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Biography

Francisca Edwiges Neves Gonzaga (October 17, 1847 Rio de Janeiro - February 28, 1935 Rio de Janeiro) was a Brazilian composer, pianist and conductor.

Chiquinha Gonzaga was born in Rio de Janeiro, from a mulatto mother and a wealthy white father– after she was born her father became Marshal. She fought for the end of slavery in Brazil.

Gonzaga received an education that would ordinarily have lead her to be a “sinhazinha”, a respectful officer's daughter. She learned how to read, write, and do math, but also music, especially how to play the piano, a distinctive mark of a real lady.

In 1863, at age 16, Francisca married Jacinto do Amaral, a navy official, 8 years older than her, who would not agree to allow Chiquinha to pursue a musical career. With the marriage not doing well, Chiquinha, after having her third baby, fled her husband and was “declared dead and of unpronounceable name” by her father. She became the first woman in Brazil to obtain a legal divorce.

Chiquinha began to participate in balls and “chorões” reunions, normally reserved for men, where she met the flautist Joaquim Callado and started to play in his group, O Choro do Calado, being the first woman to play in this group. During this time she composed her first success, the polka Atraente, in 1877, “composed by the piano, as an improvisation, during a ‘choro’ meeting” . At that time, she was famous but highly criticized by the masculine society of her time.

Chiquinha was an active citizen, involved in all kinds of social movements that took place during her age in Brazil, such as the Abolition of Slavery and even the Republican movement.

Chiquinha is most known for her works for the Carnival in Brazil, such as Ó Abre Alas, and theatrical works, as for example, the operetta Forrobodó.

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