Gilberto Mendes and Music Theatre “avant la lettre”: a look at Brazil and Latin America

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Gilberto Mendes (1922-2016) is considered one of the most important Brazilian composers of the second half of the twentieth century. He was responsible, along with his companions of the Música Nova Group, for the updating and renewal of Brazilian music from the 60's, which until then was still very much attached to nationalist aesthetics. ln 1962', Gilberto Mendes attended the lnternationale Ferienkürse fur Neue Musik in Darmstadt. Upon returning from a Darmstadt already shaken by the passage of John Cage a few years earlier, Mendes was determined to invent his own compositional language without reproducing European
standards. He wanted to mat::e a vanguard music that was genuinely Brazilian, without exotism.
ln response to his wishes, Gilberto Mendes found in Concrete Poetry the possibility of developing on original work. lt was from then on that he began to explore extramusical possibilities in his compositions, arriving at the work Cidade (1964) on poem homonymous of Augusto de Campos. Cidade is a paradigmatic work: in contemporary Brazilian music, because,
as I say, it is the first Brazilian music theater. Moreover, considering its date of creation, it can be observed that it is contemporary to important creations of the repertoire of genre, such as Kagel's Sur Scène (1959), Sonant (1960) and Match (1962), Schnebel's Nostalgie (1962), Ligeti's Aventures (1962), among others. ln addition to being the first Brazilian
composer in the genre, Mendes was one of the only ones who composed music theater throughout his entire career.
ln my master's dissertation (Gilberto Mendes's music theater and its compositional processes, c017), 1 present a complete cataloging of the composer's repertoire of music theater. They are a total of 35 works, if we consider all the compositions that have some theatrical situation. Mendes was fundamental in the development of a Brazilian music theater aesthetics. He influenced directly and indirectly many composers who went through this practice, such as Gil Nuno Vaz and Roberto Martins, just to name a few. Through its Festival Música Nova, Mendes created ties with important figures of the world music theater, establishing a very prolific exchange environment. Among his personal contacts are Jorge Zulueta and Jacobo Romano (Grupo de Acción Instrumental), Juan Hidalgo and Walter Marcheti (Grupo Zaj), Jorge Peixinho, Dieter Schnebel, Caries Santos and Piotr Lachert, of which he made Brazilian and world premieres. Gilberto Mendes is a fundamental point of support for understanding music theater in Brazil and Latin America.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventCongreso internacional: Teatro Instrumental. Música y Escena en America Latina - Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, Buenos Aires
Duration: 3 Dec 20185 Dec 2018


ConferenceCongreso internacional: Teatro Instrumental. Música y Escena en America Latina
CityBuenos Aires


  • Gilberto Mendes
  • Teatro musical


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