Biography

«Hermínia Silva, affectionately known as the priestess of Lisbon, was the most representative fadista(1) of this bohemian and traditional city. One of the most famous names of Fado(2) and one od the most popular artists of “Teatro de Revista”(3), she portrayed with vast joviality and humour the Lisbon she loved.
Only ten years old, Hermínia Silva started working as a tailor apprentice. At the same time, she disclosed her talent for musical comedy, initiating a theatre career as an amateur in a modest recreation society, in her Lisbon quarter, Castelo(4). Her extraordinary artistic performances were almost immediately recognized and she received an invitation to perform at Parque Mayer(5), considered the cradle of national popular songs. Due to her youth and inexperience, she performed in minor “Revistas” at “Parque Mayer”, but her voice and acting skills, gave her an enormous popularity.
Consequently, in 1929, Hermínia starts to perform in larger productions, starring in a great number of operettas and popular plays, as well as cinema. Invited by all companies of light entertainment, she gave “castiças”(6) interpretations of the “alfacinha’s(7) fate, created colourful characters, and starred innumerable productions, leaving a strong trademark at “Teatro de Revista”, with her spontaneity and remarkable ability to improvise.
She was awarded with “1º Prémio Nacional do Teatro Ligeiro”(8) , for her performance at “Sempre em Pé” and, still in 1946, the “Prémio do SNI”(9) for Best Actress in a Comedy, for her unique interpretation in the famous play “Nova Antígona”.
In the Seventies, she toured some countries and opened “Solar da Hermínia”(10), at Bairro Alto.
Hermínia Silva always imposed her peculiar style to acting, “throwing away the script”, and using improvisation as a constant weapon.
Herminia’s irreverent and strong-minded personality was determinant in the way she acted: ironic, colourful, with plenty of jokes and a very proper slang, strongly undermining Salazar’s fascist regime and his followers.
Considered the most “castiça” of the fadistas, she was the voice of tradition, witch brought Fado to larger audience’s through “Teatro de Revista”. In 1980, in recognition of a brilliant career, she received the Gold Medal from the city of Lisbon.
In 1993, the voice that used to claim the legendary “Anda Pacheco”(11) kept silent in Lisbon, forever.»

Notes:
(1) Fadista: Fado singer.
(2) Fado: a very special kind of song that expresses the soul of the Portuguese people.
(3) Teatro de Revista: a performing art that includes singing, dancing and theatre sketches, based on humour and social critique.
(4) Castelo: one of the oldest and most typical quarters of Lisbon.
(5) Parque Mayer: A city within a city… a quarter filled with theatres, fado houses and restaurants. It used to be one of the most popular places in Lisbon nights.
(6) Castiça: Portuguese word that has no translation, but may be considered equivalent to “popular, naughty and well humoured”.
(7) Alfacinha: “petit nom” used for those born in Lisbon.
(8) A special award for Teatro de Revista.
(9) Another special award for acting.
(10) Her own fado house.
(11) Anda Pacheco (play along Pacheco) was a kind of affectionate call Hermínia Silva have her Portuguese guitar player at the start of her performances. This line was famous all over Portugal, and a trade mark of the famous Fadista.

Edited by [deleted user] on 4 May 2009, 19:41

Sources

Biography taken from the record “O Melhor de Hermínia Silva” (2008, iPlay Som e Imagem, Lda.) with slightly modifications.
Text: José Moças and João Afonso.
Translation to English: Maria João Aguiar.

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