The wings of melancholy

Mariza's intimate fado meets Incroci di Civiltà
by Davide Carbone

We interview Mariza, an extraordinary performer who opens the 2023 edition of the international literary festival curated by Ca’ Foscari University with her fado

Over a twenty-year career, the passion for fado a strong musical personality allowed Mariza to reach a wider, international audience. It all began with her first album, Fado em Mim, released in 2001, which rapidly earned her several international apparitions and the BBC Radio 3 Award as Best European Artist in the World Music category. Fado em Mim is an album that revealed to the world a young artist’s rich, vibrant voice, and her strong artistic identity. While Mariza mainly performs famous songs from Amália Rodrigues’s repertoire, her approach to fado has always been so personal that no one would ever call her work an imitation. Mariza is a success on her own, with performances in the greatest theatres in the world, like the Olympia in Paris, the Oper Frankfurt, the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Sydney Opera House, the Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which welcomed her with scenery designed for her by Frank Gehry. Mariza sang with Jacques Morelenbaum and John Mauceri, José Merced and Miguel Poveda, Gilberto Gil and Ivan Lins, Lenny Kravitz and Sting, Cesária Évora and Tito Paris, Carlos do Carmo and Rui Veloso. Her repertoire is deeply rooted in classic and modern fado, though evolved with time to include further music genres such as Cape Verdean morna, Brazilian and Spanish classics, and more. Mariza celebrated her twentieth year as a performer and the hundredth anniversary of fado queen Amália Rodrigues with Mariza Sings Amália, her first classics album, published by Nonesuch/ Warner Bros. Records in 2021. Mariza will perform at Malibran Theatre, in Venice, on March 29 in an event produced by Veneto Jazz in cooperation with Fondazione di Venezia and Teatro Stabile del Veneto. The event is part of the Incroci di civiltà programme, an international literary festival produced by the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the City of Venice.

How did you grow close to fado, and how did your relationship with fado evolve over the years?
Fado is very connected to my childhood since my parents had a Fado House and one of my first memories as a child is to try to hide so I could be able to listen to the Fado singers instead of going to sleep. I also started singing in my parents’ Fado House just for fun, I never thought it would become my career path. Each day that goes by I feel that the passion and the love I have for music grows a little bit more. I cannot image myself without music.

What, in your opinion, makes fado able to appeal to audiences of different eras, always meeting their interest?
Fado is a genre which sings about life, about jealousy, about melancholy and about love. That is why it can be understood for everyone even if you do not speak Portuguese, as it speaks the language of the heart.

Your 2020 album Canta Amalia pays homage to a legend, and yet it manages to offer very original interpretations, never resorting to mere impersonation.
Although we always listened to Fado at home, mostly we would listen to male voices, so I first remember listening to Amalia later, as a teenager. I was in downtown, and I remember I listened to Barco Negro, and it was overwhelming. She is and she will always be an icon of Fado music, someone who left a mark in an era. She made a change which left us a wonderful legacy that we can enjoy and sing each in our own way.

Your teachers, your sources of inspiration, of tradition and the contemporary, beyond Amalia.
My mother, Carlos do Carmo and all the voices that sang in my parents’ Fado House were sources of inspiration. Nowadays, there is a huge number of extraordinary Fado singers, many beautiful voices. And a whole new generation emerging and doing absolutely fabulous things.

Your March 29 concert at Malibran Theatre will open literary festival Incroci di Civiltà: what is your attitude towards literature and how close are the universe of letters and that of music?
I have been singing some of the best Portuguese poets like Fernando Pessoa or Luís de Camões my entire career. Always have been very passionate about Portuguese poetry and it has been a must have in my records.

To perform in Venice — how does this city make you feel?
It is such a lovely city, known in the whole world by its romantic and singular ways. I have been fortunate to have visited Venice before a long time ago and now I have the privilege to return and to perform again in the city, this time in this beautiful theatre. I hope to be able to offer to the public an unforgettable night full of music, love, joy and friendship.