Ivone Lara, or Dona Ivone Lara as she is respectfully known in Brazil, is one of the prominent ladies of samba, having been the first woman to ever fight gender prejudice in the samba schools. She was the first woman to parade at the ala dos compositores, a masculine ala, becoming then the ala's madrinha. Counting more than 300 compositions written throughout more than 50 years of her career, she is unanimously revered by Dorival Caymmi, Martinho da Vila, Zeca Pagodinho, Gilberto Gil, Hermínio Belo de Carvalho, Beth Carvalho, Fundo de Quintal, and many others. Her songs have been recorded by major artists with great success and have earned her several awards. Some of these songs, such as "Não me Perguntes," "Amor Inesquecível," "Decepção," "Sem Cavaco, Não," "Andei Pra Corimá," "Alvorecer," and "Amor sem Esperanças," achieved great popularity.
She was born into a musical home, with both her father and mother closely linked to Carnaval. Becoming an orphan at six, she went to a boarding school where she took music lessons. At 12, she was already composing, with the chorus of the partido alto "Tiê Tiê" dated from that time. At 16, she went to live with at her uncle Cândido Pereira da Silva's home. He was a chorão, a musician who played choro, and taught her how to play the cavaquinho, at the same time introducing her to that musical community. He was also a trombonist and composer of choros, but he never admitted samba into his house, only the choro. In 1945, she moved to Madureira, joining the extinct samba school Prazer da Serrinha. She was composing actively at that time, but she couldn't present herself as a composer due to the prejudice against women in samba. So she asked her cousin, Fuleiro, to present her sambas as if they were his own. Having to work as a nurse to survive, she had little free time to dedicate to artistic presentations, which were held usually only on her vacations. In 1947, she married Oscar, son of the president of the Prazer da Serrinha school. Her samba "Nasci Para Sofrer" was the one adopted by that school in the Carnaval contest that year. When the Prazer da Serrinha was dissolved, all of her group was transferred to G.R.E.S. Império Serrano, a school created in 1947, after a political dispute, by the dissidents of Prazer da Serrinha. In her first parade at that school, she joined the ala do compositores (composers' ala), a men's only ala, and they paraded wearing a white suit and a goatee. She wore a similar outfit, enduring harsh criticism. At the same time, she continued to compose and her samba "Não me Perguntes" (with Fuleiro) achieved great popularity at the school. In 1965, her samba-enredo "Os Cinco Bailes da Corte ou os Cinco Bailes Tradicionais da História do Rio" (with Silas de Oliveira and Bacalhau) was classified in fourth place at the samba school contest. Known only at her redoubt, the Carioca hills, she finally gained wider exposure at the rodas de samba eventually afforded by the cultural stimulation brought by the Opinião play, which presented her to the middle-class Cariocas. She then began to make special appearances on several recordings of other singers, interpreting mostly her own creations. Since 1968, she has been parading in her school's ala das baianas, being madrinha with the ala dos compositores. In 1974, she recorded her samba-enredo "Os Cinco Bailes da Corte ou os Cinco Bailes Tradicionais da História do Rio (with Silas de Oliveira and Bacalhau) for the series História das Escolas de Samba: Império (Marcus Pereira). In that year, her songs "Agradeço a Deus" (with Mano Décio da Viola) and "Confesso" were recorded by Cristina Buarque de Hollanda on her debut album. She divided her time between music and nursing until 1977, when she retired as a nurse and could commit herself integrally to music. The next year, she recorded her first album and began to present herself often. Her song "Sonho Meu" (with Délcio Carvalho, her most frequent partner) was awarded in 1978 as the best of the year and recorded in duet by Maria Betânia and Gal Costa. Soon would follow other hits: "Alguém me Avisou" (recorded by many artists such as Maria Betânia and Gilberto Gil), "Acreditar" and "Liberdade" (recorded by Roberto Ribeiro), and "Alvorecer" (recorded by Clara Nunes and Roberto Ribeiro). In 1984, she toured Japan, Italy, Martinica, and Spain, together with the group Fundo de Quintal, Martinho da Vila, and Paulinho da Viola. She then began to present herself regularly at the Teatro Opinião, completing 14 years on that stage. Her mark of 50 years of career in 1995 produced several commemorations, with her appearing in several tribute shows, including one at the Teatro Rival in Rio, together with Leci Brandão, Martinho da Vila, Almir Guineto, Hermínio Belo de Carvalho, and others. She appeared as a special guest on recordings by Dorival Caymmi, Martinho da Vila, and Jair Rodrigues. Almost ten years without recording again, in 1997 she recorded the CD Bodas de Ouro (Sony Music). This sixth CD of her career was the one on which she would have no voice, as the recording label had everything rigidly determined. The record brought the special appearances of figures such as Dorival Caymmi, Gilberto Gil, Zeca Pagodinho, and Martinho da Vila. In 1999, she was paid tribute by the rival school of Mangueira, which brought in its first parade car (abre-alas) the important names of Moreira da Silva, Zé Keti, Zeca Pagodinho, and Martinho da Vila. She was also featured on a tribute to composers Carlos Cachaça and Zé Keti, who died that year. She recorded in duo with Caetano Veloso her song "Alguém me Avisou" on the CD Casa de Samba, which also brought her "Enredo do meu Samba" (with Jorge Aragão). Vânia Bastos included her compositions on her eighth CD, dedicated to women writers, Belas e Feras. Enjoying a deserved reputation built through all these decades, Dona Ivone Lara has maintained a busy schedule, being present at all the big venues of samba. In 2000, she sang at Rio's major showroom, Metropolitan, and appeared on the album Velha Guarda da Mangueira e Convidados by the traditional musicians of Mangueira still alive, the Velha Guarda (Old Guard). ~ Alvaro Neder