After three wondrous albums produced by mentor Caetano Veloso that turned Virginia Rodrigues into a world music diva, the Brazilian mezzo-soprano decided it was time for new artistic challenges. Four years after Mares Profundos, her rendering of the famous Afro sambas by Baden Powell and Vinícius de Moraes, Rodrigues is back with the appositely titled Recomeço. The title translates as "a new start" (or "I start again"), and Rodrigues admits she chose it because she felt a new phase of her career opened when she switched labels to Rio de Janeiro's ultra chic Biscoito Fino. While Rodrigues' first three albums were stunning explorations into the Afro-Brazilian heritage, in Recomeço, Rodrigues tries a surprisingly different approach, one adapted from Western classical music. Indeed, in the manner of Rodrigues' much admired Marian Anderson and Jessye Norman, Recomeço is nothing but a bona fide lieder record in Brazilian disguise. Backed only by the exquisite piano of Cristóvão Bastos, Rodrigues treats listeners to a master recital of the Brazilian romantic songbook. The list of composers reads like an ABC of sentimental masters, including Chico Buarque, Francis Hime, de Moraes, Edú Lobo, Tom Jobim, Sueli Costa, Abel Silva, Dolores Duran, and Guinga, among others. Sure enough, most of these songs have been recorded by almost every top Brazilian singer, yet Rodrigues' versions are a match for anyone's. She is that unique of a singer. In some cases, as in the standards " "A Noite do Meu Bem" or " "Beatriz," her interpretations are so jaw droppingly gorgeous that seem to make the air stand still. What more can anyone say about such a voice? It is simply a natural wonder. Call Recomeço chamber music, vocals, world music, or Brazilian music, if you really must classify it. Any way you listen to it, it is supremely beautiful. If you were planning to get only one record in 2008 from any of the genres above, you may want to thank Virginia Rodrigues for making your decision a no brainer.
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