Amália Rodrigues

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Amália Rodrigues
Amália Rodrigues 1969.jpg
Amália Rodrigues, 1969
Background information
Birth name Amália Rebordão Rodrigues
Also known as Queen of fado (Rainha do Fado, in Portuguese)
Born (1920-07-23)July 23, 1920
Origin Fundão, Portugal
Died October 6, 1999(1999-10-06) (aged 79)
Genres Fado
Occupation(s) Singer, Actress
Instruments Vocals, Portuguese Guitar
Labels Valentim de Carvalho

Amália Rebordão Rodrigues GCSE, GCIH (July 23, 1920 – October 6, 1999), known as Amália Rodrigues (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈmaliɐ ʁuˈðɾiɣɨʃ]), was a Portuguese fadista (fado singer in direct translation) and actress. Known as the Rainha do Fado ("Queen of Fado"), Rodrigues helped popularize fado worldwide and traveled internationally between the 1950s and 1970s. She became one of the most important figures in the genre's development and was a leading female fadista during a 50-year recording and stage career. Rodrigues was an important inspiration for other fado and popular music artists such as Madredeus, Dulce Pontes, and Mariza. Rodrigues contributed to putting fado as a musical genre on the world map of music.

The early years[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Official documents give her date of birth as July 23. Amália always said her birthday was July 1, 1920.[1] She was born in Fundão, a house of Rua dos Galegos currently very degraded, street renamed by New State Rua Marquês de Pombal. The Rebordão family (maternal side) has roots in Souto da Casa, parish County of Fundão, and Rodrigues's grandfather worked as a blacksmith in this village..

In the Parish Church of Fundão is the baptism certificate of Rodrigues, a document that was also published in the Journal of Fundão after the death of the singer, and the investigator Salvado J. Travassos discovered a birth certificate.

In Lisbon, according to the testimony of José Filipe Duarte Gonçalves, was only born his sister, Odette, in addition to another child who died.

Rodrigues grew up in poverty in Lisbon. Her childhood was almost destitute and she had to do odd jobs like selling fruit in Lisbon's quays.

Singing career[edit]

Rodrigues started singing as an amateur around 1935. Her first professional engagement in a fado venue took place in 1939, and she quickly became a regular guest star in stage revues.[2] There she met Frederico Valério, a classically trained composer who, recognizing the potential in her voice, wrote expansive melodies custom-designed for Rodrigues’ voice. Valério also departed from the traditions of fado by adding orchestral accompaniment. Among those fados were 'Fado do Ciúme', 'Ai Mouraria', 'Que Deus Me Perdoe', and 'Não Sei Porque Te Foste Embora.'

In the meantime[when?] Amália became a well-known singer in Portugal.

Rodrigues began a career in the movies with a debute in 1946 with 'Capas Negras' followed by her best known movie, 'Fado' (1947).[3]

She became known abroad with trips to Spain, a lengthy stay in Brazil (where, in 1945, she made her first recordings on Brazilian label Continental) and Paris (1949). In 1950, while performing at the Marshall Plan international benefit shows, she introduced 'April in Portugal' to international audiences, under its original title "Coimbra".

In the early 1950s, the patronage of Portuguese poet David Mourão-Ferreira marked the beginning of a new phase: Rodrigues sang with many of the country's poets, and some wrote lyrics specifically for her. Her relationship with poetry contributed to changes in traditional fado: leading poets started contributing and writing specifically for her.[citation needed]

The middle years[edit]

International career[edit]

Rodrigues performed abroad in Spain (1943), Brasil (1945) with her first recordings, and Berlin (1950). She was the first Portuguese artist to appear on American television on ABC in 1953, and later to appear in Hollywood singing at the Mocambo in 1954. She also appeared on Mexican television.[citation needed] Rodrigues became an international name in 1954.

In 1954, Rodrigues' international career was reinforced through her presence in Henri Verneuil’s film The Lovers of Lisbon (Les Amants du Tage), where she had a supporting role. By the late 1950s the USA, Britain, and France had become her major international markets; Japan and Italy followed in the 1970s. In France she almost as popular as in Portugal, and she performed at the prestigious Olympia theatre.[when?] This led to the release of the album Portugal's Great Amália Rodrigues Live at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, in 1957, on Monitor Records (now under Smithsonian Folkways). Over the years, she performed nearly all over the world — going as far as the Soviet Union and Israel.

In France she performed on television and became a well-known artist.[when?] Charles Aznavour even wrote a fado in French especially for her 'Aie Mourir Pour Toi' and she created versions of her own songs (Coimbra became Avril au Portugal, among others). She performed at Olympia for 10 seasons between 1956 and 1992.

She then[when?] said she would sing only once in a while, but after a year's absence, she was no longer able to resist the appeal of the music. She returned in 1962 concentrating on recording and performing live at a slower pace.

Her comeback album, 1962's Amália Rodrigues, was her first collaboration with French composer Alain Oulman (1929-1990), her main songwriter and musical producer throughout the decade. Oulman wrote melodies for her that transcended the conventions of fado. Oulman, created in that album, also known as 'Busto' (Bust), a different kind of fado, with more extensions and which introduced aspects attributed traditionally to opera: the legatos, the extension of the voice.[citation needed] Also in that record she sang her own poems ('Estranha Forma de Vida') and poems written by great Portuguese poets, like Pedro Homem de Mello, David Mourão-Ferreira and others. She created longlife successes, which became classics and immortal songs in Portugal, like 'Povo Que Lavas no Rio', 'Maria Lisboa' and 'Abandono'. Oulman, a left-wing intellectual, was arrested by Portugal's political police in 1966, and forced into exile, but he continued to contribute with his music to Amália. He left behind many compositions which would enable her to record his music.

She resumed her stage career singing all over the world, including Israel, the UK, France, and returning to the USA for Promenade Concerts in Hollywood at the Hollywood Bowl, and New York City, accompanied by Andre Kostelanetz, both in 1966 and 1968, achieving an extraordinary success. She also sang in Soviet Union and Romania, among other countries.

Acting career[edit]

She continued her acting career, in films like 'Sangue Toureiro' (1958), and 'Fado Corrido' (1964).

Rodrigues appeared in Carlos Vilardebó’s 1964 arthouse film The Enchanted Islands based on a short story by Herman Melville. Her 1965 recording of poems by 16th century poet Luís de Camões generated acres of newspaper polemics. Her 1968 single Vou dar de beber à dor broke all sales records and her 1970 album Com que voz won a number of international awards.

Having been given Portugal's Film Award for Best Actress for 'Fado' in 1947, once again she was awarded as Portugal's Best Film Actress in 1965, in a movie where she didn't sing.

In between she performed in other genres: she recorded some of her old songs with an orchestra, recorded an album with jazz saxophonist Don Byas 'Encontro' (1968), and recorded an album of American songs with Norrie Paramor's orchestra, 'Amália On Broadway' which includes a rendition of 'Summertime', 'The Nearness of You'..

An important album in the 1960s was 'Com Que Voz', (1969), reprising many of her successes and adding a few more, all poems by Portuguese-speaking poets, and music by Alain Oulman. Rodrigues was at the height of her vocal and performing powers during the 1960s.[citation needed]

The later years[edit]

During the 1970s Rodrigues concentrated on live concert performances. During the post-April 25, 1974 period she was falsely accused of being a covert agent of the PIDE.[citation needed] During the Salazar years, Rodrigues had been an occasional financial supporter of some communists. At the same time she had occasionally expressed some admiration for Salazar himself. As a singer she was not involved in politics, before or after the Revolution. The democratic regime would decorate her far more than the dictatorship.

During the 1970s Rodrigues had success particularly in Italy and Japan. She recorded an album of Italian traditional songs 'A Una Terra Che Amo' (1973) and made versions of her own songs in Italian. She recorded live performances in an album called 'Amália in Italia' (1978). Her return to the recording studio in 1977 with Cantigas numa Língua Antiga. Soon after Rodrigues suffered her first health troubles, which caused her to be away from the stage for a short period again, and forced her to concentrate on performing especially in Portugal. Those problems were followed by two very personal albums: 'Gostava de Ser Quem Era' (1980) (literally 'I Wish I Were Who I Was')and 'Lágrima' (1983): all these songs were written by her own hand, since she used the poems she herself wrote. In between she sang Frederico Valerio's songs again, in an album called 'Fado' (1982). The 1980s and 1990s brought her enthronement as a living legend. Her last all-new studio recording, Lágrima, was released in 1983. It was followed by a series of previously lost or unreleased recordings, and the two greatest hits collections sold over 200,000 copies combined.


Rodrigues returned to the Olympia in Paris in 1985 for a series of concerts. The years 1985-1994 were ofrenewed international success, especially up until 1991. During these years she held concerts in France, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Israel, USA, in addition to Portugal.

In 1990 the celebrations of her 50th career anniversary started with a major concert in Lisbon's Coliseu dos Recreios at the age of 69. She was decorated by the President of the Republic on stage. Her voice had changed: it was lower but intense.

Despite a series of illnesses involving her voice, Rodrigues continued recording as late as 1990. She eventually retreated from public performance, although her career gained in stature with an official biography by historian and journalist Vítor Pavão dos Santos, and a five-hour TV series documenting her fifty-year career featuring rare archival footage (later distilled into the 90-minute film documentary, The Art of Amália). Its director, Bruno de Almeida, has also produced Amália, Live in New York City, a concert film of her 1990 performance at The Town Hall.

Rodrigues launched a final album of originals in 1990, 'Obsessão'. In December 1994 she gave her last concert at the age of 74, within the Lisbon European Capital of Culture concerts and was operated on a lung soon after in 1995. Television specials, interviews and tributes were held. She released a new album with original recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, 'Segredo' (1997), and a book of her poems, including the ones she had sung: 'Amália: Versos' (1997).

In 1998 Rodrigues was paid a national tribute at Lisbon's Universal Exhibition (Expo '98), and in February 1999 was considered one of Portugal's 25 more important personalities of the democratic period. Soon after she recorded what would become her last interview for television and the Cinématheque in Paris paid her a tribute in April 1999, with a showing of some of her movies.


Tomb of Amália Rodrigues with fresh flowers in the National Pantheon, Lisboa

On October 6, 1999, Rodrigues died at the age of 79 in her home in Lisbon. Portugal's government promptly declared three days of national mourning.[4][5] Her house, in Rua de São Bento, is now a museum. She is buried at the National Pantheon alongside other Portuguese notables.

She was given a State Funeral, attended by tens of thousands, and was later transferred to the Pantheon in 2001, the only woman to be so, after the Parliament decided to honor her with that dignity.


According to her will the Foundation Amália Rodrigues was established. The foundation manages her legacy and assets, except her copyright, willed to two of her nephews. By the time of her death in 1999, Rodrigues had received more than 40 decorations and honors from France (including the Légion d'Honneur), Lebanon, Portugal, Spain, Israel and Japan.[citation needed]

In 2007, she came in 14th in Portugal's election of Os Grandes Portugueses (The Greatest Portuguese).[6] One year later, in 2008, a film about her life Amália was released, with Sandra Barata portraying her.[7]

Rodrigues was once considered by Variety as one of the voices of the century. She remains one of the most international of Portuguese artists and singers, and in Portugal, a national icon.[citation needed][neutrality is disputed]

She put fado on the world map as a form of chant and music, and her steps were followed by other performers and singers many of whom sing her repertoire.

Rodrigues remains one of Portugal's most famous artist and singer. She was born into an almost destitute family and who grew to become one of Portugal's major star but also an internationally recognized artist and singer. Her career spanned 55 years and she recorded songs in several languages (especially Portuguese, Spanish, French, English and Italian). Versions of her own songs, for instance "Coimbra" ("April In Portugal") achieved success in countries like France, Italy, Argentina, Spain, the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Romania, Japan and The Netherlands, among many others.[citation needed]


Rodrigues' parents had nine children: Vicente and Filipe, José and António (who both died in childhood), Amália, Celeste, Aninhas (who died at sixteen), Maria da Glória (who died shortly after birth), and Maria Odete. In 1940, she married Francisco Cruz, a lathe worker and amateur guitar player from whom she separated in 1943 and whom she divorced in 1946. In 1961, in Rio de Janeiro, she married César Seabra, a Brazilian engineer; they remained married until his death in 1997. She had no children.[1]

Rodrigues was briefly married (1940–43) to a guitarist (divorced), and married the son of a Portuguese immigrant in Brazil, an engineer, César Seabra (1922–1997) in 1961.


This discography is not yet complete.


  1. ^ a b "Biografia de Amalia Rodrigues". At-Tambur (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  2. ^ "Amália Rodrigues". Os grandes portugueses (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  3. ^ Gabriela Cruz, "The Suspended Voice of Amália Rodrigues" In Music in Print and Beyond: Hildegard von Bingen to the Beatles, 180-199.
  4. ^ "Amalia Rodrigues". Economist. 14 October 1999. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "O desaparecimento de Amália Rodrigues". At-Tambur (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  6. ^ "90 mais". Os grandes portugueses (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  7. ^ "Amália - o filme". Portal do Fado (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2009-11-15. 

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