Editorial: The music stops in Brazil

Editorial: The music stops in Brazil


norman lebrecht

May 10, 2017

It’s not long since Brazil was considered a powerhouse, host to the Olympic Games and a model for emergent economies.

Today, the country is flat broke, unable to meet its financial obligations on any level – including the cultural field.

Yesterday, the San Pedro Opera House in São Paulo sacked two-thirds of its musicians, having failed to pay them for months. The professional musicians have been replaced by students. Unpaid, of course. Don’t go there.

The country’s flagship orchestra, the Brazilian Symphony (OSB), has not paid its musicians for half a year and seems to be on the verge of collapse.

The opera house in Rio has its artists on the streets, begging for food.

There is no plan to address the disaster. The Government seems not to care that cultural institutions are being wiped out and the country’s cultural reputation is reduced to junk. There may still be an awful lot of coffee in Brazil but there will soon be no artists left to drink it.

Brazilian musicians abroad tell us that they look on in horror as their heritage is wiped out.

But there is no going back. An invitation to artists to perform in Brazil cannot be accepted at a time when the country’s professional musicians are being left to starve. Brazil must put its cultural houses in order before the rest of the music world will restore its professional status.

Cancel the carnival. These are tragic times.

Translation in Portuguese by Antonio Seixas:

Não demorou muito para que o Brasil fosse considerado uma potência, sede dos Jogos Olímpicos e um modelo para economias emergentes.

Hoje, o país está nitidamente quebrado, incapaz de cumprir suas obrigações financeiras em qualquer nível – incluindo o campo cultural.

Ontem o Teatro São Pedro, em São Paulo, despediu dois terços de seus músicos, não tendo conseguido pagá-los por meses. Os músicos profissionais foram substituídos por estudantes, não remunerados, é claro. Não compareçam a este teatro.

A principal orquestra do país, a Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (OSB), não paga seus músicos há meio ano e parece estar à beira do colapso.

Os artistas do Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro estão nas ruas, implorando por comida.

Não há nenhum plano para resolver este desastre. O governo parece não se importar que as instituições culturais estejam sendo destruídas e a reputação cultural do país seja reduzida a lixo. Ainda pode haver uma enorme quantidade de café no Brasil, mas em breve não haverá mais artistas para bebê-la.

Músicos brasileiros no exterior nos dizem que observam com horror a forma como sua tradição está sendo aniquilada.

Mas não há volta. Um convite aos artistas internacionais para tocar no Brasil não pode ser aceito num momento em que os músicos profissionais do país estão morrendo de fome.

O Brasil deve reestruturar suas organizações culturais antes que o mundo da música possa restaurar o seu status profissional com o país.

Cancelem o carnaval. São tempos trágicos.



  • Nurhan Arman says:

    This is the result of the so called parliamentary coup d’état.

    • jean louis steuerman says:


    • Celso says:

      I’m sorry but this is not the reason. The reason is that the previous government spent much more than it collected for several years. They left Brazil in this situation. Coup was what this government did with its people. Shame.

    • Brazil is broken thanks to a corruPT government of Dilma & Lula and his allies Sarney, Temer, Renan Calheiros, Sergio Cabral, and more 200 crocks.

  • Brian says:

    I wonder how Marin Alsop’s orchestra is doing. And when will countries learn their lesson about hosting an Olympics?

    • Ruben Bianchi says:

      Marin is doing fine. Her, oops, São Paulo’s Orchestra faces some budget cuts, but the season is still interesting, with many good concertos.
      Hosting the games was a great opportunity for corruption. The legacy in Rio is a nightmare. Fiscal Responsibility is now the name of the game. Cultural life will eventually prevail. This is my hope.

  • This is the result of 14 years of PT socialism in Brazil. Jail to Lula & Dilma.

    • Geraldo A. says:

      Ignoring the fact PSDB has been in charge of the state of São Paulo for the last 25 years is just a matter of choice.

  • Clovis Marques says:

    The São Paulo Symphony of Alsop fame is not apparently in danger, in spite of some cuts, for two main and interconnected reasons: they are funded mainly by the local state, which is the richest in Brazil, and on the other hand THE PEOPLE of São Paulo love it and go en masse to their concerts. Same more or less applies to the Teatro Municipal de São Paulo (the opera house, with an orchestra that also has a – modest – concert season). The São Pedro Opera, the Banda Sinfônica and other musical institutions in São Paulo that have been sacrified… well that is a pity, really, but they were rich pluses for a rich community that presently is not THAT rich. The story is quite different in Rio de Janeiro, where I live and used to write about classical music. Here the Brazilian Symphony and the Teatro Municipal were never able to rise to international or even satisfactory standards for symmetrical reasons: underfunding BECAUSE THE PEOPLE don’t care really – meaning patrons, citizens, local state institutions, the rich: the community as a whole. Were they interested as people are in São Paulo, things would be different, of course. It’s a shame musicians in Rio are in this present situation, but it’s no use to point fingers to the usual culprits (politicians, bureaucrats, the state, this or that political party…) The awful truth is: “cariocas” don’t give a damn to classical music, except for a few thousands, generally grey haired, that might not anyway carry the “burden” all by themselves.

  • Marcello Stasi says:

    It is not correct to point the financial crisis as the reason. Cutting on orchestras wouldn’t be a solution. After the coup, right wing politicians have selected cultural organizations with visibility as their targets to promote the idea that they are efficient managers cleaning the house. Orchestras can stupidly be tagged as superfluous institutions. I was music director of an orchestra that in January was extinguished by such a mayor through a facebook video posted in the 10th day of his mandate (Sâo José dos Campos). No talk, no alternatives, no plans. In the meantime, while people discuss these matters, the congress is voting a new legislation that destroy labor rights conquered over decades. These have been horror days in Brazil and Culture has been taking some of the harder hits.The world should be allerted,

  • Marcello Stasi says:

    Also I should add that putting brother against brother is hardly the right idea. Carnival is to be blamed nor the orchestras.

  • Dalilein says:

    How can people be so blind and blame only PT, Dilma and Lula? They’re not in the power anymore and Temer is not helping the culture AT ALL! If PT wanted to install Socialism in Brazil, they would have done it, as they were in charge for 13 years, but they didn’t and it’s too naive to think Temer is fixing or saving something. He’s making our country even worse and he almost removed the Art teaching from the public school program, remember? He also almost canceled the Culture Ministry. He didn’t do it because the artists made a huge protest so, he decided to keep it, but he’s making many stupid reforms for the workers and the education, he froze the spendings with education and health and that’s PT fault? People, WAKE UP for heavens sake! The bad things that are happening now are Temer’s decisions! Not PT, Dilma or Lula! They’re not in change anymore so stop blaming the previous governments for problems that are happening now! Temer is spending loads of money in diners to make the depulties vote for his laws. The money you pay in taxes are being spent in expensive diners, because he wants these laws to be approved and which will be terrible for everybody, including the workers who are supporting it and you still blame PT, Dilma and Lula?!?? WAKE UP!!!

  • Dalilein says:

    The trouble is over the libraries too. See what this man, who works in the National Library says about this and also talks about what I said above about the Culture Ministry: https://www.facebook.com/FernandaTorresAtriz/videos/vb.362521320566529/828653760619947/?type=2&theater

    This video was recorded two days ago and all these decisions are Temer’s. Will you still blame the previous government about that?

  • Reinaldo says:

    Aos leitores brasileiros: a PRIMEIRA FRASE da tradução acima está errada. Não li o resto

    • Andre Jorge Oliveira says:

      Por isso não li a tradução….mas o ponto de vista do editor está muito bom. Quanto ao desmonte do Brasil e sua cultura menos utilitária, é um fato que se vem realizando visivelmente. A música é uma das pontas deste processo, acompanhada pelo sucateamento de diversas outras instituições voltadas para as Humanidades. Triste destino. Mas há esperança que isto seja o fundo de uma senoide, que certamente tem que voltar a emergir. Vamos aguardar agindo positivamente.

  • Gisele Araújo Diniz says:

    O problema vem de tempos colonos, o país tem uma memória de ter sempre sido um país de exploração. Tudo era retirado e levado do país sem que se fosse feita uma política de se construir.. E ainda tem o histórico de ter sido uns dos últimos países a abolir a escravidão, o que drasticamente já é um retrocesso em si. Diferente de outras colonizações pelo mundo, onde objetivava se explorar mas também construir e prosperar. Por herdarmos esta mentalidade passada de geração em geração, passamos a ser governados por famílias, seus interesses, e mas contemporâneamente por políticos que reproduzem estes mesmos interesses, tendo em vista que estas famílias sempre concentraram das “heranças” idas melhor poder aquisitivo e social. Hoje suas gerações futuras ocupam grandes papéis de prestígio na sociedade brasileira. O que isso tem haver com políticos? Tudo. Os políticos herdaram esta mesma mentalidade de exploração sem construção e prosperidade, continuando o processo de corrupção a cada político desde a República iniciada, e que atende sempre aos interesses dos mais poderosos e não da população.

  • Jack_Ewing says:

    Expect things to get worse when deranged Bolsonaro is elected, another Christian Zionist who despises everything about the arts, artists. The poverty in Brazil during 8 years of Lula, despite the corruption, decreased considerably, an economic miracle according to experts. But the vicious Brazilian right hated seeing poor people shopping, taking vacations and going to college. So they engineered a coup. And trumped up charges against Lula. But don’t count him out just yet.