Aug 05 2003

Maria Bethânia: Imitação da Vida

A Fundamental Recording


Imitação da Vida

As cartas de amor, se há amor, têm de ser ridículas.

(Love letters, if there is love, must be ridiculous – from Álvaro de Campos’s poem “Todas as Cartas de Amor São”)


Carnegie Hall, Saturday, June 20, 1998.

A few twinkling lights can now be seen where there used to be a dark stage. The ominous drums lead into the piano introduction to Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo’s waltz “Beatriz.” The presence of tonight’s act is anxiously anticipated. Instead of her figure, we hear a strong voice dominating the entire hall.



Ninguém sabe quem sou eu
Também já não sei quem sou
Eu sei bem que o sofrimento
De mim até se cansou
Na imitação da vida
Ninguém vai me superar

No one knows who I am
I even don’t know who I am
I do know it well that suffering
Has even got tired of me
In the imitation of life
No one tops me.

Batatinha’s words to “Imitação da Vida” are the first words the audience hears. Applause uselessly tries to overpower the voice, but the Queen Bee, as Bethânia is known, is almost bigger than life. The beat picks up and “Beatriz” turns into “Rosa dos Ventos,” the same Chico Buarque song that named another Bethânia show. That was 1971 at Teatro da Praia. Now we are at Carnegie Hall. We finally see Bethânia’s triumphant stage entrance. The audience is delirious.

Fernando PessoaImitação da Vida was conceived as Bethânia’s 25th anniversary career celebration in 1996. The only and significant difference between what Brazilians saw and heard and this Carnegie Hall performance was the absence of Fernando Pessoa’s outstanding poetry that beautifully wove together the music in this album. The poetry of Fernando Pessoa had already been a noticeable presence in other Bethânia albums. Here, however, his poems share the stage with Bethânia. All poetry in this double CD set was written by Fernando Pessoa and his heteronyms Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis (the other heteronym Alberto Caeiro is not represented in this recording). Some of his poems were even set to music by Roberto Mendes and Sueli Costa. The careful combination of music and poetry here is like nothing else Bethânia has ever done. Upon hearing certain songs prefaced by Fernando Pessoa’s poetry, I am fooled into thinking that music and poetry were written for each other. Take, for example, Gonzaguinha’s “Grito de Alerta.” Bethânia precedes that song with Cícero Nunes and Aldo Cabral’s “Mensagem” and two texts talking about love letters. It is hard to believe that music and poetry were written at such different time. Magical moments such as that are repeated throughout both CDs. What makes Imitação da Vida even more endearing is the superior recording sound and arrangements created by Jaime Alem. Old songs sound new, as with “Rosa dos Ventos” and “Gita.” Even some songs from Âmbar, from which these CDs draw most of the material, have better performances and arrangements, e.g., “Iluminada.”

Liner notes contain several photos of Bethânia and all poems in the CDs. Lyrics, however, are not included. If you were not at Carnegie Hall that magic evening, this CD is indispensable. Better yet, one way or another, paraphrasing the immortal poet Vinícius de Moraes, Bethânia’s Imitação da Vida is fundamental.


Maria Bethânia
Imitação da Vida
EMI Brasil 857307 2 (1997)
Time: 42’17” (CD 1) and 39’15” (CD 2)


CD 1

  1. Beatriz (Instrumental) (Chico Buarque – Edú Lobo) / Imitação (Batatinha) / Rosa dos Ventos (Chico Buarque)
  2. Text 1: from Fernando Pessoa’s book Desassossego / Chão de Estrelas (Sílvio Caldas – Orestes Barbosa)
  3. Todos os Lugares (Tite de Lemos – Sueli Costa)
  4. Gita (Raul Seixas – Paulo Coelho) / Text 2: from Fernando Pessoa’s book Desassossego
  5. Sino da Minha Aldeia (Roberto Mendes – Fernando Pessoa) / Cantigas de Roda (Bahian Folklore) / Quadrinhas (Roberto Mendes on a poem by Fernando Pessoa)
  6. Text 3: from Fernando Pessoa’s book Desassossego / Terezinha (Chico Buarque)
  7. Bela Mocidade (Donato – Francisco Naiva)
  8. Iluminada (Roberto Mendes – Jorge Portugal)
  9. Lua Vermelha (Carlinhos Brown – Arnaldo Antunes)
  10. Text 4: from Álvaro de Campos’s poem “Aniversário” / Uma Canção Desnaturada (Chico Buarque)
  11. Lamento Sertanejo (Forró do Dominguinhos) (Gilberto Gil – Dominguinhos) / Viramundo (Gilberto Gil – José Carlos Capinan)
  12. O Circo (Orlando Moraes – Antonio Cícero)
  13. Text 5: from Álvaro de Campos’s poem “Tabacaria” / Preconceito (Antonio Maria – Fernando Lobo) / Lama (Aylce Chaves – Paulo Marques)
  14. Negue (Adelino Moreira – Enzo de Almeida Passos)


CD 2

  1. Onde Estará o Meu Amor (Chico César)
  2. Mensagem (Cícero Nunes – Aldo Cabral) / Text 6: from Álvaro de Campos’s poem “Todas as Cartas de Amor São” / Text 7: from Fernando Pessoa’s poem “Cartas de amor”
  3. Grito de Alerta (Gonzaga Jr.)
  4. Meu Amor É Marinheiro (Alain Oulman – Manuel Alegre)
  5. Beatriz (Instrumental) (Chico Buarque – Edú Lobo)
  6. A Voz de uma Pessoa Vitoriosa (Caetano Veloso – Waly Salomão) / Eterno em Mim (Caetano Veloso)
  7. Text 8: from Fernando Pessoa’s book Desassossego / Sonho Impossível (The Quest – The Impossible Dream) (Joe Darion – Mitch Leigh) (Brazilian version: Chico Buarque – Ruy Guerra)
  8. Text 9: from Álvaro de Campos’s poem “Passagem das Horas” / Invocação (Chico César)
  9. Text 10: from Ricardo Reis’s poem “Para Ser Grande” / Segue o Teu Destino (Sueli Costa on a poem by Ricardo Reis)
  10. Quixabeira (PD; arr. by Carlinhos Brown – Bernard von der Weid – Afonso Machado)
  11. Felicidade (Antonio Almeida – João de Barro) / Brisa (Paquito on a poem by Manuel Bandeira)
  12. Alegria (Arnaldo Antunes)
  13. Âmbar (Adriana Calcanhotto) / Text 11: from Fernando Pessoa’s book Desassossego
  14. Canção da Manhã Feliz (Haroldo Barbosa – Luiz Reis)