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Influences: Singer Paulo Szot

December 13, 2011 |  9:12 am

Paulo Szot
Paulo Szot seems to traverse both the physical and musical worlds with equal ease. Born in Brazil to Polish immigrants, the world-class baritone spent his formative years in both places, immersed in the arts. He has sung opera successfully in major houses in the U.S. and Europe and seamlessly crossed over to Broadway, notably in his 2008 Tony Award-winning role in the Lincoln Center hit revival of “South Pacific.”

Having just finished singing Escamillo the bullfighter in a San Francisco Opera production of “Carmen," Szot has briefly set down -- with a stop in between to absorb the Yosemite sights -- in Costa Mesa, where Thursday through Sunday he’ll sing a cabaret set of show tunes and American Songbook standards with an instrumental trio at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Samueli Theater.

Among his life’s influences:

Zislaza Szot (his mom): Our home was filled by music from records -- Brazilian, Polish, European, America, I heard it all. At 4, she got me started on piano lessons and I learned the violin at 8. So, a Chopin, I experienced him even though I was so young.

Caetano Veloso (Brazilian singer-songwriter): Popular music had an equal impact, the way I think it must when you are at this young age and music is so important to you. In my teens, Veloso was a person all my friends and I would listen to and learn from. He is not so known here, but a Brazilian -- we all will know him.

Maria Callas: I couldn’t understand what she was singing about -- I was a teen who didn’t speak Italian -- but her pain, her feelings, would come through so strong in a spectacular way. I didn’t care whether her voice was pretty or not; I was captivated by her power to communicate.

“A Chorus Line”/Marvin Hamlisch: Seeing the movie pushed me to use the artistic information I had. The first line [from “What I Did for Love”], “Kiss today goodbye” -- it makes me cry when I hear it. After a performance of “South Pacific,” Hamlisch came and then I got to sing in concert with him and the New York Philharmonic, and I never could dream of this, [being] from a Brazilian suburb. And so we got together and I am ready and he likes me to sing “South Pacific”! Ah, that was OK … maybe another day.


Influences: Patti LuPone

Influences: Broadway maven Seth Rudetsky

Theater review: "South Pacific" on Broadway

-- Christoper Smith

Photo of Paulo Szot, from the artist