Elizete Moreira Cardoso (16/07/1920 - 07/05/1990), the singer whose album Chega de Saudade launched the bossa nova, was also the first popular singer to interpret Villa-Lobos at the Municipal Theaters of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and was considered by Almirante the best interpreter of Noel Rosa. Adored by Edith Piaf ("C'est merveilleuse! C'est merveilleuse!"), paid homage by Cartola (who wrote especially for her his famous samba-canção "Acontece"), and a most cherished artist by the Brazilian audiences, she was also known as "the Divina" (an alias given to her by Haroldo Costa and popularized by Vinicius de Moraes in his liner notes to Chega de Saudade).
Her ample tessitura, capable of exploring faithfully both low and high registers, and her highly personal interpretation, full of a melancholy that witnessed the essence of an artist who experienced deep sadness in her life (along with all the rewards that success can bring), conveyed an unforgettable poetic density. In her almost 70 years of artistic activities, she performed a wide palette of genres, but her preference was for the samba.
Born to a musical family, her father was a seresteiro (serenader) and her mother an amateur singer. At five, Elizeth debuted as a singer, performing at the rancho Kananga do Japão (a historical Carnival rancho founded in 1911). Having to work since very young, she had several small jobs until she was discovered by Jacob do Bandolim at the party for her 16th birthday, where he was brought to by her cousin Pedro, a popular figure among the musicians of the time. Enthusiastic about the young singer, Jacob do Bandolim took her to Rádio Guanabara, where she opened, on August 18, 1936, at the Programa Suburbano, with such artists as Noel Rosa, Vicente Celestino, Aracy de Almeida, and Marília Batista. Approved as a member of the cast, she started to perform there regularly at Tuesdays. Elizeth Cardoso worked at several other radio stations, but she supplemented her earnings with performances in circuses, clubs, and cinemas. With Grande Otelo, she kept a duo for over ten years whose pièce de résistance was "Boneca de Piche" (Ary Barroso/Luís Iglésias). Always in financial difficulties, Elizeth got a job as a taxi-girl at the Dancing Avenida, where she also became a crooner in 1941. In 1945, she was hired by Júlio Simões to work in his dancing ballroom Casa Verde in São Paulo, where her fan club was expanded and came to include Adoniran Barbosa, the producers Vicente Leporace and Egas Moniz, and Blota Júnior, the A&R director of Rádio Cruzeiro do Sul. Elizeth worked there for one year and returned to her job at the Dancing Avenida, in Rio, as the crooner of the Orquestra de Dedé. Soon, she started to work at other dance ballrooms, like the Brasil, the Samba Danças, the Eldorado, and the Belas Artes. She was also, in that period, the crooner for the Orquestra de Guilherme Pereira.
In 1948, Elizeth met Evaldo Rui, who would be instrumental in her artistic career (having also been her lover). Rui counseled her in terms of her performance and took her to Rádio Mauá, where she worked with her discoverer, Jacob do Bandolim. But, soon, she was hired by Rádio Guanabara, which reopened big time and decided to compete with the major radios, Nacional, Tupi, and Mayrink Veiga.
In 1950, Ataulfo Alves got Elizeth an invitation to record for the first time, at Star. The first record though, with the sambas "Braços Vazios" (Acir Alves/Edgard G. Alves) and "Mensageiro da Saudade" (Ataulfo Alves), was withdrawn from circulation by the company due to alleged technical problems. But she was spotted at the Dancing Avenida by the composer Erasmo Silva, who was working for the Todamérica recording company, which would be opened in a few days. On July 25, 1950, she recorded through the new company "Complexo" (Wilson Batista), on the A-side, and "Canção de Amor" (Chocolate/Elano de Paula). Surprisingly, the radios preferred to play "Canção de Amor". The result was immediate, with Elizeth being hired by Almirante to work at Rádio Tupi, the second most popular station in Rio. Also in 1951, she was hired by Rádio Mayrink Veiga and by the Vogue club, recording in that year one of her biggest hits, "Barracão" (Luís Antônio/Oldemar Magalhães). In 1953, Elizeth had a signal of her rising prestige through an invitation to perform at the Golden Room of the Copacabana Palace, where just international artists were allowed (the only other Brazilians to perform there being Sílvio Caldas and Dorival Caymmi). But she preferred to perform at the Casablanca club, because the place was frequented by journalists. She opened there with the show Feitiço da Vila (dedicated to the songs by Noel Rosa and his partners) on June 8, 1953, and her strategy was successful, with enthusiastic reviews by renowned critics like Lúcio Rangel, Elsie Lessa, Vinícius de Moraes, Fernando Lobo, and others.
The show Feitiço da Vila was opened in São Paulo with the same success of the Carioca season. And in September 1954, Elizeth opened a show with Sílvio Caldas at the Oasis nightclub in São Paulo. According to the newspapers of the city, it was the most successful spectacle until then in the history of São Paulo.
In 1956, Elizeth signed with the Copacabana recording company (in spite of the attempts of Odeon and Sinter), through which she would release most of her hits for the following 20 years. Already a famous artist, Elizeth Cardoso hosted several exclusive shows on different radios, including Audições Elizeth Cardoso (Rádio Mundial) and Canta Elizeth (Mayrink Veiga).
Two years later, Elizeth was invited by Vinicius de Moraes to be the singer of an album of songs written by himself and Tom Jobim. Canção do Amor Demais became the first album of bossa nova, launching the new genre. With the permission of Copacabana, Elizeth started to rehearse with Jobim and de Moraes. As the rehearsals were held at Jobim's home in Ipanema, they were later immortalized by de Moraes in "Carta ao Tom" ("Letter to Tom"): "Rua Nascimento e Silva, 107/Você ensinando pra Elizeth/As canções de Canção do Amor Demais" ("107 Nascimento e Silva Street/And you were teaching Elizete/The songs of Canção do Amor Demais").
Immediately after the release, the most commented-upon track of the album was "Chega de Saudade", the first recording in which appears the revolutionary syncopation of João Gilberto's guitar (who also appeared on "Outra Vez").
In 1959, Cardoso recorded for the film Orfeu do Carnaval (Marcel Camus), also an important piece of the initial period of bossa nova (it derived from De Moraes' play Orfeu da Conceição), the songs "Manhã de Carnaval" (Luís Bonfá/Antônio Maria) and "Samba de Orfeu". The soundtrack, a top seller in several countries including the U.S. and France, unduly credits the actress Marpessa Dawn as the singer.
After performances in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Portugal, Cardoso launched one of her top-selling albums, Meiga Elizete, in which she was accompanied by the groups of Moacir Silva and Walter Wanderley. On October 12, 1964, invited by the conductor Diogo Pacheco, Elizeth interpreted Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Número 5" at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo. When she finished the piece, the 1,800 people present at the event stood up and applauded for 15 minutes, asking for an encore. She stared at the audience and simply cried; perhaps thinking about her long career full of obstacles, financial hardships, and prejudices against her dark skin. But in the end she did the awaited encore.
In 1965, thrilled by the show Rosa de Ouro, idealized by Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, which launched Clementina de Jesus and brought again to the stage Araci Cortes, accompanied by Paulinho da Viola, Elton Medeiros, Jair do Cavaquinho, Anescar do Salgueiro, and Nelson Sargento, Cardoso communicated her intention to record all the songs of the show. Rehearsing each song with the instrumentalists, in June 1965 she recorded in just four days one of the masterpieces of the Brazilian popular music, Elizeth Sobe o Morro. It represented the debut of Nelson Cavaquinho on record, both as a guitarist and singer. It was also the first time that Paulinho da Viola had one of his songs recorded.
In February 1968, Elizeth Cardoso participated in the historic show at the João Caetano theater, produced by Hermínio Bello de Carvalho for the Image and Sound Museum, with the Zimbo Trio, Jacob do Bandolim, and his group Época de Ouro. The show was recorded live and released on two LPs.
Consumed by the cancer that would kill her, Cardoso still wanted to realize one of her old dreams, which was to record an album dedicated to the compositions by Ary Barroso. In spite of the interest of Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, there was no budget. Ary Amoroso was only produced through the sponsoring of a furniture factory. One cannot imagine that she was suffering pains during the recording sessions, as her voice was, as always, impeccable. The very Ary Barroso would probably repeat his own words describing her interpretation if he was alive, the reason why Bello de Carvalho remembered them in the liner notes: "Artista de raça. Voz suavíssima e convincente. Interpretação magnífica". ("A race artist. A sweetest and convincing voice. Magnificent interpretation".)
Elizeth Cardoso, Zimbo Trio, Jacob do Bandolim e Conjunto Época de Ouro Volume I (1968)
01. Abertura/Elizetheana - Zimbo Trio • 4:5802. Cidade Vazia - Elizeth Cardoso e Zimbo Trio
(Baden Powell/Luís Fernando Freire) • 4:40
03. Derradeira Primavera - Elizeth Cardoso e Zimbo Trio
(Vinícius de Moraes/Tom Jobim) • 3:45
04. É Luxo Só - Elizeth Cardoso e Zimbo Trio
(Ary Barroso/Luiz Peixoto) • 4:29
05. Estrada Branca - Elizeth Cardoso e Zimbo Trio
(Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes) • 4:06
06. Tem Dó - Elizeth Cardoso e Zimbo Trio
(Baden Powell/Vinícius de Moraes) • 2:46
07. Mulata Assanhada - Elizeth Cardoso, Jacob do Bandolim e Conjunto Época de Ouro
(Ataulfo Alves) • 4:04
08. Jamais - Elizeth Cardoso, Jacob do Bandolim e Conjunto Época de Ouro
(Jacob do Bandolim/Luís Bittencourt) • 2:21
09. Feitio de Oração - Elizeth Cardoso, Jacob do Bandolim e Conjunto Época de Ouro
(Noel Rosa/Vadico) • 5:08
10. Barracão - Elizeth Cardoso, Jacob do Bandolim e Conjunto Época de Ouro
(Luís Antonio/Oldemar Magalhães) • 7:10
11. Murmurando - Jacob do Bandolim e Conjunto Época de Ouro
(Octaviano Romero "Fon-Fon"/Mário Rossi) • 4:19