Maria Severa Onofriana

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Maria Severa Onofriana
Maria Severa - Fado-Sängerin.jpg
Background information
Birth nameMaria Severa Onofriana
Also known asA Severa
Born26 July 1820
Lisbon, Portugal
Died30 November 1846(1846-11-30) (aged 26)
Lisbon, Portugal
InstrumentsVocals, portuguese guitar

Maria Severa Onofriana (26 July 1820 – 30 November 1846), also known simply as A Severa, was a Portuguese fado singer and guitarist. She is regarded, in her short life, as the first fado singer to have risen to fame, attaining a near-mythical status after her death. Fado has been described as the Portuguese expression of "the blues," and fado roughly means 'fate.'


Maria Severa Onofriana was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in the neighborhood of Madragoa in 1820. She was the daughter of Severo Manuel and Ana Gertrudes. Her mother was the owner of a tavern and had the nickname A Barbuda ('the bearded woman'). Severa is said to have been a tall and gracious courtesan, and would sing the fado in taverns where she would also play the Portuguese guitar. She is known to have had several lovers, including Francisco de Paula Portugal e Castro, 13th Count of Vimioso, who took her to bullfights (a public and important social event of that time).

She died of tuberculosis on 30 November 1846 on Rua do Capelão in Mouraria, Lisbon, only 26 years old, and was buried in a common grave in the cemetery of Alto de São João.

In popular culture[edit]

Maria Severa's fame grew also due to a novel by Júlio Dantas, entitled A Severa, which was then made into a play that was brought to stage in 1901. In 1931, director Leitão de Barros turned the play into the first Portuguese film to feature sound, A Severa.

A romantic musical, Maria Severa Onofriana, opened on 19 July 2011 at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, with book, music and lyrics by Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli, directed by Jackie Maxwell and starring Julie Martell as Maria Severa.