Last year, when the great fado singer Amalia Rodrigues died, the government of Portugal called for three days of mourning. At least that much was warranted, because no one alive can fill her shoes--with the sole possible exception of Misia. At its inception fado--Portuguese for fate--was a working-class invention much like Argentinean tango, Greek rembetika, and American blues. Its essential characteristic is saudade, a bittersweet longing, and most of the songs treat loss and desire as inescapable realities of existence. Classic fado features a Portuguese guitar and a Spanish guitar, which support the vocals with a dense lattice of crisscrossing lines. Over the decades the music has become institutionalized, and like the blues, stultifyingly conservative, and attempts have been made to update it--in recent years pomo fadistas have mixed it with everything from pop to chamber music. When she launched her career in the early 90s, Misia opted not to bring in incongruous elements, but she did avoid the form's tired standard repertoire, enlisting modern composers and poets--including recent Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago--to craft a new one, allowing her to sound contemporary and classic at once. On her most recent album, Paixoes diagonais, or "Diagonal Passions," she also adds frequent accordion accents and occasional subtle brass. "Ainda que" is fado with a whiff of chanson--a comparison to Edith Piaf wouldn't be entirely off base. And "Liberdades poeticas" actually addresses this slight break with tradition, opening with the lines "Forgive me, this fado is made with / Poetic licenses." This is Misia's Chicago debut. Monday, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Chico Arago.