Estudando o Pagode, Z's newest release on Luaka Bop, is musically daring and danceable, with observations on human nature and sexual politics that are hilariously wry. OK, it's not really an opera, but a non-linear group of songs about the same subject. The album has already been nominated for a Latin Grammy and received the prestigious CHOC de la Musique from Le Monde.
Tom Ze's latest opus, Estudando o Pagode, isn't just a musical journey. It's more an eclectic, expermental collage of sounds, thoughts, and feelings. The Brazilian song master has collected these musings into a purposeful, often artful, post-feminist operetta. Intense concentration is a must. The hour-long escapade is divided into three acts, each detailing situations that involve the mistreatment and repression of women. Ze incorporates soaring sopranos, chanting choruses, braying donkeys, and orgasmic moans into his musical framework, which is based on the improvisational pagode style. Amid so much conscious clatter, there are moments of surreal beauty: the quiet grace of "Duas Opinioes"; the celebratory groove of "Elaeu," which takes place during a Gay-Lesbian Pride Parade at the Vatican; and the swooning soulfulness of "Prazer Carnal," set at the U.N. building in New York. Ze has said he doesn't make art, he makes "spoken and sung journalism." His issues are important, to be sure, but you're unlikely to find a more artful, amusing and arresting piece of experimental theater anytime soon. --Joey Guerra