Paulo Zuben: “We promote reflection on musical language and its role within society”
Welcome interview with Paulo Zuben, Pedagogical Artistic Director of Theatro São Pedro – Santa Marcelina Culture of São Paulo, Brazil.
Theatro São Pedro is inserted both in the tradition of opera houses created in the early 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the proliferation of concert halls in the neighborhoods of São Paulo. After undergoing a restoration, it reopened in 1998 with the premiere La Cenerentola of Gioachino Rossini’s.
Little by little, the opera came to occupy a prominent place in the São Pedro program, and in 2010, with the creation of Theatro São Pedro Orchestra, this vocation was reaffirmed. Over the years, his lyrical seasons opted for diversity, with well-known titles from the traditional repertoire, under-represented works, as well as operas by Brazilian composers.
Now, Theatro São Pedro begins a new phase, respecting its own history and attentive to the new challenges of art, culture and society.
How are you organizing for the reopening of the post-Covid-19 theater?
The local government and the Ministry of Health are defining the guidelines for the reopening of cultural facilities in the state of São Paulo. Our activities have been suspended since March 16 and the entire season scheduled for 2020 is suspended. Our proposal is that the planned titles take place only from 2021. In this year of 2020, we will reopen the theater in the second semester only for recordings of concerts without an audience. If the reopening program of the São Paulo State Government allows the public to enter before the end of the year, we will gradually resume the shows observing all the security protocols for our professionals and the public.
Since its opening in the 19th century, the theater has stood out for its musical quality among concerts, galas, operas and operettas. How has this traditional São Paulo theater managed to maintain itself over time and how has it kept the public’s attention?
Opened in 1917, Theatro São Pedro was built in an eclectic, predominantly neoclassical style with art nouveau details. The project prepared by the Italian architect Augusto Bernadelli Marchesini contemplated a horseshoe-shaped Italian stage, as well as an audience, friezes, counters and cabins, designed to work with mixed programming, since its design allowed the installation of projection screens. Conceived to be a space dedicated to operettas, theater and variety shows, in addition to film screenings, São Pedro alternated, in its first decades of activity, the presentation of national and foreign companies, with classical music concerts. It was a time of cultural flourishing and Theatro São Pedro is inserted both in the tradition of opera houses created in the early 19th and 20th centuries and in the proliferation of concert halls in the neighborhoods of São Paulo. It is one of the few remains of that time.
In these more than 100 years, Theatro São Pedro has gone through several phases and reinventions. Between comings and goings, it was the scene of political and cultural resistance, and received great names from figures in our music, such as Eleazar de Carvalho, Isaac Karabtchevsky, Caio Pagano and Gilberto Tinetti, in addition to having hosted and hosted concerts by the Symphony Orchestra of the State of São Paulo (Osesp).
After a restoration, it was reopened in 1998 with the production of La Cenerentola, by Gioachino Rossini. Little by little, the opera came to occupy a prominent place in the São Pedro program, and in 2010, with the creation of the São Pedro Theater Orchestra, this vocation was reaffirmed. Over the years, his lyrical seasons opted for diversity, with well-known titles from the traditional repertoire, under-represented works, as well as operas by Brazilian composers, making Theatro São Pedro a reference in the country’s lyrical scene.
São Pedro’s challenge is to respect its own history and to be attentive to the new challenges of art, culture and society. In this sense, the artistic planning of the house seeks to expand the horizon of its programming, in search of an increasingly close relationship between the theater and its diverse audience.
With the evolution of new generations, what actions have you taken from programming and audiences for the development and creation of new audiences?
To captivate new audiences, instigate and promote the reflection of the audience, we seek to contemplate more contemporary ideas in artistic curatorship, not only regarding the choice of repertoire, but also in the way of interpreting it.
We begin with a broad reflection on what the works can suggest for our current sensitive experience, both in terms of musical invention and interpretive possibilities. In this sense, we seek, for example, we commission the creation of new works. We also contemplate actions to democratize access and reach new audiences, such as conducting free open rehearsals of all opera productions and concerts. As a way to provide more activities, we also hold free performances in other theater spaces, such as the lobby and cafeteria. Among other actions for the formation of the public, we also promote concerts and educational conferences.
How is the programmatic line of the Theater? Will they seek innovation through new opera formats or new titles?
The programming of Theatro São Pedro is planned to include the following axes: conducting opera productions and symphonic concerts with the São Pedro Theater Orchestra, rehearsals open to the public, didactic concerts and chamber music, in addition to maintaining a training program for young singers and instrumentalists with the Academy of Opera and the Youth Orchestra of Theatro São Pedro.
The theater also hosts other activities throughout the year with the aim of expanding the public that frequents the place. The choice of titles for opera productions seeks to cover a repertoire that goes beyond the nineteenth century. Without excluding the most staged titles and composers, we seek to balance the programming by choosing titles that are rarer to be performed in Brazil and that are appropriate to the profile of Theatro São Pedro, in order to offer the public a diversity of the operatic spectrum, such as for example, this was the case of the baroque opera Alcina, by Georg Friedrich Händel, performed in 2018. We understand that contemporary operas are also needed, as well as more traditional titles from the repertoire of composers such as Bellini, Donizetti, Mozart, Rossini, because they are fundamental for development. of the artistic proposal of the theater.
In our artistic curatorship, we seek the balance of making titles that are alternative to those presented regularly, but fundamental to understanding the importance of opera as a still modern language. In 2019, for example, we produced two world premieres by two Brazilian composers: Rites de Perpassagem, by Flo Menezes, and O Peru de Natal (El pavo de navidad), by Leonardo Martinelli.
At Theatro São Pedro, we developed a strategy to occupy your space in order to allow dialogue and an ever closer relationship between the house and its audience. Therefore, the Theater also hosts a program that also covers Brazilian popular music.
The theater has an academy of opera and youth orchestra. How long have they been, what are their goals, challenges for the future and how many young people have benefited?
The Academy of the Opera and the Youth Orchestra of Theatro São Pedro constitute the axis of formation of Theatro São Pedro. The Academy is committed to contributing to the training of new Brazilian lyrical singers. Through the programmatic content linked to the opera genre, at the Academy we promote practical opportunities for the artistic development of young singers through organized performances with orchestra and chamber ensembles. The pedagogical proposal includes a curriculum of activities, such as classes, workshops and opera assemblies, to prepare students for the professional world.
Theatro São Pedro Youth Orchestra carries out artistic and pedagogical activities related to the operatic genre with the aim of developing the technical and artistic level of young instrumentalists. The group participates together with the Academy of Opera Assemblies at Theatro São Pedro, which allows young people to experience a production equivalent to professional stagings.
We are challenged to prepare young people, singers and instrumentalists for the contemporary world and not for the past. We understand that training must accompany the development of the profession and the challenges imposed by the present. Obviously, students need, in addition to technical-musical development, artistic experiences that offer them the opportunity, for example, to live with first-class national and international professionals, experience montages with challenging repertoires of various styles and musical periods and, above all , participate in a musical environment in which their training is the main objective of the actions carried out. Furthermore, we cannot help believing that training is essential for students to immerse themselves more and more in the musical universe in all its complexity, and to encourage them to reflect on musical language and its role in society. Only with this reflection will they be able to contribute to highlighting to society the relevance of making art and why culture is so important in our lives.
ABOUT PAULO ZUBEN
Paulo Zuben is a composer and cultural manager. He has a PhD in Musicology (2009) from ECA-USP and a Masters in Communication and Semiotics (2003) from PUC-SP. Graduated in Music (2000), Graduated in Composition from the Faculdade Santa Marcelina, and Graduated in Business Administration (1991) from FGV-SP. He was an academic at FAPESP between 1997 and 2002. He was an academic of the Executive Director Program during the years 2011 to 2013, when he had the opportunity to study at Harvard Business School, Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas, in a training program organized by the American institution National Arts Strategies (NAS).
Since 2008, he has been artistic and pedagogical director of Santa Marcelina Cultura, the social organization responsible for the management of the São Paulo State Music School – EMESP Tom Jobim, of Theatro São Pedro, Guri Capital and Greater São Paulo and, since June 2018, the President of the Brazilian Association of Cultural Social Organizations – ABRAOSC.
He was executive director of the Campos do Jordão International Winter Festival in 2009 and 2010 and artistic-pedagogical director in 2011. He has two published books: Ouvir o som (2005) and Música e Tecnologia (2004). He wrote instrumental and electroacoustic works recorded on CD, played at important music festivals in Brazil and abroad and which received several awards. In 2004, he was selected for the musical composition and computing stage at IRCAM Paris, where he worked during his master’s period. He was awarded in 2013 by the French Ministry of Culture with the order of Chevalier dans l’Orde des Arts et des Lettres.