6 Brazilian Artists and Ensembles We'd Like to See in Rio

Monday, August 01, 2016 - 01:02 PM

From left to right: Isaac Karabtchevsky, Nelson Freire and Paulo Szot. From left to right: Isaac Karabtchevsky, Nelson Freire and Paulo Szot. (Courtesy of Isaac Karabtchevsky, Fabrice Boissiere, Ken Howard)

While the budget for Rio's opening ceremonies on Friday is a fraction of what we saw in London four years ago and Beijing four years before that, it will undoubtedly be a spectacle. The director Fernando Meirelles, the filmmaker behind City of God, will oversee a 6,000-person squad of performers, including the popular Brazilian musicians Anitta, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. In addition, we’re hoping that a few of the country’s classical figures will make cameos (something we noted was missing from the opening of the 2014 World Cup). Here are the musicians at the top of our list:

São Paulo Symphony Orchestra
This ensemble, founded in 1954 in Brazil's largest city, is now considered the country’s most esteemed orchestra. Currently led by music director Marin Alsop, it is a bit of a dark horse candidate to be offered the Olympic stage, but it may be the best prepared for it. In 2012, the group performed at the BBC Proms while the 2012 Summer Games in London were in full swing. 

Brazilian Symphony Orchestra
Rio's resident philharmonic is the likeliest classical music ensemble to get an invitation to the opening ceremonies, if only for convenience's sake. Headed by Roberto Minczuk, who was born in São Paulo, the ensemble has lost a bit of its luster since a 2011 scandal in which more than 30 musicians were fired. It has rebounded since then but has been unable to retain its status as the foremost orchestra in the country.

Nelson Freire
The renowned pianist may be the best-known Brazilian musician, classical or otherwise, in the world. Identified early on as a musical prodigy, Freire had a street named after him by the time he was 10. Though best known for his performances of Romantic staples, he has also championed Brazilian composers in his work, particularly on his 2012 album Brasileiro.

Isaac Karabtchevsky
If the Olympic committee is looking for a native-born conductor, we’re pretty sure their first choice will be Maestro Karabtchevsky, who’s been called a “living icon” by The Guardian. Though he’s led symphonies and opera companies around the world, he’s most closely associated with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra for which he was music director for 26 years.

Paulo Szot
The suave baritone who’s starred at the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway, also has a way with a bossa-nova beat, which he proved during a cabaret stint at New York’s 54 Below. He’d certainly bring a bit of swagger to Maracanã Stadium.

Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra
Founded in 2008 under the direction of Brazilian conductor Fabio Mechetti (who has served as music director of the Jacksonville and Syracuse symphonies), this ensemble has been gaining prestige for its performances as well as its community-building initiatives. In addition to presenting standard repertory, the orchestra promotes music by Brazilian composers and offers concerts at low cost or for free around the state of Minas Gerais, about 270 miles north of Rio.

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Comments [1]

David H Spence from Houston, TX

I would not hesitate to add to this list Marcelo Lehninger, who among musicians from South America, shows the potential to be quickly on the rise in the near future. He currently appears to be the most competent contender to replace Jaap van Zweden, leaving soon for the NYPO, in Dallas.

Aug. 02 2016 11:59 PM

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