Brazil warning: Don’t expect to get paid

Brazil warning: Don’t expect to get paid


norman lebrecht

July 31, 2018

The German soprano Nadja Michael reports that the Teatro municipal de Sao Paulo has not paid anyone in the casts of Elektra and Fosca (Gomes) for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Nor has the theatre administration responded to messages.

This is outrageous.

It is also normal in Brazil.

If you accept an engagement in Rio or Sao Paulo, make sure you are paid beforehand.



  • Tamino says:

    Beforehand is a bit unfair.
    But cash in the intermission seems the way to do it with such people.

    • Alexander says:

      …. ( to enlarge on the subject) …. and after getting cash a soprano should hide them in her bra as ( according to some opera gossips) La Divina did in the golden days of opera 😉

    • Stefan Treddel says:

      Intermission in Elektra??? The money should be buried with the axe in that case…

  • Caravaggio says:

    Well, it should depend on how well (or not) they sang (-;

  • Fred says:

    i always thought singers were fully paid after the performance, always in cash?!?

    • AB says:

      These were good old times. Many years ago. Surely the times of Caruso. But now it is a general rule that everyone is being paid after the whole run of the show (normally not after every single performance) and only by bank transfer ä.

      • Fred says:

        hmm it still happened during the mortier reign at the monnaie, seeing jose van dam walking out with a suitcase full of then belgian francs 🙂


    I ( and some other colleagues as well ) have the same problem with the Orquesta Sinfonica of Buenos Aires . I was invited to concertize as a soloist with them back in Nov. 2016 but each time I reclaim my due they just reply that it should not be long … Apparently , perception of time is very relevant in the southern hemisphere …

  • Doug says:

    That’s exactly why Barenboim requests the bag of cash to be delivered to the green room before he walks out on stage to berate the audience.


    Absolutely right , but unfortunately , only big names may do so and on the other hand it is not nice for the audience if you cancel while they are already in the hall waiting for the concert to begin !

  • John Treleaven says:

    This was also the case at the Teatro Bellini, Catania, Sicily. I am still waiting after 5 years!
    John Treleaven tenor

    • Elda de Oliveira says:

      and you didn’t generalize to all of Italy, right! Strange posture of the singer.

      • Mdr says:

        Strange posture of the singer?? The singer is just reporting a truth: that the two international casts have not been paid after two years of the production. Mr Lebrecht just says that this is happening in Brazil, which is true. Who are you defending? The theater and the government or the artists?

  • Robin Smith says:

    I spent many years in business dealing with International movements of goods and associated services. Where there was any question of payment issues Letters of Credit were used (the customers Bankers providing a guarantee of transfer of funds on satisfaction of performance of the terms of the order). Would this not work in these cases. The singer/performer’s Agencies could manage these issues. A customer’s Bankers being unwilling to engage in these contracts would be indicative of a lack of credit worthiness (of the customer).

  • Alex Klein says:

    A bit unfair to qualify all the instiutions of over 200 million people with a generalization, when onoy two institutions were mentioned.

    The Theatro Municipal of Sao Paulo belongs to the city. It is a public institution requiring a host of procedures to provide payments, all going through departments which have nothing to do with music as payments are sorted out in a megacity. Meanwhile in a private institution there is a Board of Trustees which works more closely with the artistic direction and can expedite and honor payments.

    Since the country slipped into a depression after the parliamentary coup of 2016, money disappeared, and it has been difficult to maintain the promises of corporate sponsors. They may promise you the money today but by the time the funds are collected the economy has slipped even further down.

    This is not an excuse for TMSP to not honor its commitments, of course, as this problem is hardly new. TMSP and other old public music institutions in Brazil often work on outdated business models and are more worried about the next election than in their reputations. In their view their tenure lasts only 4 years and complaints from foreign (and domesric) singers can easily go under the table. I know, because I once was Music Director of TMSP, and resigned 4 months later after it became clear music would always take a back seat to politics and corruption.

    My suggestion to those artists who come to work in these public institutions is to work through a local manager, demand payment in advance from that manager, or at least a check, or a deposit in escrow, or of course cash, all to be arranged before stepping on stage. Do not wait until the end of the performance.

    As music director of a private institution in Brazil who pays its musicians first and ahead of everyone else, I assure you that the problem is not “Brazil” and that such generalization is uncalled for and a bit unfair. And out institution is not alone.

    • Elda de Oliveira says:

      Good answer!

    • Vaquero357 says:

      Thank you for the balanced and reasonable explanation. We’ve had the occasional music institution in the U.S. that has stiffed performers. No need to tar all Brazilian classical music institutions with the same brush due to the misdeeds of one rum organization!

      Alex Klein = the former (and *much* missed in these quarters) principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony AND soloist in one of the best performances of the Mozart Oboe Concerto I’ve ever heard (at the Woodstock [Illinois] Mozart Festival some 5 or 6 years ago)??

    • Mdr says:

      I don’t think it’s a completely unfair generalization. I’m a foreign artist managed by a Brazilian agent and I have been paid late in Brazil in almost all occasions.
      Mr Lebrecht is adressing the international community and noting that two cast have not been paid and find themselves abandoned by the theatre and the secretary of culture while the TMSP continues to hire international artist who seemed to be ignorant of the situation.
      The artist who worked and didn’t get paid is the victim here and Mr Lebrecht is warning other artists, who shouldn’t take the risk to work in Brazil while the situation is not solved.

  • Selim says:

    The only opera house in South America that pays on time and no dealys is the Teatro Municipal de Santiago in Chile (named now Chile National Opera).

  • Beatriz Franco do Amaral says:

    My name is Beatriz F Amaral and I was the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo’s General Diretor from January 2008 until December 2012.
    I would very much like to clarify that during this period not a single artist that performed at the Municipal was not paid — be it Brazilians or foreigners –, and including Mr. Alex Klein. Moreover, it is perhaps important to explain the readers that Mr Klein did not resign, as he stated. In fact he was asked to leave, fired by the then Secretary of Culture via e-mail. Unfortunately after only a few months as principal conductor to the orchestra he showed himself quite incapable to understand the institution, its artists (musicians and singers) and the rules that govern public service and all institutions working under the Mayor’s Office.