Portuguese singer Dulce Pontes (pronounced "doolz pontch") got her start fronting a rock band at 16, and by her early 20s she was a poofy-haired singer chasing pop stardom. She placed eighth in the 1991 Eurovision song contest and followed that modest success with a solo debut, Lusitana (1992), that was brimming with enough treacle and bombast to shame Celine Dion. Luckily, she then started using her spectacular voice--crystalline, agile, powerful, and pitch-perfect--to sing fado, the emotionally rich music of her homeland. She'd never tackled it in its purest form, with backing from nothing but guitars, but on O Primeiro Canto (MCA, 2001) she finally dispensed with the glossy synths in favor of elegant, chamber-tinged arrangements. She traveled throughout Portugal collecting traditional melodies for the album, and cellist and Caetano Veloso collaborator Jacques Morelenbaum helped with the arrangements; Angolan singer Waldemar Bastos performs a lovely duet with Pontes, and "Modinha das Sais" features vocals from fellow Portuguese singer Maria Joao and Italian opera singer Gemma Bertagnolli. Basque musician Kepa Junkera, Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter also play on the record. Pontes can still overdo it--the music on Focus (Universal International), a collaboration with Ennio Morricone released last year, is stiff and overwrought. But in leaner settings it's easy to be wowed by her voice, and for her Chicago debut she'll be backed by just a cellist and three acoustic guitarists--a promising setting in which to push and pull fado's boundaries. Tue 11/8, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.