She was born without a name for an operetta, which she turned down and received a title and lyrics in a film. But from France, renamed, his auspicious international career began. This is the motto of Coimbra – Story of a Song, a film that premieres this Monday on RTP1 (11pm) and documents the saga of a song that never stopped going around the world.
The idealized documentary, produced and idealized by Ivan Dias and directed by Jorge Carvalho, dates back to 2015, but has remained unprecedented due to the difficult (but already achieved) resolution of copyright problems in some of the featured versions. Its roots are old, as Ivan Dias reminds PUBLIC: “In my days in Coimbra, I sang and played the mandolin at Estudantina, and at some festivals I was the Coimbra interpreter. My connection to Raul Ferrão’s song and work nourished my deep friendship with the director Ferrão Katzenstein, the grandson of the song’s author. The grandfather, the father [Ruy Ferrão] and he always collected everything related to Coimbra and you could only make movies and films with the records and the news that they collected. “
The story of the song is troubled. First, Raul Ferrão wrote the song together with Lisbon, was not French, for the operetta A Invasão from 1945 with Mirita Casimiro and Vasco Santana. But, as Ferrão Katzenstein says in the documentary, “it was radically rejected by the cast” and the author saved it “for better days”. That came in 1947 when Armando de Miranda asked him with some urgency about a song for a film that was due to be made that year, Capas Negras. “So my grandfather remembered that song.” With texts by José Galhardo, his usual composing partner, the song entered the film and was sung by Alberto Ribeiro.
Album covers on which Alberto Ribeiro and Amália Coimbra recorded
Irony of ironies, Alberto Ribeiro (in the shoes of a quintanist) sang it to Amália (in the role of a tricana), unable to imagine that three years later, in 1950, she would celebrate it while singing in Dublin at the request of Yvette Giraud. Amália was touring under the Marshall Plan, which was created to help rebuild Europe in the post-war period, and the French interpreter asked her to show her songs, which could be adapted to her language. Amália sang Lisbon, be not French and Coimbra. This was the chosen one who won not only a letter but also a title in French: Avril au Portugal.
From there the song “flew”. Amália integrated it into her repertoire and sang it at Olympia when the French already knew her as Avril au Portugal. In English, it was recorded as April in Portugal, but also as The Girls of Nazaray (Avril au Portugal). The documentary recalls some of the many versions of this song (865 are known), such as those by Yvette Giraud, Louis Armstrong, Bert Kaempfert, Bing Crosby, Henoch Light, Roberto Carlos, Caetano Veloso, Chavela Vargas, Perez Prado or Xavier Cugat. Ricardo Toscano still has live performances with Marco Rodrigues, Marta Pereira da Costa (on Portuguese guitar), Fernando Meirelles (on accordion), Amadeu Magalhães (on Cavaquinho), Maria João with the group Ogre, the choir of the Old Ones Orfeonistas from the University of Coimbra and the students of the Conservatory of Music of Coimbra with Jenyfer Santos as soloist.
2004 album cover with 24 versions of Coimbra
The documentary also contains testimonies from Maria José Galhardo, granddaughter of Raul Ferrão (1890-1953) and José Galhardo (1905-1967), Rui Vieira Nery, Joel Pina (1920-2021), José Jorge Letria, Miguel Júdice and José Moças ( Tradisom), which released a CD with 24 versions of Coimbra in 2004.