Brazil's Musical Grande Dame BIBI FERREIRA Returns to New York to Debut 4 x Bibi;
Performing September 20 and 23 at Symphony Space, Bibi's New Show Salutes Four of Her Singing Peers: Frank Sinatra, Édith Piaf, Carlos Gardel and Amália Rodrigues;
At Age 94, a Living Legend Whose Fans Include Maria Bethania and Liza Minnelli
Bibi Ferreira is Brazilian musical and theatrical royalty. As a singer, actress, and director, Ferreira-now 94-has influenced generations of Brazilian greats, including the country's fabled mythic diva, Maria Bethânia. "Everything that she does has helped Brazil with its identity," Bethânia told NPR's Weekend Edition.
Her first appearance on stage was in a play put on by the company of her godmother Abigail Maia. When a prop doll could not be found, and the curtain was about to go up, in panic someone suggested Procopio's baby daughter, who was in his dressing room. Bibi Ferreira, 24 days old, entered the stage in the arms of Abigail Maia, the leading actress after whom she was named.
Ferreira studied piano and violin, wrote music and also had an interest in design and painting. But then, in 1941, her father offered her a role in La Locandiera (The Mistress of the Inn) by Carlo Goldoni. She was 18, and never looked back.
Bibi Ferreira was in her father's company for two years before, at 21, organizing her own comedy company. From that point on, her passion for music and theater took her on a remarkable path that includes productions of My Fair Lady, in which she played Eliza Doolitle, and Man of La Mancha (she was the first director to stage such productions in Brazil), to revues, TV specials and orchestral shows. She starred and produced music shows such as Bibi conta e canta Piaf (Bibi Speaks and Sings Piaf) and worked with some of the best artists in Brazilian popular music, including Elizeth Cardoso, Clara Nunes, Maria Bethania and Baden Powell.
Ater 75 years on stage, Ferreira says in the days leading up to a concert, she doesn't talk so as to preserve her voice. Before stepping on stage, she downs a shot of expresso "with a a dollop of butter, for the throat," and, even after all these years, she worries to the point of trembling. "I'm afraid that my voice might waver, might not be as strong," she says. "Every performance is a challenge. Each song has its own difficulties and you have to overcome them."
But she also adds: "I love my profession. I dream about it. I go to bed thinking about what I've done and what I'm doing next. It's my job. But, you know what? Even if that was not the case, I would never stop. Stopping is something that never crossed my mind. I will never retire."
NPR Weekend Edition (2013) "Brazil's Leading Lady Still Shines"
Ferreira's career stretches back to her first film appearance in 1936; it includes the founding of an important theater company and starring roles in Brazilian productions of My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly!, and Man of La Mancha. Today this legendary grande dame remains in peak form, with a touring schedule that would exhaust an artist half her age.
Not until 2013 did New Yorkers experience her for the first time, in a 90th-birthday concert at Lincoln Center. Later that year she sang Édith Piaf in a sold-out concert at Town Hall. This fall, Ferreira will return to Manhattan on Tuesday September 20 and Friday September 23 at Symphony Space, presenting her latest show 4 x Bibi(Four Times Bibi), a salute to four of her peers and inspirations: Édith Piaf, Amália Rodrigues, Carlos Gardel, and Frank Sinatra.
Singing Sinatra in New York is "absurd," she playfully told a TV interviewer in Brazil recently. "Besides, he's a man, and I'm singing his repertoire." But then again, Frank Sinatra, who Ferreira considers "the greatest interpreter of all time," was the singer who could "turn a 32-bar song into a 3-act play," as a colleague once put it, and few can bring a lyric to the stage as Ferreira does. Liza Minnelli, who knows something about the subject, was in the audience at her U.S. debut at Lincoln Center, on April 14, 2013, and was moved to go up on stage to join Ferreira in a performance of "New York, New York."
Few singers have the musical and theatrical tools, and nerve, to re-interpret Amália Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado, before Portuguese audiences; to invoke the power and vulnerability of Édith Piaf, not only in Rio and Sao Paulo but in Paris, or take up the challenge of summoning the spirit of yet another male idol, the iconic Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel, in Buenos Aires. Her process, she explained, "is to listen without wanting to copy. What you want is to take in whatever is best for you."
The multilingual program of 4 x Bibi includes classics such as Sinatra's "That's Life," and "The Lady is a Tramp;" Rodrigues's "Fadinho Serrano" and "Povos Que Lavas no Rio;" Piaf's "Je Ne Regrette Rien" and "Hymne a l'Amour," and Gardel's "Cuesta Abajo." An engaging storyteller, the show also includes her witty and unvarnished commentary on life, love, age and showbiz. Ferreira will be performing with a 12-piece band conducted by her arranger and musical director Flavio Mendes.
Abigail Izquierdo Ferreira was born on June 1st, 1922 in Salvador, Bahia, in Brazil's Northeast. Her mother, Aida, was a dancer; her father Procopio, a stage actor, theater director and playwright. Her roots in show business are deep. From her mother's side, Ferreira descends from the Queirolo family, which for four generations was involved in the circus and included acrobats, clowns and comics. They were legendary both in Brazil and internationally.