Bidu Sayao, 120 years old: she is fascinated by opera and fascinated by samba

In the summer, boat trips along the coast of Camden, Maine, in the far northeast of the United States, attract so many tourists that the population of just five thousand people doubles. But in September 1994, carnival artist Milton Cunha did not go there on a tourist trip. In fact, as he recalls, the blizzard made walking very difficult. The ice reached the chest. The mission was not easy. But not because of the snow.

In charge of the carnival of the Beija-Flor de Nilópollis samba school, he went to try to convince the next year’s muse to stage a parade at the Sambadrome in a plot in her honor. Brazilian opera singer Bidu Sayao, 92, opened the door with a smile. “Yes!!” The answer will warm their hearts then, and also when February arrives.

Lifting the veil of memory, the opera singer said that the samba parade would be a great tribute to her life in Brazil. The surprise came not from the stage, but from the Marquis de Sapukai. Bidu Sayao (nickname Balduin de Oliveira Sayao), this erudite reveler, was born on May 11, 1902 (120 years ago) and died in March 1999. She has spent most of her career in the United States, constantly visiting the Metropolitan Theater in New York and performing throughout Europe. The paths in search of outer space caused her to be criticized in Brazil as an unpatriotic artist.

“When I invited her to the carnival, she said that it would be a swan song. So it is from her expression that I create the Beija-Flor swans, which are a huge success. She paraded in a black swan and said it was the greatest tribute to the country.” Finally, she felt the real applause of the “people” in the carioque and the Brazilian heat. She asked to walk in the costume of Carmen Miranda. “She finally got the idea that she is loved, dear, she is applauded by the people,” said the carnival artist in an interview with the publication Brazilian agency.

“On this stage, she appears, Bidu Sayao.
Shaking the podium, how many emotions
And my Baya Flor, come and applaud
Girls and Guarani»
(Chorus of Bidú Sayão and Canto de Cristal, Beija-Flor)

The carnival performer recalls having a lot of fun and was surprised by the invitation and the resonance. “During my studies, I heard about Bidu Sayao all my life. The international press called her the “Brazilian Nightingale”. Few in the samba school knew about this because, according to the carnival artist (who has a post-doctoral degree in art history), opera circulates in places restricted to intellectuals. “But she had a taste for being sung in the square.”


Researcher Denis Allan Danniel, the singer’s biographer, understands that this performance at the samba school was really significant for her. author Bidu: passion and determination (2019, 222 pages) says that she had fun, cried and thanked for the opportunity to return to Brazil. Anyone who has closely followed the steps of the long-lived singer and the people who lived with her for four years understands that her unique trajectory made her live her profession intensively. Bido had no children. The biographer’s interest in the history of the singer arose unexpectedly.

singer Bidu Sayao.

Singer Bidu Sayao talks to Villa-Lobos. – Collection of the Villa-Lobos/Ibram Museum

Admiring the songs of the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling on the radio, the biographer confirmed that he sang accompanied by a woman. On examination, he discovered that she was Brazilian. “I was so dazzled and moved that I started to follow what she was doing.”

One of the main points in her biography is that the world was hers, but Bidou insisted on spreading a sense of Brazilianness. “She was closely connected with Brazil in the US and Europe. The singer advertised the country where she was going. She was very proud to be Brazilian.” However, unlike today, the news came after some time.

“Small voice”

singer Bidu Sayao.

Singer Bidu Sayao dedicated to Ville-Lobos, “the genius of music and the glory of our land” – Collection of the Villa-Lobos/Ibram Museum

As writer Denis Daniel relates, the Brazilian singer’s “little voice” was a resounding success wherever she went. Foreign critics bowed before the talent. In Brazil, major composers such as Heitor Villa Lobos recognized her as a very different singer.

“Most of all, her trajectory surprised me. Her persistence in achieving worldwide success. And so it happened: she became the first lady of the opera, ”estimates the biographer.

He believes that the singer had a sharp musical mind and was extremely sentimental and sensitive. “He had an unusual talent for learning and using musical techniques known to him. To compensate for her small voice, she was first an actress and then a singer.”

“The most important”

For researcher Marcos Menescal of the artistic directorate of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, Bidu was the most important Brazilian singer in history. “You could say that she was the most important singer in Brazil thanks to her career, a career that no other national singer had.” He also emphasizes that the gentle voice, like a nightingale, marked the artist’s career.

Lyricist Neti Szpilman, who is also a soprano (higher voice) and had a career as a classical soloist at Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Theater, agrees that Bidu Sayao left an immeasurable legacy, even if it’s an art that few people master. to have access to. . I dreamed of getting close to that singer, which happened not in the theater, but at the sambadrome in 1995.

Neti watched with deep admiration the parade of Bidu Sayao, a singer who, along with the North American Maria Callas, is her main source of inspiration in art. “She was very focused on the barn along with all of us. She talked to us, but she was very attentive, very much looking forward to the presentation. It impressed me a lot.” She recalls that Heitor Villa-Lobos dedicated this work to Bidou. Brazilian Bahian No. 5,

The singer considers the criticism against her for living abroad unfounded. For a singer, Bidou should have received more praise for everything she has achieved. “She had a ‘small voice’ and a powerful voice that was rare at the time.”

Moreover, as the artist understands, lyrical singing makes demands similar to an “athlete”, with the utmost preparation of the body and voice. Bidou, according to Neti, was meticulous and methodical, reaching all the walls of the theater and invading venues. “It’s very exhausting for those who sing.”

Neti is currently preparing for a chamber concert about the musician Kartol on the 13th (in honor of the abolition of slavery) at the Municipal Theatre. “In parallel, I remember that Cartola also felt abandoned and discredited. At the age of 54, he returned to music. Our artists need to be recognized.”

Every time she goes on stage, the singer says that she wants to show that an erudite person does not need to be far away. It can be on the side, echoing through corridors and walls. “It’s hard to explain what a quiet voice is,” says researcher Marcos Menescal. No need to explain. Bidoux remains a giant for researchers, artists and the public.

Check out Bidu Sayao’s exclusive interview for Radio IEC uh 1987

Portrait of the lyric translator Bidu Sayao with the dedication of Radio Mek

Portrait of the lyric translator Bidu Sayao with the dedication of Radio Mek – Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil

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