Brazilian opera baritone Paulo Szot (b. São Paulo, Brazil, 1969) is a newly-minted Broadway star, making a sensational debut in 2008 as Emile de Becque in the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific. For his performance he was showered with awards, among them the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, the Theatre World Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor, and the Tony Award® for Best Actor in a Musical.
The fifth child of prosperous and musical parents, Szot was raised in Ribeirão Pires, thirty miles outside São Paulo. He began piano lessons at the age of five, violin at eight, and classical ballet at nine. A great deal of time in his early teens was spent listening to the original cast album of A Chorus Line and memorizing all the songs. At eighteen he was shipped off by cargo boat to his parents’ native Poland to study at the University Jagiellonski for a professional career in dance. When at twenty-one a knee injury prevented him from continuing, he followed the advice of a teacher and switched to voice. He began singing professionally with the National Song & Dance Ensemble Slask (Silesia).
Szot was shy, had a paralyzing terror of performing and a horror of competitions, but he felt that overcoming his fears was of the utmost importance. Home in Brazil for Christmas in 1994 he auditioned for the Pavarotti International Voice Competition and won a trip to Philadelphia as a finalist. He made his professional operatic debut in São Paulo in 1997 as Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and in 2000 won Brazil’s Prêmio Carlos Gomes for Best Vocal Performance.
Since then Paulo Szot has sung thirty roles in sixty productions, mostly in South America and Europe. In 2006 he starred in New York City Opera productions of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, Bizet’s Carmen, and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.
Paulo Szot is the first Brazilian ever to receive a Tony Award®. He speaks Portuguese, Polish, English, Italian, French and a bit of Spanish. In 2010 he added some Russian to the list, singing the leading role of Kovalyov in the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Shostakovich’s The Nose.