Saturday, May 12, 2007

Music Review | Dulce Pontes

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos. Dulce Pontes performing with Filipe Lucas, left, on Portuguese guitar, and Paulo Feiteira, on acoustic guitar.

New York Times
May 12, 2007
Music Review | Dulce Pontes
A New Style for Portugal’s Old Fado, but the Songs Are Still Full of Emotion

When Dulce Pontes started a song with the words “meu amor” (“my love”) at Carnegie Hall on Thursday night, she flooded them with emotion: longing, seductiveness, bravado, desperation, strength. It was quintessential Portuguese fado singing, with long-breathed swoops and tempestuous dynamic surges, simultaneously abandoned and refined.

Ms. Pontes has an extraordinary voice: tangy and sympathetic, delicate and searing, extending upward to an airborne soprano. She has become one of Portugal’s biggest pop stars by carrying fado style into new contexts and collaborations; she has sung with Andrea Bocelli, Brazilian rockers, a flamenco guitarist and the film composer Ennio Morricone. But she stays rooted in tradition, and she periodically reaffirms her connections to it.

Her Carnegie Hall concert — reflecting her most recent album, “O Coração Tem Três Portas” (“The Heart Has Three Doors”) (Universal) — used the understated accompaniment of guitars, cello and piano, and it set aside most of her pop hits to look back into Portuguese music. Fado, particularly in the style of Portugal’s most influential singer, Amália Rodrigues, frames its volatile singing, with Gypsy and Arabic underpinnings, within elegant Baroque-tinged accompaniments.

Over the meticulous fingerpicking of acoustic guitar and the round, higher-pitched Portuguese guitar, Ms. Pontes suffused slow fados, “Ovelha Negra” (“Black Sheep”) and “Não É Descgraça Ser Pobre)” (“It’s No Disaster to Be Poor”), with the classic tone of foreboding and tragedy. And she wryly celebrated drinking in the bouncy fado “Velha Tendinha” (“Old Bar”).

She also touched on folk styles. “Resineiro” had the audience clapping along to a foursquare rhythm from the Beira Alta region of Portugal. For a medley entitled “Folclore,” Ms. Pontes hitched up her gathered skirt and tied it around her waist with a scarf to reveal bare feet and jinglebells around her ankles.

Her guitarist Amadeu Magalhães switched to gaita-de-foles, a Portuguese bagpipe, to play an almost Celtic-sounding melody. Ms. Pontes became both singer and dancer, stamping her feet for rhythm (something like an English morris dancer), miming farm work and opening up her voice to sound sharper, rawer and more rural. It was concertized folk music, complete with cello, but it had spirit.

Ms. Pontes plays arena shows in Europe, and she looked surprised at how subdued the Carnegie Hall audience was when she cued it for a singalong, then laughed it off. And even as she sang about heartbreak and affliction, she conveyed joy in a Portuguese heritage that stays distinctive.

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