|Biographies Fado Singers|
|Biographies Fado Singers|
Born in Serra da Estrela, into a family of 12 siblings, Antonio Menano was without a doubt the most famous and popular singer of the fados of Coimbra.
Just as Hylário, the fabulous bohemian singer and also his predecessor, Antonio Menano soon became an idol of the Academy, enriching the spirits of the students of Coimbra and the Coimbrian legend with fados and concerts, art and romanticism, dreams and illusions. Antonio Menano is so closely connected to the fado of Coimbra that they can not be dissociated from each other; to speak of Antonio Menano is to speak of the fado of Coimbra and the golden decade. According to John Seabra (No. 56 JAN / FEB, 1944, the Tourism Magazine), the memory and longing of Hylário were fading with time but sound of the guitars and singers continued to be heard in the Mondego. One day all of the rouxinóis went quiet to hear the one that was harmoniously standing out from the rest, a student, Antonio Menano. The memory of his name brings to mind the madness that came over Coimbra and then Lisbon and then all of the country when they heard this tenor sing.
It is said that thousands of people went to Coimbra just to listen to him. In Lisbon, when he sang at the festivals, and even in large venues, such as the Coliseum and the Zoo, tickets sold out and people became excited and nervous just waiting to hear him sing. He received many ovations, which was not very common, even with the largest lyrical celebrities.
DR. Joao Falcato goes even further and says that these ovations were never made to the biggest lyrical celebrities (In Coimbra dos Doctors, 1957, pág.169).
The Menano brothers (Francis, Horacio, Alberto and Antonio) constituted the most famous and productive group of fine artists to go through Coimbra. Preceded at the end of the previous century by two other Menanos, José Paulo Menano and Paulo da Costa Menano (both studied law, in 1901 and 1903, respectively) which were known for their artistic activities.
Registered at the University, Antonio Menano sees his own star in March 1915, when he sings fado in Aveiro, in an evening organized by the Academic Association of Coimbra, with the participation of the “Tuna” (University Choir) and the Orfeon. It is during the academic year of 1914-15 that the reorganization of the Academic Orfeon us undertaken, now under the regency of Dr. Elias Antonio de Aguiar. It is also during this time that Menano becomes soloist and trainer of the 1st tenor group, he also becomes the lead singer of fados and songs during shows and other activities.
Perhaps it is important to open a small parenthesis here to mention that his brother Francisco, was an excellent guitarist and composer, even before completing the course of law in 1912. He was also the trainer of the group of 2nd tenors of the Orfeon, when Anthony Joyce was directing it, and that one of the guitarists who usually accompanied Antonio Menano was, Paulo de Sa, Alberto Menano, his brother. Another guitarist who sometimes accompanied him was his other brother Horacio. In the 20s, Artur Paredes was also one of its guitarists. At the end of that school year, on June 10, 1915, there was a dinner in honour of Camões promoted by the students of Liceu Jose Falcao, in Coimbra. António Menano was invited to participate and, instead of singing the usual fados, he sang an excerpt from "The Lusiadas" that was made into music by Dr. Elias de Aguiar.
It was also in 1915 that the first edition of a musical with fados was written by Antonio Menano. "The three most beautiful fados of Coimbra," published by Livraria Neves, “a Rua Larga”, including the fado "D'um Olhar" (“As Meninas dos Meus Olhos"), by Alexandre de Resende, dedicated "to António Menano". The author of the other fados was Antonio Menano. "Fado da Morenas"("Todos Gostam das Morenas"), dedicated "to Estevao Neto" with one popular verse and three others by Fernando Correia, and the "Fado da Noite"("Ha quem diga que quem chora"), dedicated "to J. Gamboa”, with five verses by Alfredo Fernandes Martins.
In the 1915-1916 school year, in February, the Academic Orfeon went on tour to Porto, Braga and Vila do Conde, Antonio Menano is named a first star of greatness in the artistic coimbrão community, accompanied on guitar by Paulo de Sa and Alberto Menano.
The years of 1917, 1918 and 1919 were a relatively warm period in terms of "Fados and Guitars," perhaps contributing to this was an article by Manuel da Silva Gaio, which was Secretary of the University at the time, published in the “Ilustracao Portuguesa” of April 29, 1918. This article asked the students not to sing the "poisonous mushroom of fado, which originated from the urban “viela" and, instead, sing the popular songs of the Orfeon.
Interestingly, this period coincided, to some extent, with the fact that Antonio Menano had begun to sing songs accompanied by piano, instead of the traditional fados, which were widely known because of the 78 RPM records, editions of printed music, and rolls of music for automatic pianos, giving posterity and to his name and registering his voice.
In 1918 Antonio Menano integrates the Directorate of the Academic Orfeon and the Fogueiras of S. Joao. Again this year he sang popular Portuguese songs, with great pleasure and satisfaction from those present, but not fados.
In December 1919, the Academic Association of Coimbra promoted a musical performance at the Avenida Theatre, organized by Antonio Menano, in which he also participates and whose program does not contain any fado or guitars. The performance that was promoted by the Orfeon and “Tuna” at the Sousa Theatre also had no fados or guitars.
At the end of 1919 the first ban appears, prohibiting serenades: The local press reacts against this measure by police and the ban itself, instead of ending the fados and guitars, it apparently caused its popularity to rise again.
Meanwhile, a collection of musical editions of the "Orfeon repertoire of the University" came to light. They were composed of fados by António Menano (“Patriotico”, "Da Granja," "Das Romarias", "Do Choupal", "Dos Passarinhos" and "Morena "), which achieved huge success, with almost all of them reaching their 4th edition before 1923, fados which were also recorded in rolls for the automatic pianos.
In April 1923, Antonio Menano, already married but not yet graduated from University, took part in the tour of the Orfeon and “Tuna” to Spain, performing in Salamanca, Madrid and Valladolid. At the Monumental Placa de Madrid, in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain and with the square completely full, Antonio Menano was a hit. He was asked to repeat the fados several times, including at the request of the King, and noted that despite having any sound amplification available, his voice filled the square, his famous "pianissimos" could be heard perfectly, such was the silence. Accompanying him, as always, were Paulo de Sa and Alberto Menano.
In June 1924, the Academic Orfeon goes to Paris, where he performs in Trocadero, and after in Toulouse, Bordeaux and Bayonne. Antonio Menano takes part in the tour, singing fados with Augustine Fontes, accompanied on guitar by Manuel Paredes, another great guitarist of the time, uncle of the famous Artus Paredes.
When he concluded his degree in medicine, Antonio Menano exercised clinically in Fornos de Algodres, his homeland and where his parents, António da Coista Menano and D. Januária Paul Menano, resided. Although he had already graduated, he still remained very connected to the academic and artistic life of Coimbra, where certain student traditions are revitalized.
Antonio Menano would become the most widely known singer from Coimbra and the most famous throughout the country because of the recordings he made between the years of 1927 and 1929, in Paris, Lisbon and Berlin, for the Odeon Company in Paris. Of all of the singers of the so-called golden decade of the Academy of Coimbra, António Menano recorded the most records and achieved the most success.
Those sets of records had different colour labels, lilac, dark blue, and gold (some discs, very few, have red labels), having been produced many tens of thousands of records that were sold even after World War II. In Brazil, on the basis of these same mechanical recordings, the Trans - Oceanic Trading Company made for the Edison House of Rio de Janeiro, the majority of recordings, those records that had been labelled with an Odeon label of a dark blue colour and which had very good sale.
It is a shame that his amazing talent can not be heard through records, in addition to the mechanical recordings, the music of the guitar and viola is, in general, quite modest.
In 1929, during the famous Ibero-American Exposition in Seville, Dr.António Menano, despite having already graduated a few years earlier, was chosen for the "artistic embassy" sent by the Academy of Coimbra to perform at a festival offered to the Kings of Spain at the inauguration of the Pavilion of Portugal. The group consisted of three more elements: Artur Paredes, soloist and back up, Afonso de Sousa, 2nd guitar, and Guilherme Barbosa, viola.
Years later, in 1933, he voluntarily abandoned his meteoric and impressive artistic career, which was the promising of the golden decade (1920-1930), Dr. Antonio Menano left for Mozambique where he works in a clinic for nearly thirty years, he would return, permanently, in 1961. His last residence was at Rua Jose Falcon, No. 57, 5th Floor left, in Lisbon, where he would die.
Among the performances by Antonio Menano after his departure to Mozambique we are able to highlight the following, since he always held on to his “coimbrão” past:
- In October 1956, in Lisbon, at the Higher Institute of Agronomy, in Tapada da Ajuda, in the famous recital he performed in that was a resounding success. The show was scheduled to start at midnight, it began at 2:00 in the morning and only finished at the early hours of morning and without anyone moving a foot. The Diario de Noticias newspaper dating October 23, 1956 stated the following: "Until early hours of the morning, with a sky where the moon and the stars seemed to stand still and surround the Earth, the songs of Menano made Coimbra of four decades ago, rise again." They finish by saying:" With no electric light or microphones the voice of Menano, joined the violas and guitars, he gave Lisbon an unforgettable night. An unexpected and truly sensational show... "
From time to time he would appear in Coimbra and he would always end up singing. He would sing anywhere; one night he sang on the steps of the Santa Cruz church, "Feita de Pedra Morena", to a crowd that because of its enthusiasm and admiration, grew so large it stopped traffic.
In 1967, two years before his death he made two brilliant performances that were greatly reported and that stayed in the memories of all. The first in Coimbra, in the early hours of June 24, from the top of the stairs of the Old Cathedral, at the reunion of the Judiciary Course of 1907-1912, which Dr. Francisco Menano, his brother, was a part of. The monumental serenade was held with the performance of three “new generation” singers; Jose Manuel dos Santos, António Bernardino and Luiz Góes. Antonio Menano, who sang 4 fados, caused the greatest admiration for the wonderful way he sang.
His last public performance took place on December 16 at the opening of the Rodin gallery in Lisbon, by Painter Mario Silva, many former students of Coimbra attended, including Luiz Góes, Jorge Tuna, Joao Bagão, Aurelio Reis, Tossan Nemésio and Vitorino. Antonio Menano sang two of his best pieces, "Fado dos Passarinhos" and "Fado de Ansiedade."
Antonio Menano died on September 11, 1969 but he lingers in our memory, and the longing of his voice can be somewhat mitigated by listening to the music that left us.