SINGER AND SONGWRITER OF JEWISH DESCENT, FORTUNA WAS RAISED IN THE CITY OF SÃO PAULO, ALWAYS DEEPLY TIED TO MUSIC, DANCE AND THEATER.
Photo: João Caldas
In the 1980s, while staging her first plays, she composed a repertoire of songs in partnership with the Curitiba-born poet Paulo Leminski (1944 - 1989). The decisive chapter of her career, however, would initially be written on a trip to Israel, in 1991.
It was there that Fortuna’s art took an innovative direction: upon listening to a piece from the Ladino song collection, she found the raw material for a unique aesthetic proposal, in which music, dance and dramaturgy would converge in the re-creation of a rich cultural legacy. The Ladino, a Jewish-Hispanic dialect, is the language of the Sephardi, the Jews of Sepharad, the Hebrew name for the Iberian Peninsula.
Her contact with the Ladino musical tradition would change Fortuna’s life and give her work a new direction. There, she began the endeavor of researching and rescuing medieval songs which had up to then been practically forgotten. The result of this research enlightened her trajectory. In the following years, she would independently record her eight albums: La Prima Vez, Cantigas, Mediterrâneo, Mazal, Cælestia, Encontros, Novo Mundo and Novos Mares. Distributed internationally, Fortuna’s discography has sold almost 100 thousand copies. Her records have received critical acclaim and been given distinguished awards.
Mediterrâneo won the 10th Sharp Music Award as Best Foreign Language Album and the American label Putumayo, specialized in World Music compilations, have included five of Fortuna’s tracks in its collections.
The musicals staged for each of her albums have taken Fortuna on successful tours to several of Brazil’s large capitals. She has also taken her tours internationally to Paris, New York (in an acclaimed presentation at the UN headquarters), Miami, Amsterdam, The Hague, Antwerp, Evora, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Caracas, Punta del Este and the celebration of the 3,000 Years of Jerusalem.
In addition to having provided the substance for the development of her career in music, the work of historical research toward the recovery of forgotten musical traditions qualified Fortuna to a parallel activity: the artistic direction of the Todos os Cantos do Mundo Festival. All its seven editions devised by SESC - São Paulo (a private non-profit focused on arts and culture), the event ran from 1998 to 2004, and became a launchpad for artists whose music did not play on radio stations and who would hardly have performed on other stages in Brazil.
As the head of the festival, Fortuna was able to establish a permanent connection with the most diverse forms of musical expression. This sort of exchange gave her work a new consistency – reflected in the evolution of her voice, the sophistication of arrangements and in her choice of collaborators. The best examples of this opening of horizons are found on the Cælestia album, recorded with the Choir of Benedictine Monks of the St Benedict Monastery (SP), Encontros, which in addition to the Benedictines includes a participation from the Guri Project Choir, composed of children and teenagers from Osasco (SP) and Novo Mundo, which features the Pernambuco artist Antonio Nóbrega. Each guest performance results in a body of work which goes beyond restoring tradition, instead giving it a new direction.
Her radio show, Todos os Cantos, has delved into musical gems from all over the globe. Aired by Radio UOL for over 12 years, the show is a true milestone in the history of Internet radio.
Currently, Todos os Cantos is broadcast by Rádio Cultura FM, also available online.
As an actress, Fortuna took part in in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical José e Seu Manto Tecnicolor (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), directed by the award-winning Iacov Hillel. The show’s success, which is also focused on children and teenagers, awakened the artist's desire to direct her focus to a younger audience.
Thus, new projects came to life.
In November 2008, the singer released, in a SESC label production, the CD, the DVD and the live spectacle Na Casa de Ruth. The repertoire included poems by the writer Ruth Rocha with music by Hélio Ziskind. The Naum Alves de Souza directed show was seen by over 20 thousand spectators over its 4-year run.
The track on the Na Casa de Ruth album named Doze Coisinhas à Toa Que Nos Fazem Felizes was added to the soundtrack of the soap opera Carrossel, aired by the SBT television network.
In October 2012, Fortuna released Tic Tic Tati, an album featuring poems and Stories by the writer Tatiana Belinky, also with music by Hélio Ziskind. Produced by the SESC label, the record received two nominations for the 24th Brazilian Music Awards in the Children’s Album and Visual Project categories.
The musical created for the release of the album was directed of Roberto Lage. It was another hit with the public and critics alike. The show was recorded and made into a DVD and included a bonus of three animated shorts directed by filmmaker Tata Amaral.
Released in October 2014, the Tic Tic Tati DVD was winner of the 2014 Governador do Estado Award, in the "Art for Children" category, by popular vote.
True to her renown in the Brazilian music scene for a life devoted to investigating and rescuing Jewish musical sounds, melodies and traditions, Fortuna launched Novos Ares in 2016. The album, launched under the SESC label, had its deep roots in music made by Jews who migrated to several destinations in the new world, including the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.
Novos Mares brought new innovations in relation to Fortuna’s prior work. A more authorial undertaking, it includes five tracks composed by Fortuna herself. In it, she threads the path of the Eastern Jews who left Aleppo (Syria), and Jews from the Middle East in general, singing themes in Arabic, Hebrew and French. This trail treads through Sepharad (Spain and Portugal) until it reaches Brazil, where the character of Branca Dias – whose memory is the topic of one of the new compositions – symbolizes the meeting of the Old with the New world.
In Novos Mares, music is seen as an essential driving force to reach an intercultural dialogue between people from different nations and religions, but who have the language of music in common.
In 2016, she recorded the track Opara, especially for Velho Chico, a Rede Globo soap opera. The soundtrack was entirely composed by maestro Tim Rescala.
In 2017, in continuity of the fruitful partnership with Hélio Ziskind, Fortuna released her third children’s music album (again under the SESC label): Tchiribim Tchiribom – Cantando pelo Mundo. It is a stroll through musical traditions of peoples and regions from around the world, including China, Israel, Africa, Italy, Mexico and New Zealand.
This project resulted in another partnership, this time the group Grand Bazaar, with its music of Gypsy and Balkan origin. They participated in the recording process for the record by creating musical arrangements and playing on all tracks.
The musical created for the album launch is directed by Roberto Lage and presentes Fortuna as a “story singer”. Fortuna continues her tradition of presenting music from around the world, bringing this universe of nations and cultures in a fun way for a young audience. On stage, she is joined by four singers/ballerinas as well as five musicians who help bring the songs to life!