Maria Severa

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jay Turvey & Paul Sportelli

Lisbon, Portugal, mid-19th century

Maria Severa is the story of the legendary singer credited with creating Portugal's soulful, expressive fado music. Maria Severa is a prostitute in the ghetto of Lisbon. Maria has aspirations to be a singer, but is forced into prostitution with her Brazilian immigrant friend, Jasmine, to support her rag-tag family, which includes her mother, the owner of a run-down tavern, and Carlos, an orphaned guitar player.

In the ghetto, Maria encounters Armando de Vimioso, a celebrated and aristocratic bullfighter and his brother, Fernando. After Maria sings for Armando, a passionate romance begins. Maria and Carlos' new style of music, christened "fado" by the public, creates a sensation in the country and the couple's romance, which shatters class structure, becomes a scandal. Armando's mother, Constanca, who is desperately trying to hide the financial ruin of her family estate, forbids the romance and enlists Father Manuel, a man sympathetic to both sides, to break up the relationship. Maria's determination and growth as an artist are charted as she and Armando and the world around them come to terms with her revolution in music.

Listen to tracks from the original cast recording (now available on iTunes):

Opening: There is a Song

Bread and Butter

Between a Man and a Woman

The Bullfighting Song

A Prayer is a Boat

But I Do

Wandering Moon


Maria Severa was workshopped in the fall of 2008, featured as a part of the 2009 Shaw Festival Reading series, and receives its world premiere in Shaw Festival's 2011 Season.

Featuring Julie Martell, Neil Barclay, Saccha Dennis, Sharry Flett, Jonathan Gould, Jeff Irving, Jacqueline Thair, Mark Uhre, Jenny L. Wright, with Andy Beston (percussion), Larry Lewis (guitar), Louis Simao (Portuguese guitar, and Paul Sportelli (keyboard). Produced by Freddy Gabrsek in 2010.

"A considerable achievement--Turvey and Sportelli never stoop to mere pastiche or imitation, and their attempts to create fado songs for Maria to sing result in powerful numbers."

"Enchanting, fusing the heart of fado into a headier form of composition associated with post-Sondheim musicals."
        The Globe and Mail

"Absolutely brilliant...a delightful and powerful piece of musical theatre."
        AM 740 Radio

"Haunting melodies, unexpected harmonies and ever-changing rhythms... make their music soar...the score of Maria Severa lingers in the mind long after the final curtain and the ultimate power of the work can't be denied."
        The Toronto Star

"The actual sound and flavour of fado is, by the authors' own account, what attracted them to their subject, and they communicate that attraction powerfully to the audience. The songs they've written...are melodically moody and rhythmically complex."
        The National Post

"Appealing...imaginative and lyrical...a no-holds-barred expressiveness."
        The Buffalo News

"It throbs with emotional intensity...intoxicating."
        The Hamilton Spectator

Click on the thumbnails below to view full sized image:

Maria Severa was inspired by a trip we made to Portugal. We were visiting Lisbon and read a brief synopsis of the life of Maria Severa. Her story cried out to be made into a musical.


Shaw Festival's 50th Season


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