.
Amália Rodrigues is an essential figure in the History of Fado and is, therefore, a very present reference in the permanent exhibition of the Fado Museum.
Amália Rodrigues Foundation was officially established on December 10, 1999, due to the will of the fado singer, two months after her death. Since 2005, this foundation has held an annual gala, with the following prizes awarded: Female and Male Career, Female and Male Revelation, International, Ethnic Music, Viola, Bass Guitar, Portuguese Guitar, Female and Male Interpreter, Discography, Fado Poet, Fado Composer, Symphonic Music, Amateur Fado, and Rehearsal and Promotion.