A double dose of beats and rhythms is making its way to Credicard Hall starting this Thursday. Both the British group Stomp and the Israeli Mayumana are coming to São Paulo to offer an irresistible mixture of percussion, dance, theatre and humor (Stomp will also be in Rio). While Stomp will ring many a bell, famed for their use of house-hold items as instruments since 1991, Mayumana is still conquering crowds around the world.
The name Mayumana derives from the Hebrew word Meyumanut” meaning “skill” and that is precisely what the performance is about: the variety of skills that the 15 performers bring to the show, including drumming techniques, music reading, coordination development, yoga, hip-hop, African dancing, acting, improvisation, rock-climbing, and more. Founded in 1996 by Eylon Nuphar and Boaz Berman, the show began playing small theatres and clandestine venues around Tel Aviv but now has become an international hit, playing in Europe, North America and Asia. The group, coming back to São Paulo after last year’s success, will be playing 6 shows from Thursday to Sunday. For a pulsating, upbeat atmosphere don’t miss this performance which often ends with Mayumana coming down off stage to continue drumming and dancing with the audience.
Alternatively, starting August 4th in São Paulo and August 18th in Rio, Stomp will be presenting their world-class explosion of rhythm, humor and raw energy. Evolved from a group of street performers commonly known as “buskers” in England, this troupe of drummers/dancers/mimes takes the sounds of everyday objects and turns it into a cacophony of music and noise. You’ll never look at your broom or trashcan the same way again.


Venue: Credicard Hall – Av. das Naes Unidas, 17955, Sto Amaro, São Paulo – Telephone: 6846-6010

Date & Time: July 29 (21:30), July 30 (22:00), July 31 (17:00; 22:00), August 1 (16:00; 20:00)

Price: R$ 50,00 to R$ 120,00


Venue: Credicard Hall – Av. das Naes Unidas, 17955, Sto Amaro, São Paulo – Telephone: 6846-6010
Claro Hall – Av. Ayrton Sena, 3000 – Un 1005, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro – Telephone 21 2430-0700

Date & Time: SP: August 4 (21:30), August 5 (21:30), August 6 (22:00), August 7 (17:00; 21;00), August 8 (16:00; 20:00)
Rio: August 18 (21:30), August 19 (21:30), August 20 (22:00), August 21 (17:00; 22:00), August 22 (16:00; 20:00)

Price: R$ 60,00 to R$ 150,00″

By Danilo Hortenci
Following a number of requests from readers, to recommend the best hotel options in São Paulo, we have decided to do a weekly column highlighting a different hotel each week, varying the location and price range. We will kick off the series with a look at the brand new Ceasar Business hotel located on the city’s landmark Paulista Av, in the Jardins neighborhood. This is a prime location to stay in São Paulo, with easy (relatively speaking) access to nearly every part of the city. The hotel is just 10 yards from the Consolacao subway station and security is excellent with a mobile police unit stationed almost in front of the hotel. If you arrive by car, valet parking is available. The price range is middle of the road, with rooms from R$198 to R$393 per night. As its name suggests, the hotel was designed with the business traveler in mind and rooms have broad band Internet access, as well as standard items like cable TV and minibar. There is a business center and a large conference room, suitable for events and business seminars, as well as a gym and host of other services to make you stay a comfortable and enjoyable one. There is also a fine restaurant within the hotel, but if you prefer to dine out then the Jardins neighborhood is full of great restaurants and pubs. There are also a number of Cinemas (Belas Artes, Bristol, Unibanco) and Shopping Malls (Frei Caneca, Paulista) close by to complete your entertainment options.

Name: Caesar Business São Paulo Paulista
Address:Av Paulista, 2181 – Jardins, São Paulo
Telephone: 55 11 3066 6666
Email: Cbpaulista@caesarpark.com.br

The Saint Andrew Society of São Paulo is happy to invite you to a unique ceilidh, certainly the first of its kind! Come to our CACHAA TASTING followed by a delicious DINNER and lots of DANCING. Note: for those that don’t know how to dance, don’t worry, the cachaa will help you!

This event will be held on August 14th, at the SPYC – São Paulo Yacht Club, on Rua Francisco de Seixas, 225 (Jardim Guarapiranga) starting at 8:00pm. you will be able to purchase your drinks at the CASH BAR. Invite your friends. We will teach the dances if you don’t know them yet.
This is good warm-up for the 80th Year Caledonian Ball to be held on
October 16th, 2004.
In the event of it being a very cold winter night (and the cachaa and dancing not being enough to warm you up) SPYC can produce a roaring log fire. Come and stay warm!

Early Payment (before Aug. 14, via deposit as per described below) = R$ 35,00 per person
Payment on the night (cash or checks accepted) = R$ 45,00 per person.

* Note: The prices listed above do not include beer, wine, whisky and
other alcoholic beverages. We will offer free cachaa during the tasting at 8:00 PM.

Once you have made your early payment, please send your deposit slip (indicating for whom payment was made) to: Ms. Silvia Paranhos, Fax: (11) 3016-8309 or E-mail: silvia@rhi.com.br

BANK: HSBC Bank Brasil S/A – 399
N C/C / ACCOUNT #: 14473-32
NOME DA CONTA / CREDIT TO: Associaão Saint Andrew do Estado de São Paulo”
CNPJ: 06.071.606/0001-02

For additional information on the St Andrew Society events and membership, please contact: Sean Hutchinson (President) at (11) 3016-8300 or e-mail: seanhutch@rhi.com
or visit our website www.standrews.com.br

To celebrate its second anniversary, the Grand Hyatt São Paulo brings to town renowned French chef Christian Le Sequer, awarded three stars in the coveted Michelin Guide. Le Sequer, from the Ledoyen restaurant in Paris, will command a festival at the hotel’s Eau restaurant presenting his modern and creative cuisine during August 5, 6, and 7.

Le Sequer will present a tailor-made menu for the delight of São Paulo cuisine lovers. The six course menu includes a Tomato pulp refreshed with a mustard sherbet; Osyters with a butter and oyster cream sauce; Braised sea bass with potatoes and truffle foam; Suckling pig with spices, dumplings and a tomato confit and for dessert a warm Chocolate and raspberry fondant and to finish a selection of fresh cheeses , petit fours and coffee. The price is R$350 per person, and reservations can be made by calling : 6838-3208.

The Chef- Born in the French region of Bretanha, Christian Le Sequer commands the traditional Ledoyen Restaurant in Paris since 1998. The restaurant is located at the Carr des Champs-Elyse, near the famous Palace de la Concorde,in a large 1842 house with a sophisticated interior decoration. Le Sequer has been around various renowned French restaurants, such as Lucas- Carton, Espadon ( Ritzs) e Taillevent. He was awarded with his second Michelin star when he was commanding the kitchen of the pera restaurant, at the Inter-Continental Hotel also in Paris. He was awarded his third star in 2002 which was made official in 2003.

The chef practices a modern and refined gastronomy, giving special attention to the ingredients. The dishes must be creative and original, but easy to understand”, Christian Le Sequer says. He always innovates his menu, introducing products from each season. He usually chooses ingredients that are common in his hometown area, near the Lorien Harbor, such as fish and other seafood.

Venue: Eau Restaurant – Grand Hyatt São Paulo, Avenida das Naes Unidas, 13301- Telefone : 6838-3207

Date: August 5, 6 and 7 (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)

Time: from 19:30 to 23:30 pm

Capacity: 122 people

Price: R$ 350,00

By Rita Shannon Koeser
The rubber barons brought their wives sweltering in their fur coats to the fabulous new opera house with its Baroque style interior. In their huge and sumptuously decorated houses off Praa São Sebastião (San Sebastion Square) they talked about Manaus soon supplanting Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s new capital.
They liked to show off by lighting their cigars with bills of large denomination and sending their laundry to Paris. By the end of the 19th century, Manaus was one of the main sources of rubber in the world.
The rubber boom brought in so much money that one diamond merchant estimated that more diamonds were sold in Manaus than anywhere else in the world. The governor of Amazonas state, Eduardo Gonalves Ribeiro boasted I found a village-I made of it a modern city”. It was no idle boast.
The inhabitants enjoyed some of the first electric street lights in the world and the first electrically operated trolly system in Latin America. There was piped gas and water.
A glorious modern city had arisen in the middle of the Amazon forest, and even steel tycoon, Andrew Carnegie, supposedly said with sadness, “I ought to have chosen rubber”.
Everybody thought it would last forever. No one thought about the Englishman who had already “stolen” the source of the rubber baron’s wealth in 1876. This “theft” would bring an end to Brazil’s world monopoly in rubber within several decades. The rubber boom would be nothing but a memory in Manaus.

Hevea brasiliensis
Europeans knew about it as far back as Christopher Columbus. Other travelers observed the Indians bouncing it and using it as waterproofing on their feet. But it was the French scientist, Charles Marie de la Condamine, who was the first to send it to Europe. He coined the word “latex” (after the Spanish word for milk) for the milky substance that exuded from the tree when it was cut. He spent four months on the Amazon river in 1743 exploring and observing the strange plants, animals, and customs of the native Indians. He kept a journal which would later fascinate Europe. He observed a tall tree (later given the scientific name of “Hevea brasiliensis” with high limbs from which the indians were extracting a milky liquid.
When the liquid coagulated it produced a malleable elastic material. The indians had many uses for this material. They made syringes, boots, bottles, toys and many other items. La Condamine sent some of the material back to France and later published a book which was the first scientific account of the Amazon.
Dr. Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, would later give it its English name, “rubber” after realizing it was ideal for erasing (i.e. rubbing out) pencil marks.

Despite its potential, rubber’s use was somewhat limited until 1823 when Scottish chemist, Charles Macintosh, discovered a way to coat fabric with rubber to make it waterproof.
But his “Macintosh” coats had the problem of hardening in the winter and melting in the summer.
The boom in the Amazon began after 1839 when American, Charles Goodyear, invented the process of vulcanization which prevented rubber from becoming sticky in heat and brittle in cold. Soon rubber became a major ingredient in many products including rainwear, steam engines, bicycle tires, electrical insulation and finally automobile tires.
Although latex was found in trees in other parts of the world, the best quality rubber could be produced from the wild Brazilian trees, the “Hevea brasiliensis”.

The Boom
Many foreigners arrived in Manaus to cash in on the rubber boom. Speculators from France, England, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Syria and other parts of the world searched for rubber trees on the Amazon and its tributaries.
Tapping rubber was not an easy process, and many indigenous people were recruited for this work. Some were shamelessly exploited and suffered and died under horrible conditions. One in twenty Manaus citizens were from elsewhere.
There were, among others, bankers from Stuttgart, merchants from Lisbon and engineers from London. As the worldwide demand for Brazilian rubber rose, the price of rubber rose steadily. Rubber exports grew rapidly, and the government of Amazonas state put a 20 to 25 percent export tax on rubber.
With these profits, the governor, Eduardo Gonalves Ribeiro, a former military engineer, made incredible changes in Manaus.
Founded as a fort by the Portuguese in the 17th century and located almost 1000 miles up the Amazon river from the Atlantic Ocean, Manaus, a small tranquil town, was transformed after becoming the capital of the rubber industry. By late in the 1890’s, during the apex of the rubber boom, the capital had streets one hundred feet wide, an electrically operated trolley system, piped gas and water, and electric street lighting. But aside from utility, governor Ribeiro desired beauty.
He built beautiful public buildings parks, and gardens. On humid evenings under the equatorial heat, the city’s elite went to the parks for concerts by the Governor’s band, they strolled or sat in the cafes on the broad Eduardo Ribeiro Avenue , or they went to their magnificent opera house to see a performance by the latest European opera company visit to Manaus.
The city now also had a racecourse, bullring, twenty four bars, thirty six fashionable doctors, eleven fancy restaurants and seven bookshops. The locals who were very proud of their city used to quote the German explorer, Baron Friedrich Alexander von Humboldt who had said a hundred years earlier, “There (in the Amazon Valley), sooner or later, the civilization of the world will be found” A rubber baron was heard to say at a banquet “No adult heart can feel that Manaus is anything less than fabulous”
The lifestyles of the rubber barons were extraordinary by any measure. Waldemar Scholz had a lion, a yacht, motorboat, and servants dressed in livery. Commandant Frotta commissioned a palace to house his race horses, then made some changes to it and liked it so much, he decided to move into one wing of the house himself!
Others burned money to light their cigars, sent their laundry to Europe, and ordered their food from Europe. Victor von Hagen, who wrote a book about the quest for El Dorado put it this way, “Manaus had actually become El Dorado. Gold flowed like water through its streets. The whole city throbbed to the dream of wealth. One had ‘pate de foie gras’, Crosse and Backwell’s jams, Huntley and Palmer’s biscuits, imported wines. One could sit down to dinner at which the butter came from Cork, the biscuits from Boston, the ham from Oporto, and the potatoes from Liverpool”

The food arrived on the steamships that had come from Europe and North America to collect rubber. Trade between Manaus and the rest of Brazil was not much. Who wanted anything from Rio when you could get it from Paris? And as Manaus had hopes of becoming the next capital of Brazil, it should have the best of everything.

The crowning glory of all this luxury and extravagance was the “Teatro Amazonas” the famous, if not notorious opera house. Governor Ribeiro commissioned a Portuguese architect to build an Italianate opera house that would have cobbled streets with elegant houses, plazas and gardens surrounding it. What started as a modest project wound up costing two million dollars which was an enormous sum at that time. Architects, painters, sculptors and builders arrived from Europe to work on the new opera house. Built almost exclusively from materials imported from Europe, the iron framework was from Glasgow, Scotland; the 60,000 tiles in its cupola were from Alsace Lorraine; and the crystal chandeliers from Italy. The main material used in the construction was stone but the entrances and supporting pillars were finished in Italian Marble. In keeping with the” spare no expense” attitude, some locals thought the cupola should be of gold rather than tiles. The governor wasn’t worried. He said before the theater was even open “When the growth of our city demands it, we’ll pull down this opera house and build another”.

The interior of the theater was brilliant with gold leaf and lush red velvet. The decorations, painting and sculpture had as their theme the classical Greek and Roman mythological figures together with the Indian legends of the Amazon. Indian heads were on the balustrade of the staircases, and there were murals of the gods and goddesses playing in the Amazon.

On opening night, January 6, 1897, the Grand Italian Opera company played Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda”. The elaborate opera house in the middle of the Amazon forest became a symbol of the incredible extravagance of the elite during the rubber boom and became a legend in itself. Through the years stories were told of the famous performers who came to Manaus. It was alleged that the tenor Enrico Caruso, the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and the actress Sarah Bernhardt had performed at the Teatro Amazonas. But these luminaries never came to Manaus.

The “Seed Snatch” and the Decline

In 1876, Dr. Joseph Hooker, Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in England commissioned Henry Wickham, an English adventurer to collect seeds from the “Hevea brasiliensis” trees in the Amazon. Wickham who was living in the Santarem region of the upper Amazon, was interested in, and had already published some information about the rubber trees. He was able to collect 70,000 seeds from the forest to send to England. Luck was on Wickham’s side, as unbeknownst to him, the Amazon forests had seventeen different varieties of wild Hevea, but just by chance, he found the one tree that was the gold mine for the rubber barons, the botanists “Hevea brasiliensis”.
The story of how he brought the seeds out of Brazil to England became a classic tale of daring- do and became known as the “seed snatch”. There are still many mysteries about this story. The first is how he and a few helpers were able to collect 70,000 seeds in a short period of time.
The “Hevea” trees were wildly scattered in the forest and not in neat plantation rows. The seeds don’t drop from the trees but are catapulted up to 40 yards away. Wickham liked to encourage the idea that the seeds he took were illegal and loaded aboard his ship under the nose of a gunboat which “would have blown us out of the water had her commander suspected what we were doing”.
Though the customs authorities did not know what he was taking, Brazil had no law against the export of rubber seeds. However 70,000 seeds would probably not have been looked on favorably by the authorities.

The seeds were delivered to the Botanical Gardens at Kew in June 1876. They were planted in seedbeds the day after their arrival, and in a few weeks more than 2000 of them had germinated.
These were sent to the British colonies of Ceylon (Sri lanka) and Malaya where they survived and were planted in rows on plantations. Labor costs were much less than in the Amazon, and there was a lack of natural enemies for the plants, The first rubber trees flowered in Asia in 1881, and after twenty years of effort by the British botanists, the Asian plantations began to produce rubber in large amounts.
As a result, by 1910 the price of Brazilian rubber began to decline putting the rubber barons into a panic. No one had foreseen the drastic impact the plantations in Asia would have on the wild rubber trade in Brazil.
The collection of wild rubber in the Amazon required exploration of more and more remote areas because the older areas were declining in productivity. Recruitment of laborers was difficult and there was a limited supply of them. By contrast conditions on the plantations in the British colonies were very favorable. There was a lot of land, the export taxes were low, transport was inexpensive, and labor was cheap and plentiful.
In 1914, the commercial plantations of Ceylon and Malaya were yielding as much rubber as Brazilian wild rubber but at lower prices. Asian rubber had broken the Amazon world monopoly and the rubber boom was over.

Instead of blaming their own inefficient methods of production, the rubber barons accused the federal government of concentrating on coffee to the detriment of rubber. They called for a “Convention of the Amazon” with the goal of stabilizing the prices of rubber.
Consequently, the Rubber Defense Law of 1912 was passed and encouraged the creation of plantations in the Amazon, improvement in transportation, and a 50 percent reduction export taxes. This was all to no avail, and the rubber boom was truly over.
Manaus again became a sleepy backwater, the foreigners moved away, the opera house, the docks, and the warehouses all deteriorated.

There were belated attempts at creating rubber plantations in the Amazon, but this was never successful. Diseases often attacked the plants, and even Henry Ford’s project, known as Fordlandia was an enormous failure in the 1920’s.

By 1922, 93 percent of world sales of rubber came from the plantations in Asia.

Manaus went into a long decline. But It would eventually rally to become a free trade zone, a center for eco- tourism and electronics, and the seat of many organizations studying the Amazon rain forest. Even the opera would eventually come back to the “Teatro Amazonas”. But Manaus would never reach its former glory.

Henry Wickham was knighted for “Services in connection with the rubber plantation industry in the Far East””

By Anna Kortschak
Less than an hour from Avenida Paulista, Morumbi, Itaim Bibi or Vila Madelana, the financial and cultural centres of São Paulo, where Brazilians and foreigners alike pursue their lucrative careers, eat at world class restaurants, drink at stylish bars and shop in glamorous shopping centres there exists a different world.

On the outskirts of São Paulo millions of people are living in dire poverty, struggling to meet their most basic needs in conditions that are almost impossible to imagine in those more privileged realms. Eldorado is one such favela community that has grown up in the water catchment area around the edges of Billings Reservoir, since the 50’s, when the region was the summer playground of São Paulo’s wealthy.

City of God shocked the world with its graphic depiction of the violence of favela life in Rio and these images are echoed, often enough, on our television screens during the nightly news. But what remains invisible is that there are millions of people living in impoverished communities throughout Brazil whose aspirations are simply to own a car, to have a job, go to university or get married and be part of a stable family.

Perhaps even more shocking than the endemic violence in favelas, and what might go a long way to providing an explanation for it, is the fact that these simple things are so unattainable to their residents. Because while the children of Eldorado have the same dreams as any other children, these dreams generally remain totally inaccessible to them. For example, one 17 year old boy, who longs to be a surfer, has never seen the ocean and São Paulo is, after all, only an hour from the coast.

Searching for Eldorado is a project taking place at ACER (Associaão de Apoio Criana em Risco), a non-governmental organisation based in Eldorado which facilitates a number of innovative community development programmes that teach young people skills to improve their own physical, social and psychological well-being, as well as that of the other members of their communities. The idea behind Searching for Eldorado is to give a public voice and means of self-representation to young people who are marginalised in the media, as in every other aspect of their lives.

The participants have been given the opportunity to portray both their dreams and their reality through photos and other images, which will then be used to create a photo website in order to share the reality of their lives with the wider community. In the course of the project young people are gaining familiarity with the digital technology that more privileged people take for granted as part of their everyday lives.

Searching for Eldorado is an attempt to discover some of the riches that are hidden where few people think to look for them; beyond the confines of high security apartment blocks, country clubs, gated communities and ‘shoppings’ which the privileged minority inhabit.

We are looking for a volunteer web designer to assist with this project. For further information about ACER and its work or the project please contact ACER. English speakers should call Jonathan on (11) 4049 1888 and Portuguese speakers should call Gilbert on (11) 4337 0076.

After a 17 year absence, the São Roque Wine Festival is back. São Roque, located just 54km from São Paulo, was once know as the wine capital of the southeast and and was the inventor of the first draught wine (a kind of wine Chopp). However, the region lost most of its producers due to strong competition from Rio Grande do Sul back in the 1980s. The region is now making a comeback, though, and producers have substituted traditional wines for more sophisticated ones such as cabernet, cabernet sauvignon and Riesling. Organizers are expecting a large attendance at this year’s event, which is the first since 1987, when 100,000 visitors showed up. The festival will be held at a little known ski resort called Ski Mountain Park, just outside São Roque. Before you get too excited though, there is no actual snow, just a slope with plastic tracks and skis.there is also a cable car to get you back to the top. There are also other activities such as paintball, crossbow, rappel, tree climbing etc.
Where: São Roque, Ski Mountain Park. Tel.: (011) 4712 8676
When: June 26 – July 18. Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 10am to 10pm
Entrance: R$3
Website: www.sroque.com.br

Despite it’s name WorkUsa provides work and visa services for a large number of countries, including for foreigners wanting to work in Brazil. The company has an free online help service to answer all your doubts and queries about getting a work visa in Brazil and how to find a job here.
Brazil has a special law (number 6.815, 1980-08-19) dealing with issues related to foreigners (Non-Brazilian citizens) in Brazil. Its provisions deal with a broad range of aspects related to immigration and extradition procedures, including, among others, visas, asylum status, naturalization, deportation and expulsion regulations.
For example, a foreigner who would like to retire in Brazil, can do so providing he or she satisfy some basic criteria.
The applicant must be at least 50. There is no limit to the number of dependents who may also receive permanent residence visas. The main applicant must prove he has an income of at least US$2,000 a month. This will entitle him to visas for himself and two dependents. The applicant must demonstrate an additional US$1,000/month for each additional dependent. For more information click here

By Joe Lopes
The sultry new sounds that bossa nova actively came to encompass would give an entirely fresh and original slant to the much-maligned term modern classical music,” literally transforming guitarist Luiz Bonf, the shy piano-playing Tom Jobim, and his hard-living partner, Vinicius de Moraes, into latter-day Franz Schuberts for their unique songwriting skills.

Orpheus in the Underworld

In 1959, almost two years after she had officially left the concert platform, Brazilian opera singer Bidu Sayão returned from her self-imposed retirement to participate in the recording of a new work entitled A Floresta do Amazonas, written by her close friend and fellow compatriot, the staggeringly prolific Heitor Villa-Lobos.

It was a vigorous, soul-stirring piece cobbled together from the scattered remnants of his stillborn Hollywood film score for the MGM movie Green Mansions.

But despite the presence of Brazil’s greatest living classical composer and his favorite native songbird, the album failed to catch fire with fans and quickly went out of print. Villa-Lobos himself was to pass away on November 17, only a few short months after the recording was completed; for her part, Bidu would never again step into a gramophone studio, nor would she perform before a live paying audience.

In that same year, the revitalized Brazilian motion picture industry, soon to be known as the Cinema Novo (New Wave) movement, would test its fledgling wings by becoming the proud beneficiary of a more exceptional multicultural event: the worldwide release of French director Marcel Camus’ production of Orfeu Negro, or Black Orpheus, as contemporary English-speaking audiences would come to know it – a movie based on the musical play Orfeu da Conceião penned by Carioca poet Vinicius de Moraes.

A multi-award winner and surprise international hit, the film’s extraordinarily influential soundtrack, co-written by musicians Luiz Bonf and Antonio Carlos Jobim, with an able assist from lyricist Vinicius, would help launch the coming bossa nova invasion of the early to middle sixties.

The sultry new sounds that this style of world music actively came to encompass would give an entirely fresh and original slant to the much-maligned term “modern classical music,” literally transforming guitarist Bonf, the shy piano-playing Jobim, and his hard-living partner, de Moraes, into latter-day Franz Schuberts for their singularly unique songwriting skills.

Their historic collaboration would sweep Msica Popular Brasileira (or MPB for short) into a whole other musical realm, permanently changing the face and focus of jazz and other forms of popular entertainment for years to come (see my article, “Jazz Can’t Resist Brazil,” for more on this fascinating subject).

While this was all well and good for the pop and tourist trades, where did it leave the opera? What would happen to the over 300-year-old art form in Brazil, now that its feasibility had been suddenly called into question?

Going on the Record

In the year 1960, the country’s capital underwent a dramatic change from the old Portuguese-dominated center of Rio de Janeiro to the futuristic metropolis of Braslia.

As an unfortunate consequence of this move, Brazil’s major theaters and government-sponsored opera houses were relegated to a perpetual state of penury, if not outright impoverishment.

Opera, as it had been presented and performed in the land of Carnaval and samba, was in danger of going the way of the dinosaur; it was gradually being forced to make way for the seductive young charms of the sensuous new kid on the block, the statuesque “Girl from Ipanema.”

With extinction unavoidably looming, there simply had to exist a more practical method for preserving the rich cultural heritage (or what little of it there was) of the Brazilian national opera, not to mention the outstanding creative contributions of so many of its finest proponents, before this cataclysmic event would come to pass.

The only way this could be done was through the medium of recordings – ironically, the same technology that was threatening to displace opera’s intellectual preeminence in the land.

Why threatening? Had not Bidu Sayão, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Camargo Guarnieri, Francisco Mignone, and dozens of other classical artists committed their best-known interpretations to long-playing disc? Had not the prized theatrical works of Carlos Gomes, Alberto Nepomuceno, and Henrique Oswald been given the deluxe three-record treatment on the major international labels?

Hardly, is the brutally honest answer to those queries. While even at the zenith of her European and American opera career, Bidu Sayão had left only a comparable handful of recorded extracts from her most popular stage parts, with very little in the way of complete works preserved for posterity.

Shunned in the early fifties by an intransigent Met Opera management, poor under-represented Bidu was left holding the bag, as it were, by this intolerable state of recorded affairs – a disappointing casualty in the complete opera album wars.

Luckily for collectors, her varied interpretations of Brazilian folk tunes, art songs from France, Portugal and Spain, arias from Italian, French and Brazilian opera, and lyrical Brazilian and French showpieces, written or arranged for her by Villa-Lobos, Hernani Braga, Reynaldo Hahn, and others, have been beautifully restored by Sony, with all of the selections undergoing miraculous sonic transformations, enhancements that have contributed enormously to their shelf-life, as well as to their future enjoyment.

Still, the not-so-subtle shifting of musical tastes in the 1960s from the classical to the pop arena, with pop steadily encroaching upon opera and, irrevocably, gaining the upper hand, was uppermost in the minds of record producers, and clearly reflected in the preferences and patterns of the album-buying public of that period, both in Brazil and in the United States.

The times were indeed changing, as evidenced by the increased attention being paid to native performers Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Nara Leão, Luiz Bonf, Astrud Gilberto, Baden Powell, Srgio Mendes, and their work, by a plethora of entranced American players, among them guitarist Charlie Byrd, saxophonists Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan, flutist Herbie Mann, pianist Vince Guaraldi, harmonica expert Toots Thielemans, and many others.

Pointing the way toward this newly expansive musical plain, bossa nova, samba, and (to a lesser extent) other varieties of MPB, experienced a near cosmic explosion on American airwaves, and in record shops, not seen since the bygone days of Carmen Miranda, almost to the point of over-saturating the imported music mart all too quickly and too soon, according to some critical ears.

Nevertheless, once firmly committed to this unalterable path, Brazil’s homegrown talent (and, more importantly, her audiences) would never again go back to the way things were – the notoriously volatile Brazilian economy would surely see to that, never allowing for the majority of its citizens the experience of such First World amenities as regular concert-going, the purchasing of vast quantities of classical music albums, the attending of live opera performances, or the listening of classical records made famous by native-born artists.

It was sadly prophetic too of the complicated course Brazil’s opera singers would inevitably take with regard to their own future lack of stability in the post-bossa nova period.
Plenty of Pop Stars

So where had all her myriad opera talents migrated to all these years? Why were there so few classically trained singers around to fill the empty stage left vacant by the departure of that quintessential role model, Bidu Sayão, from the international operatic scene?

One possible explanation may lie within the pop field itself. As irreconcilable as it might seem to us today, Brazilian power vocalists of the 1950s-1960s typically personified the penchant for over-the-top delivery that was so strongly in vogue at the time: they were considered the ne plus ultra of the Latinate-style of pop singing much favored in South America’s largest country – at least, until the revolutionary changes brought about by the arrival of bossa nova and MPB.

Among female interpreters of this type were the legendary Dalva de Oliveira, the husky-toned Leny Andrade, and the creamy-voiced ngela Maria, three individual stylists who could be construed as direct descendants of the vocal tradition previously laid down for them by French chanteuse Edith Piaf, and American jazz specialists Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan – impressively moving artists in their own right, epitomizing the raw brand of this emotional, all-or-nothing approach to popular songs that had so imbued Brazil’s own version of the hit parade.

On the distaff side, there were Agnaldo Rayol and Agnaldo Timoteo, two charismatic male performers who possessed powerful, tenor-like voices, with all the requisite richness and passion necessary for full-throated vocalizing of the operatic kind.

One of them, Agnaldo Timoteo, was widely acclaimed for two solid hits from 1968, the romantic “Meu Grito” (My Cry) and the tender “Mame,” a sweetly sentimental paean to Brazilian mothers everywhere. The other, Agnaldo Rayol, with his fluffy, pompadour hairstyle and choirboy good looks, physically resembled the once fashionable African American pop crooner, Johnny Mathis.

Mathis, it should be noted, had taken up serious vocal studies near the start of his career, but abandoned his operatic pursuits in the mid-fifties in favor of the more lucrative song sphere. His smooth-as-silk ballad style became instantly recognizable through the liberal use of head tone and falsetto, whereas Rayol’s more robust sound can best be described as having a cutting edge to it, what in Italian is referred to as squillo (pronounced skwee-lo, and not to be confused with the Portuguese word for squirrel).

Squillo is a term used to identify the visceral, penetrating ring in the upper-middle to top-third of the male tenor voice, a somewhat indefinable trait not all members of this voice category can lay claim to.

Ideally, Rayol had this quality in spades. Why he chose the popular song route over a possible career on the operatic stage, after having been blessed with such a remarkable, God-given endowment, is not immediately clear, but that he had the right equipment in his larynx is absolutely without argument.

Like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett before him, two immortal American singers who went through numerous ups-and-downs in their long musical pathways, Rayol had a late-blooming vocal resurgence characterized by his warbling of the trenchant main theme to the hugely successful soap opera Terra Nostra, “Tormento d’Amore” (Torment of Love), sung as a duet with Welsh singing star Charlotte Church.

Their 1998 Italian-language recording of the number was an unparalleled cultural phenomenon in Brazil, and was, undeniably, Rayol’s most financially prosperous pop foray in years, resurrecting his sagging singing career at a relatively late stage in his professional life.

It also sounded in eerie imitation of an earlier 1996 Euro-pop confection, “Con Te Partir” (Time To Say Goodbye), recorded jointly by tenor Andrea Bocelli and soprano Sarah Brightman. That trite tune spirited the blind Bocelli to the top of the crossover charts, where he has encountered substantial media coverage ever since, however debatable (or unmerited) that may be.

This was not the first time that an Italian popular song had heightened Brazilian awareness of this crowd-pleasing musical sub-genre.

A major event of thirty years prior, one that did much to signal the final transition over into the pop world, and nearly single-handedly derailed the classical “gravy train” in the country, once and for all, was the participation in the 1968 San Remo Song Festival by Jovem Guarda (The Young Guard) emblem and Brazilian pop sensation, singer-songwriter Roberto Carlos.

His winning entry, a sappily written love song by Sergio Endrigo, was a Neapolitan-inspired romanza called “Canzone Per Te” (A Song for You), aimed squarely at Brazilian youths’ recurring obsession with Italianit, and the obviously partisan Mediterranean judges of the contest.

At that fortuitous moment, however, O Rei Roberto proved that he could deliver the finished goods as well as, if not better than, most of the mediocre talents that had comprised that year’s list of song candidates, thus securing for himself (in Brazil, anyway) the perennial and undisputed title of “The King” of pop (Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson aside).

The Brazilian Ratings Battle: “I Want My MPB”

As it eventually played out, the real struggle for audience attention had already begun to be waged on Brazilian television during the mid-1960s, in the form of live televised song festivals, but with a slightly different angle: it was not to be a battle between opera (or classical music) and pop at all, but between the burgeoning Brazilian rock and MPB factions.

This openly competitive situation, brought about by the rivalry of these two popular entertainment forms, quickly led to their becoming a regular weekly feature on the major networks (TV Excelsior and TV Record) of the time.

Strangely, this same type of domestic programming has even permeated the pop culture of North American television, what with the recent rebirth of “song contests” recycled as reality shows (American Idol and Pop Diva) ruling much of the TV-ratings game of late.

In Bahian singer Caetano Veloso’s candid look at the era, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, New York, 2002), the consuming, all-pervasive influence that was exerted on promoters, performers and viewing public alike, by this new and highly attractive musical format, was convincingly described in matter-of-fact fashion:

After this (1965) festival, producers at the other broadcasting company were also more receptive, and initiated a kind of programming that would transform television as much as music. The idea of song competitions had been borrowed from the San Remo Festival in Italy, but in Brazil, after the success of the first one, it was to acquire different characteristics and carry a different sort of weight. Elis Regina’s performance had shown the owners of TV Record how broadly appealing MPB could be with the Brazilian public, the scope of its potential audience as well as prestige. MPB started to be taken seriously in Brazil, in every sense: from the specifically musical aspects to the literary and the political, there was an aura of mission connected to the songs.

As a result of this sudden flash with success, fast-rising pop-rock artists of every description and persuasion, including Roberto and Erasmo Carlos, Wanderley Cardoso, Wilson Simonal, Elis Regina, Jair Rodrigues, Wanderla, Chico Buarque, Jerry Adriani, Renato e Seus Blue-Caps, The Fevers, and Ronnie Von, to be joined by Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee, Edu Lobo, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethnia, Gal Costa, and Tom Z, in addition to Italian pop favorites Rita Pavone, Gigliola Cinquetti, Gianni Morandi, Jimmy Fontana, and others, would reign supreme (for a time) as the New Young Guards of the Living Room.

In the same, inexplicable manner that Carnaval and samba had meshed into a feverish tropical goulash of colorful rhythmic delights, Brazilian rock and popular song had somehow come to terms and agreed to peacefully “coexist,” in that genuinely affecting way the Brazilian people seem to have of digesting non-native musical forms – and, most intriguingly, of turning out lush, finger-snapping oeuvres of deceptively simple structure, despite the presence of so much political and economic turmoil, particularly during the military years of the mid-sixties to early eighties.

Although opera (and, by that, I mean Italian, French, and German opera) had thrived in a few isolated corners of the country – invariably introduced by contracted visiting artists, foreign conductors, and outside producers – it would continue to be systematically clobbered into the back-pages of the obituary section by the envious demigods of Brazilian popular music, once they grabbed hold of the entertainment headlines.

And they still refuse to let go, as witnessed by the disastrous decline in new and complete opera recordings, and by the rapid slimming down of the classical recorded repertoire by the prime international record labels.

Where this barren road will lead to for the opera in Brazil is anybody’s guess. But I’m hedging my bets to state, outright, that even bossa nova – the so-called “classic” bossa nova we’ve all come to know, love and appreciate – will also not be around the country much longer.

Alas, it would appear that, sooner or later, all goods things do indeed come to a bittersweet ending. It’s just a question of when.

Copyright 2004 by Josmar F. Lopes

Coisa Fina” is a new cultural project that brings together art, video, live music, Dj’s and Vj’s in a informal and pleasant environment. The event will be held every Friday on the upper floor of the “Galeria Ouro Fino” mall in downtown São Paulo. With a great panoramic view, Coisa Fina offers the best entertainment you can get, for a reasonable price.
Last April, bigBonsai, a production company focusing on cultural projects and documentaries, was put in charge of producing the ”lounge” of the International Documentary Film Festival ‘It’s All’ . The idea was to unite public, press, filmmakers and guests of the festival in a less formal environment.
In this way bigBonsai created a cultural event involving live music presentations, djs, video arts, live PA, debates and conferences.
The location was the upper floor of the Galeria Ouro Fino shopping mall, on Rua Augusta, one of the coolest places in São Paulo. The event was a success and generated the roots for a new project called Coisa Fina.

See flyer below for more details: