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Program 599: Estudando o Pagode, An Operetta by Tom Zé

KALW Broadcast Date: May 8, 2020 | Host: Liam Herb

On this Music From Other Minds, Liam Herb plays Estudando o Pagode (Studying the Pagode), An Operetta by Tom Zé.

Estudando opens at a trial. We hear a chorus of real-live praying women, who were recruited from a poor neighborhood of Sao Paulo and are known for spending their days in prayer. Following the solemn “Ave Maria”, there comes an opposing “chorus of accusers” who proclaim that “Women are evil.” Having established these polarities, Zé then begins to give them nuance: The first “witness” is Rebeca do Mato, who embodies the woman’s predisposition to caring: “If you come with a good vibe,” she tells Tatit, “I’ll take you into my lap, give you bread and porridge. But if you come with a club, bring it on cause I’ll have sticks and stones.”

From there, Estudando moves to the garden of Aphrodite, where a pagode group is playing and Tatit is swooning as he offers a love proposal. First he’s rebuffed, but then, in the aria “I Want To Think”, Mello, as the object of his affection Beth Calla-os-Mares, tells him she’ll consider his case – after she gets him thinking about man’s cruelty to women. This sets up much of the remainder of the work: Starting on slave ships, Zé – in the role of “women’s advocate” because, as he says, “they need one” – talks of the injustices visited upon women through history. Sometimes the “action” plays out in a mythological setting, sometimes it’s as an exchange between various groups (the Cinema Novo Chorus, the Chorus of Concrete Poetry) who have been oppressed; a surreal scene at the United Nations Security Council includes a debate about segregating women from pagode. Similarly, the airing of grievances takes on many forms: In the riveting “Two Opinions”, Zé as Tatit blames the pagode for all manner of offensive male behavior. The women present indulge him, but as the song evolves, they lament that this explanation amounts to “the same old same old.”

The cycle ends with several songs that advocate the ideas of partnership – rather than a power imbalance or dominance – that turn up in the writings of Eisler and the psychoanalyst Maria Rita Kehl. There is no clear resolution or neon-lit happy ending, only the recognition by both genders that nobody is made of iron. The closing song “Beatles by the Bushel” finds Tatit advocating love, and cautioning his brothers that “in destroying the woman, you’ll be left without support.” This initially pleases the latest love interest Teresa, but then, just before the curtain, she snaps at Tatit’s contention that “love is bile and honey.” She gets the last word: “Honey? What honey you bum! Let me show you some of the cruelties that befell women throughout the centuries. Listen up, let’s see.”

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Title: Ave Dor Maria, Estúpido Rapaz, Proposta de Amor, Quero Pensar (A Mulher de Bath), Mulher Navio Negreiro, Pagode-Enredo dos Tempos do Medo, Canção de Nora (Casa de Bonecas), O Amor é Um Rock, Duas Opiniões, Viração da Carne, Para lá do Pará, Teatro (Dom Quixote), A Volta do Trem das Onze (8.5 Milhões de km2), Beatles a Granel
Composer: Tom Zé
Performers: Tom Zé, Luciana Mello, and Suzana Salles
Recording Title: Estudando o Pagode: Na Opereta Segregamulher e Amor
Record Label: Luaka Bop
Catalog Number: 8089900622

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