Fado on a Grander Scale

Ana Moura - Coliseu
Ana Moura

Coliseu (World Village 468103, 2011)

The pure, aching intimacy of Portuguese fado music is a perfect fit for the small venues (called fado houses, naturally) where it is usually performed. But the growing international popularity of fado has meant that its bigger stars are obliged to demonstrate their artistry before crowds numbering in the hundreds or even thousands without sacrificing the music’s heart-melting depth.

No need to worry about Ana Moura, though. She’s sung with such arena-fillers as the Rolling Stones and Prince and not shown a trace of selling her fado mastery short. Along with Mariza, who brings a similar blend of tradition and progressive spirit to fado, Moura is devoted to the deepest roots of the form (which includes elements of centuries-old Portuguese balladry and the influence of both Moorish and Jewish music that left marks on the Iberian peninsula) while taking respectful liberties with arrangements and lyrical content.

Coliseu is Moura’s first live album, and although it was recorded nearly three years ago (when her popularity was already skyrocketing), it shows how fearlessly ready she was to take fado to the world. Accompanied by the customary all-acoustic lineup of Portuguese guitar, classical guitar and bass, Moura wastes no time in holding the audience at Lisbon’s Coliseu dos Recreios completely spellbound with her almost superhumanly rich voice taking us through a set of classical and contemporary fados. Slow, enveloping pieces mix with snappier ones, and the sweet melancholic feel that makes fado so addictive is never absent for so much as a second.

If you’re among the many who’ve been mesmerized by Moura’s studio recordings (of which 2009’s Leva-me aos fados is the best), Coliseu is an stunning sample of just how well she also delivers on stage.

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