Jessica Salgueiro and Danie Friesen star in "In Adagio" in the 2012 Winnipeg Fringe (David Liota)
For me, fado music is about complete surrender to one's destiny.
—Jessica Salgueiro, writer and singer
In Adagio is a haunting and lyrical piece playing at this year's Fringe Festival at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. CBC reviewer Christopher Read gave it the full five stars.
The show features two Manitoba-born performers, Jessica Salgueiro, who also wrote the play, and Danie Friesen, originally of Steinbach, MB, both part of arts and lies productions based in Toronto.
Salgueiro plays the role of a young Portuguese fado singer and Friesen sings the role of Ria Krauss, an aging opera singer about to make her come-back performance. The play is set against the background of the Algerian War. The two singers are meant to perform at a famed concert hall in Paris, but violence breaks out on the street, leaving the two sparring singers trapped together inside.
SCENE wanted to find out more about what attracted Jessica Salgueiro to these two contrasting forms of music:
What is that you love about Opera?
I absolutely adore how opera has no fear of being too bold or too passionate. I respect its unabashed celebrations of joy and surrendering bouts of grief. I admire art that is like a violent, smitten lover - it shakes you, slaps you, grabs you and gropes you in the middle of the stage. Opera is like a tempestuous suitor that everyone tells you to stay away from but you can't help but be beckoned by his fervent cry.
What is the appeal of the Portuguese fado?
Fado literally means "fate" in Portuguese. I have been connecting with my Portuguese roots the past few years and it has truly been through fado music that I have discovered my ethnic, national, cultural identity. I don't feel however that someone needs to be Portuguese, or speak Portuguese to understand the power this music wields. For me, fado music is about complete surrender to one's destiny. There are some fado songs that at the beginning describe a crippling heartbreak, and by the end of the song the heart is actually healed by the pain, now more powerful than ever. It is absolutely gorgeous.
What do they have in common?
I believe both styles demand a tremendous amount from the performers. You cannot be precious about the music in either genre. If you hold it too close to you, it will never reach your audience. Watching and listening to the fado or to an aria asks for a huge commitment. Neither is for the light-hearted, half-attentive spectator.
Who gets the better wardrobe? Fado singer or opera singer?
Definitely the opera singer! They have the luxury of dressing to relay a variety of characters. Also the elegance and decorum associated with opera demands a level of fashion and extravagance.
Fado is traditionally meant to be sung all in black and with a shawl draped around the singer's shoulders. This is due to the conventions of the time and the traditions of the country. Women were expected to present themselves modestly, although Fadistas did add embellishments, including gorgeous gold chains and earrings along with beautiful flower blossoms hidden in their hair.
Why did you want your play set behind the backdrop of the Algerian War?
I knew I wanted to set the play in the 1960's which was when a very famous Fado singer, Amalia Rodrigues, experienced a lot of commercial success internationally. Reading up about the politics during this time and specifically in France, I immediately discovered how the events of the Algerian War of Independence echoed the events of the war in Angola which were simultaneously affecting the Portuguese.