Since the 1999 death of Portugal’s mighty fado matriarch Amalia Rodrigues, a number of strong performers have stepped forward to save the music–which sets extravagant lamentations to ornate acoustic guitar accompaniments–from calcifying into tourist fare a la Chicago blues. Singers like Misia and Cristina Branco have played their part by adding new material to an increasingly moribund repertoire and incorporating outside influences, but 29-year-old Mariza Nunes might be the one to inherit Rodrigues’s mantle. Her fine debut album, Fado em mim (Times Square/World Connection, 2001), went gold in her homeland, a rare distinction for a fado album; she was also voted best voice in fado by the national radio station, Central FM. But Mariza has also been able to popularize the form well beyond her country’s borders: she’s toured steadily over the last few years and in February was chosen best European artist at the BBC Awards for World Music. As her brand-new Fado curvo makes clear, the accolades are warranted. Her gorgeous voice is remarkably agile, capable of modulating from throaty melancholy to lighter-than-air beauty in just a few fleet notes. As with her previous album, she uses piano, bass, cello, and percussion on a few songs, but for the most part she sticks to the basics: accompaniment by a Spanish guitar and a smaller Portuguese one. I missed her Chicago debut last year, but her live performances are reportedly even more intense than her recordings, and she’s not above translating the music’s poetry into English to help listeners. (Note: at press time it was uncertain if the club would be open for this performance due to licensing issues; see Post No Bills for more details and call before you go.) Sunday, May 18, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Devian.