In stores and digital on July 23
On the day that Amália Rodrigues would turn 100, Valentim de Carvalho marks the anniversary with a special edition that makes essential documents of the singer’s heritage legacy available for the first time.
The box “Amália em Paris” consists of five discs recorded live and a 94-page book with unpublished photographs, a chronology of Amália’s performances in the French capital, and a text by the historian Jorge Muchagato.
The first disc was recorded at Olympia in 1956, the second gathers unpublished live records made by French radio between 1957 and 1965, the third an unprecedented recital at Olympia in 1967 and, finally, a double-disc, with the unprecedented recording of a show in that room, in 1975.
The physical edition is already available in pre-sales at Fnac stores (link). Available on streaming platforms on July 23rd.
Amalia In Paris
Paris and its audience have always managed to further mitigate the great artists. It was like that with Chopin and Bellini, in the thirties of the 19th century, it was like that with Amália and Maria Callas, in the fifties of the 20th century. It would still be like that with the Beatles themselves, in 1964 – who doesn’t know the legendary photographs of the Fab Four that year in the city? It was Paris that transformed Amália into an international star.
Although already a true myth in Portugal, of the constant trips to Brazil since 1944, of his acclaimed participation in the concerts of the Marshall plan, in 1950, or of the long series of shows in New York and Mexico, in 1952, 1953 and 1954, was the Parisian triumph in 1956, which made the world of Amália one of the greatest singers of the century.
It was not the first time that Amália had contacted the elite of the international public. Between 1939 and 1945, precisely in the early years of his career, in Lisbon’s retreats and fado houses, part of the public was made up of European millionaires, artists and intellectuals who were fleeing the war. This unique historical circumstance, coupled with her unrepeatable artistic qualities, also helped to sculpt Amália’s way of being on stage, making her, even before others recognized him, a very exquisite international artist.
But let’s go back to Paris, in April 1956, when Amália performed, at Olympia, to that cultured and sophisticated audience in Europe then, accustomed to the artistic superlative on stage, be it a recital by Piaf or Brel, a Sinatra concert, or even an opera with Callas, staged by Visconti, even if he had to catch a plane for that. On those nights, Amália introduced herself to a world that rose from the ashes of 1945, with all the hope that post-war prosperity allowed, but with refined taste, the “joie de vivre” and the innocence of a lost Belle Époque. In the fifties, which can be said to have been a small 18th century in the millennium that was the 20th century.
It was this audience that Amália’s art and courage touched so deeply. And I say courage because Amália showed herself to this audience, so strict and demanding, with a risky and authentic art, without orchestrations or choreography, without crutches. Just a guitar and a viola. Only the voice and the black. Black in dress, in hair, in look.
Always static – the fixed microphone still allowed it – he sang with closed eyes, punishing the shawl with his hands, which he so often transformed into a stole. And, despite the very high tones, it kept the harmonics and the grain of a low and secretive voice.
These sounds were new to this audience. Those of Fado and those of the Portuguese guitar, but above all the timbre of that voice that bears all human sensations.
The success was resounding. At the end of the first series of performances, she was immediately invited to the next show, an unprecedented feat at Olympia. Eight months later, in January, he returns as a “main star”. The critics speak of the Mediterranean tragedy made woman, speak of the strangeness of the voice and its inexplicable beauty.
We are in 1956, there are almost no Portuguese in France. Very few in the room understand the words he sings. Magic is purely musical and personal.
Amália will return to Olympia many nights until the end of her career, conquering other rooms in the French capital at the same time, but this level of a star will never rise to her head. From the sixties onwards, he will sing many times, even gracefully, for Portuguese emigrants who could not attend the rooms where he performed.
Perhaps that is why it is so moving to hear these same immigrants mixed in the Olympia audience in 1975. They were finally able to attend Amália’s recital in the same theatre where, almost twenty years earlier, their most illustrious countryman had subjugated the Parisians.
Jorge Luis Borges, in one of his conferences on Tango, quoting Vicente Rossi, said that “tango chooses Cidade Luz as if tango were a being, so platonic, magical, who lives on his own, settling in Paris, and there it becomes as if revenge of the black enslaved for centuries, enslaving the whites with his dance and his music.” In a way, Fado, and especially Amália, had achieved it in the French capital.
If it was in Paris that Charles Aznavour wrote “Aïe Mourir pour Toi“, or Salvatore Adamo surrendered to his interpretation of “Inch’Allah“, it was also in Paris that France gave him some of his most important distinctions. From the city medal in 1959 to the Legion of Honor in 1991.
Six years later, in 1997, a French television channel dedicated a documentary to him which he called “Un Soleil dans la nuit du siècle“. These records now reveal some reflections of that sun that shone in the City of Light, through many unpublished recordings, which are the surviving echoes of Amália’s brilliant, luxurious and enamoured history with Paris.