It became crystal clear to Cuba during the Human Voices Festival why Fado was reborn with Dulce Pontes at the end of the 20th century.
As part of an event that brought together some of the world’s most exquisite voices, the Portuguese artist sang and danced to her heart’s delight in Havana’s Teatro Mella to an audience that in addition to their accompaniment, vibrated in unison with her.
Artists as diverse as Take 6, the vocal group with the most awards in North America’s history and Germany’s Andres Scholl; today‘s most impressive contra-tenor, participated in the event organized by Cuban guitarist, composer and orchestra conductor, Leo Brouwer.
Amongst the other spectacular vocalists who shared their talents with the Caribbean island were Spanish flamenco singer Mayte Martin, the singer, guitarist, percussionist and composer Badi Assad and contra-tenor Rodrigo Ferreira; both from Brazil.
Renowned Cuban participants included the Exaudi Chamber Choir, the Sine Nomine Camerata, Rochy Ameneiro, Diana Fuentes, Miriam Ramos, Ernán López-Nussa and Yasek Manzano.
The Festival, which inspired fringe photo and visual art exhibitions, and theatrical, cinema and circus performances, was brought to a close by the 69th in a series of Silvio Rodriguez’s concerts in his tour of Cuban neighborhoods.
One of the most memorable of the parallel performances was the concert by pianists Lang Lang of China and Cuba’s own Chucho Valdés, who essentially played with virtuosity in a show on October 9 in which they were supported by the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the U.S maestro, Marin Alsop.
The America’s president of Steinway and Sons, the world’s most prestigious piano makers, traveled to Cuba with the sole purpose of attending the concert, and afterwards gave the instrument used by Lang – described by the New York Times as the best classical artist on earth – to the Cuban Institute of Music as a gift.
A perfect moment of technical, environmental, artistic and energetic equilibrium was experienced during the concert by Dulce Pontes, the undisputed queen of Fado; the best internationally known expression of Portuguese music.
With dramatic yet sweet tones, Pontes exposed many of the qualities that led to the revival of Fado at the end of the last century. The mood of her Havana performance was, however, far from the typical melancholy of the genre and indeed from her own recordings.
This was the dance- inspired, barefooted and animated version.
The audience loved her dancing and her angelic and regal nightingale-like, charismatic and majestic voice; able to go wherever she felt inclined.
Shouts of bravo reigned relentlessly from her first song, Ondeia, to her attempts to close her performance with Cancao do Mar, one of the all time hits in Portuguese music.
Her performances of La Boheme by Frenchman Charles Aznavour and especially of Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo were moving. With a version of “Alfonsina y el mar”; a hit in the entire Spanish-speaking world, she also paid tribute in her native Portuguese to Mercedes Sosa of Argentina.
The Pontes concert combined grace, theater, joy, dance and poetry with excellent contributions from musicians such as Daniel Casares on guitar, David Zaccaria on cello, Fernando Silva on Portuguese guitar and Juan Carlos Cambas on piano.
Prior to giving the instrument to her colleague, Pontes herself also played piano magnificently during her first numbers and with the help of her special guest, Cuban percussionist Ruy López-Nussa, she breathed new life into traditional airs.
The “one man band” performance during the show by Portuguese, Amadeus Magalhaes, who played mandolin and cavaquinho, various flutes and bagpipes, warrants a special mention.
In his introduction, Brouwer promised an unforgettable show. Pontes’ voice and overall image most certainly were unforgettable and as sweet as her given name, ‘Dulce’ suggests.
This and other Human Festival Voices concerts presented unique opportunities to experience art of the highest level and highlighted once again that Cuba is a place where the most prominent artists like to perform.Share on FB Share on TT