During her two-night residence at The Upper West Side’s Symphony Space, Bibi Ferreira took the stage with her “Four Times Bibi” show, which brings together four of her previous shows in which she paid tribute to Frank Sinatra, Argentinean tango legend Carlos Gardel, Portuguese fado singer Amalia Rodrigues and her larger than life interpretation of the music of Edith Piaf, which has become almost obligatory in her performances.
Backed by a 20-piece orchestra, Ferreira kicked off the performance with Raul Seixas’ “Eu Nasci Há Dez Mil Anos Atrás,” (“I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago”), which served as a self-mocking joke about her age – 94 – as of this writing with modified lyrics to reflect on her own career. Following an introduction by her manager Nilson Raman, she turned into the music of Rodrigues, masterfully recreating the cadence and feel of the Queen of Fado, who took the music of her nation well beyond its borders.
The concert’s centerpiece was the Sinatra section, which began with “Night and Day” with more of a show-tune arrangement suitable to her dramatic, theatrical voice. The only part that was a little bit off was the inclusion of a medley from the now-classic Bossa Nova album Francis Albert Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim (Reprise, 1967), the first collaboration between Sinatra and Tom Jobim. Ferreira’s delivery did not work well with bossa nova tunes like “Water to Drink” or “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” because she lacks the subtlety that these songs require.
The concert closed with the Piaf section – which most of the audience was clearly looking forward to judging from the applause she received when Raman announced it.
It was another memorable performance for Ferreira, who is still a force to be reckoned with – she has great energy on stage and her voice is in great shape. The orchestra – under the direction of her longtime conductor Flávio Mendes (who also played acoustic guitar) sounded incredibly tight.
We caught up with Bibi before the show, when she
talked about how the show came together and also about her linguistic ability and her legendary father, theater actor and director Procópio Ferreira.
The Brasilians: How was the concept of this show, “Four Times Bibi”?
Bibi Ferreira: It was my maestro, whose name is Flávio Mendes, who decided I should do this show in four different languages, rhythms and styles – it was basically his idea.
TB: And how was the material chosen?
BF: It was done in the following manner: during many months we studied many tunes with the maestro, the pianist, my manager and also an assistant. So everyone pitches in, “This one works, this other one doesn’t” until we can find a common denominator to make up the show.
TB: How about Sinatra – he is such a unique American singer with an incredible catalogue, how did you zero in on his songs?
BF: He has a great catalogue, and I believe he is one of the world’s greatest popular singers ever.
TB: But how was adapting the music to your voice?
BF: Oh, I have a very special voice (chuckles). And since very few women even approach his music, I decided to do so myself.
TB: What about Argentinean legend Carlos Gardel?
BF: Gardel is the same – he’s so symbolic of tango! I have been singing tango since I was a young girl. My family is from Argentina, Uruguay and Spain, so the music is embedded in my flesh and blood.
TB: Are you doing anything else on the show?
BF: No, the set list is about Amalia Rodrigues, Sinatra, Gardel and Piaf – I don’t think I could do much else because the show would last 400 hours.
TB: It would not be a bad idea – 400 Hours Bibi sounds like a great show… Maybe next time?
BF: Yes…. sure (laughs)
TB: I saw your interview on CNN Español and was amazed on how fluent you are in Spanish… You sound very comfortable in the language.
BF: That is very easy – don’t forget that my mom was born in Spain and educated in Buenos Aires, and my grandmother was Argentinean. At home, my mother forbid me from speaking Portuguese because she wanted me to have more than one language, and she refused to talk to me unless I addressed her in Spanish.
TB: And you also speak other languages…
BF: Yes, I speak French, German and also English, as you have heard (note: Ferreira initially spoke to me in English). French I studied in college, and German because my mother decided to have me tutored so I could understand German literature. The only language I lack is Italian, but next year I hope to take some time to learn Italian.
TB: You have incredible energy – how do you keep your voice so young?
BF: My energy comes from the fact that I lead a very simple life – I don’t drink alcohol or iced drinks, among other things. Alcohol is something I never really cared for, and as for iced drinks it’s something I got used to avoiding, because they freeze your vocal chords. My father used to tell me that – he was a great actor, and he used to tell me not to drink anything cold before a show because it would be bad for my voice.
TB: Speaking of your father – the great Procopio Ferreira – how did he influence you?
BF: It was everything – I was just going to school and being tutored until my father told my mom, “Aida, it’s time to bring Bibi to the stage – it will be a great thing.” And so it was – Procopio Ferreira introduces his daughter, and it was very successful.
TB: So whats next – are there any plans?
BF: The tour goes on in Brazil, and next year we have a new show doing Brazilian music – a show dedicated to women.