At 84 years old, Simone de Oliveira is the voice of the 9th edition of Rock in Rio Lisboa. The artist takes to the venue a message about nostalgia – but also about hope – now that, four years later, it is possible to hold the festival again.
Simone had never been to the City of Rock, she didn’t have time, but in her debut at Bela Vista, which took place on the first day, she went up to the Mundo Stage.
He was, is and will always be a relevant figure in the history of Culture in Portugal. We were at his house, which he calls “dovecote”. It is not very big, but the limits of space do not guide the amount of memories that it keeps there.
She has lived alone for 27 years, “since Varela died”. The actor and director Varela da Silva was the artist’s second husband and the great love of her life. Without him, he’s had the same routines for a long time. She says she’s a night owl, that she can’t go to bed at ten at night.
Lately, she has been a “great” television viewer. “I watch everything that is telenovela”, she admits.
Simone is something of a hurricane woman. Because she was always ready to overcome life’s adversities (and fate tested her well), because she always remained faithful to the values she believes in and, therefore, always said what she thought… without fear; she is an easy talker, a born storyteller – hers and others; she is generous. She is aware of the amount of interviews she has already given and tries, throughout the conversation, to give us something that she hasn’t already told. It’s difficult. Public life has always been very public, and personal life… has not remained in the private sphere. Still, without realizing it, we spent more than an hour talking.
It didn’t take much to conclude that Simone is freedom and could be rock.
Freedom & Rock
Simone assumes that she lives in the now. She says the past “was very beautiful, it was extraordinary”, but she has no regrets.
“It’s a phrase from Varela: I have a washed-out nostalgia: it’s not easy to accept old age… an 84-year-old person is old. I’m not old inside… managing it is sometimes difficult”.
Behind him are the mistreatment he suffered in his first marriage, the relationships that didn’t work out and the suffering they brought him, the loss of his parents, the love for Varela da Silva and the moment he was left without him, the victory at the Festival da Silva Song, loss of voice, cancer.
She didn’t let herself be defined by events and, although it wasn’t the musical genre she chose, the truth is that the way she lives makes Simone rock. And it’s easy to see why. If we look for the definition of rock, we find: “a style of popular music that emerged in the United States of America in the 1950s, characterized by a strong beat and rhythm, (…) and often associated with a rebellious and youthful spirit”.
It always aroused a lot of curiosity. Even the neighbors. He remembers the time he lived in Alvalade.
“I had a neighbor who, if I came in [em casa] at 2, 3, 4 or 5 am…she would lift the little curtain in the kitchen to see. I saw her several times. One day I made him a cuff”.
Free in choices and words, this is also how she is seen by her family. On one of the walls of the room there is a picture painted by her grandson Gui who represents her. He says he told his mother that he wanted to paint something for his grandmother, but he didn’t know what. “Your grandmother is freedom. And he thought that infinite landscape of the Alentejo would be me.”
“Whoever makes a child, does it for pleasure”
She debuted as a singer in front of the general public at the first Song Festival, in 1959. She was the fourth choice to sing the poem by José Carlos Ary dos Santos, with music by Nuno Nazareth Fernandes, orchestrated by conductor Joaquim Luís Gomes and orchestra direction by Ferrer Trindade.
Ten years later, he won, for the second time, the Festival RTP da Canção with “Desfolhada Portuguesa”. It was with this theme that she later represented Portugal at the Eurovision Song Contest, in Madrid. At the end of that year, she lost her voice.
“I don’t sing at home”
With a career spanning 65 years, Simone is naturally more used to singing for others.
27 years ago alone in her “dovecote”
Simone has lived in the same house for 47 years. Today, it is practically only from there that she sees the world. With her career over, she has no intention of traveling anymore. She wants to have more time for her grandchildren and for watching television, namely, to watch “FOX Crime”.
Of the memories he has in that space he says: “Here we laughed, here we cried, here we had Christmases, here Varela died”. And he adds “the house was not like this… after his death I changed it all to make his absence less harsh.”
To feel the presence of the companion, he still leaves a lamp always on. Because when Varela da Silva was very sick and Simone went out to work, he would ask: “leave me a light”.
I like Beyonce
One of the main references in music is Charles Aznavour. “I have a passion for Aznavour. Total and absolute passion”. And he tells an episode that justifies the admiration. Simone says she has the DVD of the French singer’s last concert, which was made when he was 90 years old.
“He goes on stage and says: I don’t have the same voice anymore, I don’t see the way I saw it anymore, I don’t hear the way I used to hear it anymore… so the lyrics are up front”. “I think it takes a great human being and a great professional to have the courage and dignity to say this”.
It also names, as references, the Belgian Jacques Brel, Barbara Streisand and Shirley Bassey. And she even winks at newer names. “I like the people now. I like Beyonce! I think Beyoncé is something… Our Lady!… from the arch of the old woman!”. And there are also “Portuguese people singing very well. Everyone knows I love Mariza, FF, Camané…”
“The idea was for me to learn to be a candidate for the European Parliament”
Attentive to what is happening in the country and in the world, Simone reveals that she was even invited to enter politics.
The farewell: “What do I want more?”
The answer leaves no room for any doubt. Farewell to artistic life is final.
“We are going to end up beautiful, well, with our heads in place, with a good voice, with the desire to still say the words, to be able to have a conversation. Let’s go out through the wide door. I prefer to leave a beautiful perfume in the air.”
Simone says that one of the concerns is not to “make ridiculous”. That’s why she asked the people closest to her to keep an eye out and let her know if she crossed a line that she didn’t want, without realizing it. It will also be the end of her acting career.
“I have the patience to put texts in my head at a time like this… let yourself end up beautiful, let me be happy in my own way. I have an obligation to be a happy woman.”
When you leave the stages, the plateaus, you don’t get any frustration. “I did voiceovers, did radio, wrote in magazines, did comedy, did magazines, worked with Ribeirinho, did so many things… I worked in all theaters, from north to south… what do I want more?”
And that’s how, at the age of 84, Simone de Oliveira decided to end her artistic life. To say goodbye to the public, she gave, on March 29, a concert at the Coliseu de Lisboa. Tickets for the show sold out. The President of the Republic was present and, on the sidelines, had promised to honor the singer.
The promise was fulfilled on the 27th of May: Simone de Oliveira was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit.