By Lorraine Ryan, Burlington Writers Workshop
A review of fado singer Ana Moura, who performed on the MainStage Saturday, April 29.
A little over a week ago I had never heard of the Portuguese music called fado or Ana Moura, one of the most popular and highly acclaimed singers of this genre. So I read about the music and the woman while listening to Moura on internet radio and soon felt I possessed a pretty good handle on both.
I was wrong.
Ana Moura is a presence and thus should be seen and listened to on stage. There just is no substitution. Moura glided on stage wearing a black gown that shimmered and hugged and she looked every bit the star that she is. Her voice—voluminous, sensual and mournful—permeated the theater to grab and tug at our souls. She sang looking down, her hair cascading to cover half her face, and her body in profile to the audience, almost as if her words were too heavy, too sorrowful to be shared openly. Her body had its own language, hips swaying, arms that reached out and occasionally a stamp of her foot as if to accentuate her words.
Ana changed the tone a few songs into her set when she faced the theater and smiled. “Good evening, Burlington!” she said amidst cheers and broke into an upbeat number that begged us to dance or clap along.
Like many contemporary fado singers, Moura often sings outside the box, daring to incorporate newer sounds. Many of the songs sung tonight were from her last album, which was produced by Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock) who assisted her in diversifying her music. Her accompanying band was extraordinary with the traditional acoustic fado trio, keyboard and drums. For some of the traditional and mournful songs she used just one guitarist, usually the Portuguese guitar player. When Ana left the stage briefly we were fantastically entertained by the band, each member giving us a solo performance.
Moura returned in the second half of the concert shimmering in white this time and continued to mesmerize. One of her last numbers was the haunting Lilac Wine, most famously sung by Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley.
“Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love. Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love,” she sang sweetly but so sadly. Ana dedicated the song to her friend and ardent fan, the late Prince. She pointed to the lilac branch on the screen behind her and told us she’d photographed this very close to his home. “This loss that we’ve all shared,” she said. “It’s been very, very hard these last days.”
“I made wine from the lilac tree. Put my heart in its recipe,” she’d sung.
Ana Moura’s heart and indeed, her soul are entwined in every note and the listener walks away touched and unsteady.