Celeste Rodrigues

Singers - Last Updated Março 07, 2019
Celeste Rodrigues was born and lived in Fundão until she was five.

She recalls her childhood, similar to the one of so many other children except for the fact that she was a tomboy, although quite timid and shy. She moves to Alcântara, Lisbon, when she was 5. Some years later she decides to quit school and gets a job at a pastry factory.

The producer José Miguel encourages her to sing and she becomes a professional in 1945 and premieres at “Casablanca”. Later she joins a theatre company and leaves for Brazil – with her sister Amália Rodrigues – to play in the operetta "Rosa Cantadeira" and in "Boa Nova". After a year in Brazil, Celeste Rodrigues returns to Portugal and works at "Café Latino", "Marialvas", and "Urca" in Feira Popular, venues that would determine her destiny. Later she leaves "Luso" for "Adega Mesquita" where she works for 4 years until going to "Tipóia" and "Adega Machado". She travels to Brazil to sing in radio and TV shows, and has great success working at Tony de Matos’ restaurant "Fado".

During the 1950s Celeste Rodrigues was already a reference within the fado universe and had toured extensively worldwide: “Brazil, Spain, Belgium Congo, and English Africa, (…) Angola and Mozambique, and Portuguese islands.” according to an interview given to the newspaper “A Voz de Portugal” (1956).

At 30 years old she weds the actor Varela Silva and is hired to sing at "Márcia Condessa". In January 1959 she buys the fado house "A Viela", that soon becomes a meeting point for poets, intellectuals, and singers. Some time later she gives up this restaurant because "...in fact I was not a business woman...” - as she stated in an interview some years later. She begins performing at "Parreirinha de Alfama" where she stayed for over 10 years. João Ferreira-Rosa invites her to be part of the cast of "Taverna do Embuçado", also in Alfama. By then she had a successful career and had performed in several fado houses, and in domestic and international radio and TV broadcasts. Celeste Rodrigues, at the peak of her artistic career, was also invited to record for the BBC in London and toured some of the major world cities.

For family reasons she leaves for Washington, United States, where she lives with her daughters and grandchildren. But her relationship with fado still lingers and she takes every opportunity to sing at fado houses, interpreting live her repertoire, which includes gold or platinum greatest hits records that are now, after all these decades, classics of this way of singing. From her repertoire we point out "Lenda das Algas" by Laierte Neves, "Saudade vai-te embora" by Júlio de Sousa, and " Meu xaile", lyrics by Varela Silva.

Despite many comparisons to her sister Amália Rodrigues, Celeste Rodrigues possesses a unique authenticity that makes her stand out as a great fado singer. Talking about the friendship and close relationship she lived with her sister she stated: "I always felt despise for the artistic life and never granted it much importance. I sing for the love of fado itself and I have never promoted any kind of stardom. It is dangerous. The burden of fame stole my sister’s right to live her own life.

In 2005 Ricardo Pais, head of Teatro Nacional São João, dares her to join the show "Cabelo Branco é saudade" with three other major fado voices: Argentina Santos, Alcindo de Carvalho, and Ricardo Ribeiro. This show toured several domestic and international stages.

One of her career highlights was the release in the Netherlands - in 2007 - of the “Fado Celeste” album with both traditional and new fados with lyrics by contemporary authors.

In October 2007, the APAF held a celebration ceremony at the Auditório do Museu do Fado, in recognition of her “beautiful voice, interpreting skills, and long and consistent career.”

More recently, one of the highlights of her career is the edition of the album “Fado Celeste”, published in 2007 in the Netherlands, which brings together traditional and unpublished fados with lyrics by contemporary authors, such as Helder Moutinho and Tiago Torres da Silva. That same year, in October, a tribute to the fado singer took place in the auditorium of the Fado Museum, an initiative of the "Associação Portuguesa dos Amigos do Fado", in recognition of the “beautiful voice, interpretive capacity and the regularity of a career.” (statements by Julieta Estrela de Castro, APAF president to the Lusa agency).

In 2010, the documentary about her life, entitled "Fado Celeste", premiered by his grandson Diogo Varela Silva. In 2015 as a tribute to her 70 years of career, the Herat Beat section of the Doclisboa festival, opens with a reassembly of that same documentary, entitled only, "Celeste".

In 2012, she was awarded the Commandation of the Order of Infante D. Henrique by the President of the Republic.

Celeste Rodrigues passed away on August 1, 2018. On March 21, 2019, at the Cultural Center of Belém, several fado singers paid tribute to her in a concert entitled "Fado Celeste", directed by Diogo Varela Silva.

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