Musical created by and starring Carolina Deslandes and Bárbara Tinoco opens today

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The musical “A madrugada que eu esperava”, conceived by and starring singers Carolina Deslandes and Bárbara Tinoco, which reminds us that “the right to freedom implies the duty of memory”, opens today at the Maria Matos Theatre in Lisbon.

Professional colleagues, but above all great friends, Carolina Deslandes and Bárbara Tinoco wanted to create a musical together, “the first idea” they had for a joint project, they told Lusa at the end of a rehearsal open to the press at the Maria Matos Theater.

Initially they had no idea for the story, only one certainty: that the writer Hugo Gonçalves would be responsible for the text.

Bárbara Tinoco had read “Filho da Mãe” by Hugo Gonçalves and, Carolina says with a laugh, “made everyone read it”, so she decided to contact him.

Having already written for films and series, the writer took the invitation to write a musical as a challenge. When the invitation came, he had just finished writing the novel “Revolução” – published in October, whose story takes place during April 25, 1974 – and so he had the “Carnation Revolution” fresh in his mind.

“I had done a lot of research for the book. I had the era, the spirit of the time, what was at stake, very present,” he said, clarifying that the stories in the book and the musical “are completely different”.

“The Dawn I Was Waiting For” is centered on “a classic ‘boy meets girl’ story that writers and playwrights return to again and again”.

For Hugo Gonçalves, this story “fit in well with the spirit of the times, because although it’s a love story, it’s also a story about affirming the identity of each of them” – Olivia and Francisco, the main characters.

When they meet, Francisco dreams of being a comedian – “comedy is subversive, especially in a dictatorship” – and Olivia, “an idealistic woman who wants to change the world”, owns and sells books that were banned at the time – “something that could land her in prison”.

The protagonists live a forbidden love story and, through it, “the spirit of the time is reflected and it shows what it was like to live before April 25 [1974] and also during that revolutionary period, which was a very intense time”.

Carolina and Bárbara fell in love with the text “at first reading”, then it was just a matter of “fine-tuning a few things” and deciding where they would fit the songs, which they created for the show and will later be released on an album, which will also include songs that were left out.

Although the love story is the central element, the show “is so much more than that”. “And at the same time it’s so much that. I like that it’s complex, but that through simplicity and small things it speaks of complex things,” said Bárbara.

Carolina added that “everyone thinks that talking about love is easier, but there is no subject that makes someone as vulnerable and as exposed as talking about love, and it takes a lot of courage to do so”.

In the show, Carolina Deslandes and Bárbara Tinoco alternate the roles of Olívia, the protagonist, and Clara, her sister.

Today, for example, Bárbara is Olivia and Carolina is Clara. On Thursday, as was the case at the press rehearsal, Carolina will be Olivia and Bárbara will be Clara.

For both singers, it only made sense that way.

“We came to this experience together, we did all this together, we prepared for it together and it didn’t make sense for us not to experience the same things together,” said Bárbara Tinoco.

To prepare for a musical set in the 1970s, Carolina Deslandes, 32, and Bárbara Tinoco, 25, in addition to their knowledge of the period, decided to talk to their families and understand “what April 25 means to each of them”.

“To better understand what these characters were feeling, both before and after, because the show also deals a lot with the uncertainty of the aftermath of April 25 [1974], which is a part that isn’t usually talked about much,” said Bárbara.

In these conversations they realized that “there were many coincidences with the show”. “Carolina’s grandfather was called in on the day [April 25, 1974] to invade the PIDE [the political police], and my grandfather did a performance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, in which he was Juliet, just like in our play,” said Bárbara.

Actor and musician Diogo Branco, 34, who plays Francisco in the musical, also relied on his family to get into the role: “I’ve lived within this context my whole life”.

Diogo is the grandson of the musician and composer José Mário Branco, who died in 2019, one of the most prominent figures of the so-called ‘intervention music’ and who was exiled in Paris during the Estado Novo.

He also did research on the period, “to remember some things that might be further from memory, and to try to do justice to the poetry of the text and the songs”.

For the actor, who is also a musician, “there is always an added responsibility” when dealing with April 25, 1974, “such a crucial theme” in Portugal’s history, and when talking about freedom, “and the possible loss of it”.

“Although it’s a play that we want to be entertaining, we want it to convey an important message about the fight for freedom and preventing it from being lost,” he said.

The play’s cast also includes Brienne Keller, Dinarte Branco, JP Costa, João Maria Pinto, Jorge Mourato, José Lobo, Maria Henrique, Mariana Lencastre and musicians Feodor Bivol, Luís Delgado, Marco Pombinho, Miguel Casais, Rui Pedro Pity and Sandra Martins, who are on stage playing live during the show.

In “The Dawn I Was Waiting For”, the story takes place mainly between 1971 and 1975, but in the end time jumps to 2024, the year in which the 50th anniversary of the “Carnation Revolution” is celebrated.

We learn where life has taken Olivia and Francisco and it is from this part of the show that Hugo Gonçalves and Bárbara Tinoco highlight a phrase said by the protagonist: “the right to freedom implies the duty of memory”.

“When we forget the past, we risk repeating those mistakes in the present. If we can somehow remember what it was like to live before the revolution and what the country was like, in addition to the entertainment we’re giving people, we’re doing a good job,” said the author of the text.

Bárbara Tinoco believes that this musical “is the duty of memory, which explains the right to freedom”.

“It’s a family show, where the older ones can get emotional, and the younger ones can understand the importance of voting, the importance of taking an interest in the country’s political affairs,” she said, recalling that she and Carolina, like so many other young people, grew up without questioning freedom.

The singer stresses that the play’s protagonists “didn’t have freedom and they’re always thinking about how they’re going to get it”. “Olivia was committed to everyone having freedom. Nowadays, 50 years later, it’s important to shout ‘Fascism never again!’ and that’s something to think about,” she said.

Carolina Deslandes recalls that “if there hadn’t been April 25, this play wouldn’t exist”, that she probably wouldn’t be able to say the things she says (the singer has already publicly taken positions on issues such as women’s rights, racism or housing), and that Bárbara Tinoco “couldn’t have a song like ‘Despedida de Solteira’, for example”, or the two of them wouldn’t be able to perform on stage the way they want to.

“People had to fight and sacrifice so that we could be here today, and that can never be seen as one thing among the thousands of things that happen on a daily basis. This was the great event that changed the history of our country, and I wouldn’t like to see it happen again,” said Carolina Deslandes.

Diogo Branco admits that there are things in Portugal and around the world that “are really wrong and have to be solved”, but “nothing can be solved by losing freedom, nothing can be solved by a dictatorship”.

“A madrugada que eu esperava”, directed by Ricardo da Rocha, will be on stage at Teatro Maria Matos until April 28, to remind or show those who don’t know how to live under dictatorship.

The musical will then be performed in Porto on May 30 and 31 at the Coliseu.

“A madrugada que eu esperava” – a line taken from a poem by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen and which gives its name to one of the songs in the musical – is a co-production between Força de Produção and Primeira Linha.

Tickets for the show cost between 20 and 25 euros for Lisbon, and 15 and 35 euros for Porto.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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