By Joe Lopes
We continue with part 3 of Joe’s article. To read parts 1 and 2 follow the links at the bottom of the article.

Carlos Gomes Reborn!
This brings us to the next problem of documenting Brazil’s cultural heritage, and, more significantly, the benefits to be reaped in rediscovering her glorious musical past.

After several generations of derision and disregard, composer Carlos Gomes has belatedly bounced back from the edge of operatic oblivion and been thrust, once again, onto the center-stage.

To what do we owe this renewed popularity and rebirth? Basically, to the path-breaking efforts of Fundaão Nacional de Arte (known in Brazil as Funarte), a federal non-profit arts organization entrusted with, among other things, the methodical compiling, researching, filming and recording of the entire Gomes canon of procurable works.

Musically, he is wonderfully majestic and he is important for us,” asserted Flvio Silva, Funarte’s coordinator of music. “He is the first Brazilian composer who really made an international career for himself.”

A principal driving force behind the above endeavor, conductor and artistic director of the Amazonas Opera Festival, Luiz Fernando Malheiro, enthusiastically agreed: “Gomes.truly deserves to be revisited. He is very characteristic of the transition in Italian opera that was taking place before the turn of the century.”

This was quite a comeback for a composer previously left out of the musical loop, so to speak, by the Modernist movement’s winds of change way back in the halcyon days of the 1930s during Brazil’s nationalistic period-and by no less a musical authority than the country’s own resident field expert at the time, Heitor Villa-Lobos.

As a practical result of this unprecedented reevaluation, Funarte has been the favored recipient of a generous government grant-totaling roughly $450,000 Reais or, at the current exchange rate, about US$ 220,000 – to recover and bring to light many of the Campineiro’s previously lost or misplaced manuscripts, most indelibly his four-act 1863 opera Joana de Flandres, originally thought to have been destroyed in a theater fire in Rio a few years after it premiered, but found recently in the archives of the city’s Museu Histórico Nacional (National Historic Museum).

The phenomenal Gomes mini-resurgence has straightaway been felt across both cultural and geographic borders with the compact disc debut, late last year (on the Dynamic label), of a live July 2004 performance of the complete Salvator Rosa, comprised mostly of non-Brazilians, and staged in the Italian city of Martina Franco.

Starring the renowned Venetian basso, Francesco Ellero d’Artegna-himself a past winner of the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition in Philadelphia-it featured the combined forces of the Bratislava Chamber Chorus and Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, under the watchful eye of maestro Maurizio Benini.

Politics, the Kiss of Death: A Rio-life Study
So, with major international revivals by a once-neglected Brazilian master, and numerous new releases of his most outstanding creative works, along with an enthusiastic assemblage of young, native-born artists eager to sing, play and breath new life into many of them, can the Brazilian national opera now take a solid enough stand in the performing-arts world and lay claim to have finally arrived at a more positive (and productive) cultural impasse? Not if we know anything about her past political maneuverings, it won’t.

As a twice-wounded, twice-shy victim of Rio and São Paulo’s Machiavellian posturing, the once-battered Brazilian maestro, John Neschling, was obliged to sound off, in a 2001 newspaper interview, that, “The entity that needs to provide the culture so sorely lacking (in Rio) has to be the state. Similarly, she will only have a truly great orchestra when her state and local governments convince themselves that a symphony is absolutely necessary for tourism, and for a city of the First World”-an optimistic viewpoint, at best.

But the ever-present, double-edged sword that the ruthless game of politics has lately turned into has had an astonishingly negative impact on even the most respectable of arts institutions, in spite of the maestro’s utopian ideals.

Part 4 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. He is a lover of all types of music, especially opera and jazz, as well as an incurable fan of classic and contemporary films. You can email your comments to

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

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