Amália Rodrigues AmÃ¡lia Rodrigues, pron. IPA /É.'ma.li.É Êu.'dÉ¾i.É£É¨Ê/, (July 1920 - October 6, 1999) was a Portuguese singer and actress. Born in Lisbon, official documents have her date of birth as July 23, but AmÃ¡lia always said her birthday was July 1, 1920. She was born on Rua Martim Vaz (Martim Vaz Street), in Lisbon's Pena Freguesia.
She was known as the "Queen of Fado" and was most influential in introducing fado to the world outside of Portugal. She was unquestionably the most important figure in the genreâs development, by virtue of an innate interpretive talent carefully nurtured throughout a 40-year recording and stage career. AmÃ¡liaâs performances and choice of repertoire pushed Fadoâs boundaries and helped redefine it and reconfigure it for her and subsequent generations. In effect, AmÃ¡lia wrote the rulebook on what Fado could be and on how a female singer - or Fadista - should perform it, to the extent that she remains an unsurpassable model and an unending source of repertoire for all those who came afterwards. AmÃ¡lia also remains the sole truly international star to have ever come out of Portugal, with an extensive international career between the 1950s and the 1970s, although in an era where such efforts were not as easily quantified as today. Other well-known international artists such as Madredeus, Dulce Pontes or Mariza have come close, however.
After a few years of amateur performances, AmÃ¡liaâs first professional engagement in a fado venue took place in 1939, and she quickly become a regular guest star in stage revues. There she met Frederico ValÃ©rio, a classically-trained composer who, recognising the potential in such a voice, wrote expansive melodies custom-designed for AmÃ¡liaâs voice, breaking the rules of Fado by adding orchestral accompaniment.
Her Portuguese popularity began to extend abroad with trips to Spain and a lengthy stay in Brazil where she made, in 1945, her first recordings on Brazilian label Continental. Paris followed, in 1949. In 1950, while performing at the Marshall Plan international benefit shows, she introduces "April in Portugal" to international audiences (under its original title "Coimbra").
In the early fifties, the patronage of acclaimed Portuguese poet David MourÃ£o-Ferreira marked the beginning of a new phase: AmÃ¡lia sang many of the country's greatest poets, and some wrote lyrics specifically for her.
In 1954 her international career skyrocketed through her presence in Henri Verneuilâs film The Lovers of Lisbon, where she has a supporting role and performed on-screen. By the late fifties the USA, England and France had become her major international markets (Japan and Italy followed suit in the 1970s); in France especially her popularity rivalled her Portuguese success, and she graduated to headliner at the prestigious Olympia theatre within a matter of months. Over the years she performed nearly all over the world - going so far as Russia and Israel.
At the end of the fifties AmÃ¡lia took a year off. She returned in 1962 with a richer voice, concentrating on recording and performing live at a slower pace. Her comeback album, 1962' "AmÃ¡lia Rodrigues", was her first collaboration with French composer Alain Oulman, her main songwriter and musical producer throughout the decade. As Frederico ValÃ©rio before him, Oulman writes for her melodies that transcend the conventions of Fado.
Not that AmÃ¡lia shied away from controversy: her performance in Carlos VilardebÃ³âs 1964 arthouse film "The Enchanted Islands" was better received than the film, based on a short story by Herman Melville, and her 1965 recording of poems by 16th century poet LuÃs de CamÃµes generated acres of newspaper polemics. Yet her popularity remained untouched. Her 1968 single "Vou Dar de Beber Ã Dor" broke all sales records and her 1970 album "Com que Voz", considered by many her definitive recording, won a number of international awards.
During the 1970s AmÃ¡lia concentrated on live work and embarked upon a heavy schedule of worldwide concert performances. Her return to the recording studio in 1977 with "Cantigas numa LÃngua Antiga" was received as a triumph. The 1980s and 1990s brought her enthronement as a living legend. Her last all-new studio recording, "LÃ¡grima", was released in 1983, followed by a series of lost or unreleased recordings and the smash success of two greatest hits records that sold over 200,000 albums combined.
Despite a series of illnesses involving her voice, AmÃ¡lia continued recording as late as 1990. But eventually she retreated from public performance, while her career gained in stature with an official biography by historian and journalist VÃtor PavÃ£o dos Santos and a five-hour TV series documenting her fifty-year career featuring rare archive footage (later distilled into the 90-minute film documentary "The Art of AmÃ¡lia"). Its director, Bruno de Almeida has also directed "AmÃ¡lia, Live in New York City" (a concert film of her 1990 performance at New York's Town Hall).
On October 6, 1999, AmÃ¡lia Rodrigues died at the age of 79 in her home in Lisbon. Her house (in Rua de SÃ£o Bento) is now a museum.