RIGA - The gilded angels peering down from the extravagant ceiling of the Latvian National Opera house have seen a lot in their lifetime. After almost a century of witnessing some of the finest theater in Europe, those angels are most likely haughty theater snobs by now reacting with little more than a pretentious yawn at yet another Don Giovanni opera or Tchaikovsky ballet. But little do they know, they're in for a surprise.
On June 30, Portuguese fado sensation Mariza will show them, and the rest of Riga's high society, something they've never seen before. Revered throughout Portugal for her unique fado singing, the sound of Mariza is incomparable.
Her voice glimmers as one of those truly rare gems in the world music scene. And she provides hope for the future of popular music, which - if radio and TV determines - is sadly disintegrating into little more than commercial noise.
Hearing Mariza, one is reunited with the esthetics of music.
Her voice carries passion, power, sorrow, jealousy and mystery. These are the notes that create the music of fado, which, although in a dimension of its own, is comparable to flamenco, rebetika or tango. Fado is to Portugal what the blues are to America's Deep South.
Born in Mozambique, Mariza grew up in Portugal attending Lisbon's Fado House, where she began singing fado as a child. Some 20 years later, she's known today as Portugal's "Fado Princess."
In 2000, Mariza won the Central FM Radio Voice of Fado award in Portugal and in 2002 her debut CD "Fado Em Mim" achieved gold status in the country.
The following year, Mariza gained worldwide acclaim including two nominations for Best European Artist and Best Newcomer Artist for the BBC Radio's 2003 World Music Awards. Following her latest album, "Fado Curvo," she is now considered one of the most popular fado singers in the world.
The veins of every blue blooded guest who can afford the 15 lat (23 euros) - 150 lat seats will be boiling - or at least lukewarm - by the end of the show. If you don't believe in love, you will before you leave. If you've never felt a broken heart, yours will shatter at the beauty of her lament.
This may sound a trifle over-the-top to some, but I'm not the first to feel this way.
Not only has Mariza been referred to as "one of the most exciting new voices in world music in recent years," she's been called "an adorable extra-terrestrial being, someone sent by the Great Creator to reinvent the fado."
It's been said that "when Mariza sings, time stands still," and she's been compared with one of fado's biggest icons, Amalia Rodrigues.
Latvia's National Opera house won't be the same after Mariza, and neither will you. o
Mariza (Portuguese fado diva)
Latvian National Opera
June 30, 7 p.m.
Tickets 15 lats
(23 euros) - 150 lats