Produced by the Firehall Arts Centre and Victoria’s Puente Theatre, Fado: The Saddest Music in the World is running now through Sunday, Feb. 5.
Acclaimed Portuguese-Canadian playwright Elaine Ávila’s play is a tale of love and ghosts set in the back alleys and cafés of old Lisbon. The musical, which premiered at the Firehall in 2019 and enjoyed a wildly successful run, tells the story of a young woman confronting her country’s fascist past and how her own identity is interwoven with the heartbreaking national music of Portugal known as fado, or “fate.”
The origins of fado are deeply rooted in Portugal’s past and thought to go back to the early 1800s. In the 1950s, a new movement began when the singers of the city of Coimbra began to adapt ballads by adding lyrics from great poets to show resistance to the António de Oliveira Salazar dictatorship.
Salazar believed materialism and democracy was what was creating Portugal’s problems and that dictatorship was the only way to lead the country. Until that time, fado had been seen by the government as a way to help keep the regime in place with its lyrics about fate, resignation and loss, feelings loosely reflected in the Portuguese word saudade.
In the play, a character named Antonio asks Rosita, his childhood friend, to consider the evolution of fado. She has returned from Canada to introduce her daughter to its heart and to where she grew up, only to discover that many things have changed.
“Fado is a triumph. Its raw emotion echoes long after the final notes are sung,” says Showbill Canada.
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