For some singers, the secret to a long and fruitful career is a one-track mind. It’s no surprise that more than a few stars—including Mary Costa and Joan Sutherland—have famously used the metaphor of being a horse with blinders on as a way of describing their forward drive and singular goals.
But the last half century has brought with it a staggering number of changes, particularly in how we receive and consume culture. The idea of being a singer who embraces duality between genres is perhaps not revolutionary—while Sutherland was taking the world by storm as Lucia and Norma, mezzo Risë Stevens was holding court both at the Met and on the Ed Sullivan Show—but the ability to embrace such a dichotomy has become much easier and fluid in the new millennium.
Exhibit A in that equation is baritone Paulo Szot, a singer who had gained momentum in the opera world starting with his professional debut in 1997 as Rossini’s Figaro in his native Brazil. It took a Tony-Award-winning Broadway debut in 2008 as Emile De Becque in South Pacific, however, to catapult Szot into the upper echelon of operatic stars. For Szot, such balance is just part of the game.
Born in São Paulo and raised in Ribeirão Pires, Szot was the son of two musically inclined Polish émigrés who settled in Brazil following World War II—an unlikely combination that the baritone nevertheless describes as “a very interesting mixture with many things in common . . . very interesting between the polonaises and Chopin and then bossa nova and Jobim.” Like his siblings, Szot was quickly indoctrinated into the music world, beginning his studies at age four on the piano, moving on to violin at eight, and never recalling a time in his childhood that wasn’t underscored by an LP or cassette tape of Polish folk music or Tchaikovsky.
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