Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot is to play Juan Perón in the musical Evita, it was announced today by producers Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, John Frost and David Ian. Szot will star opposite Tina Arena as Eva Perón, whose casting was announced in August last year.

Born in São Paulo, Szot has been to Australia once before when he played the title role in Eugene Onegin for Opera Australia in Melbourne in 2014. After making his professional opera debut in 1997 in his native city, singing Figaro in The Barber of Seville, he made his US debut at the New York City Opera as Escamillo in Carmen in 2003 and his European debut the following year at Marseille Opera as Eugene Onegin. At the Metropolitan Opera he has played Kovalyov in Shostakovich’s The Nose, Escamillo, and the Captain in John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer. He has performed at many other opera houses around the US and Europe including La Scala and the Glyndebourne Festival.

Paulo Szot. Photograph supplied

In 2008, Szot made his Broadway debut as Emile de Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, directed by Bartlett Sher for which he won a Tony Award among other gongs. He also played the role in London in 2012 and was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Reviewing the Broadway production for The New York Times, Ben Brantley  described him as “seriously charming” and said that a “rich sincerity pervades the deep-reaching baritone of Mr. Szot, best known here for his work with the New York City Opera. When he delivers Some Enchanted Evening or This Nearly Was Mine, it’s not as a swoon-making blockbuster (though of course it is), but as a measured and honest consideration of love.”

The revolutionary Che will be played by Kurt Kansley, who trained at Monash University and The Melba Conservatorium. In Australia, he has performed in The Lion King, Rent, Godspell and Show Boat, directed by Hal Prince, while his numerous credits in the West End include Bernstein’s Mass Concert, Guys and Dolls, Miss Saigon, The Lion King, Ragtime, Sweet Bird of Youth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Acclaimed musical theatre performer Michael Falzon (We Will Rock You, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess) will play tango singer Magaldi, while newcomer Alexis van Maanen will make her professional debut as Perón’s Mistress. Jemma Rix, who is currently playing The Wicked Witch of the West in GFO’s The Wizard of Oz following her seven years as Elphaba in Wicked, will play the Eva Perón Alternate, giving a performance every week.

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Evita was first staged in London in 1978, directed by Hal Prince, who subsequently directed it on Broadway the following year. It tells the story of Eva Perón, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Perón, from her humble beginnings through to the extraordinary wealth, power and status which ultimately led her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’. Songs in the show include Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

The legendary Prince, who has won 21 Tony Awards, more than any other person in history – is coming to Australia to direct the production, based on his original one. He will be joined by fellow original West End creative team members including choreographer Larry Fuller and designer Timothy O’Brien.

Evita plays at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, September 13 – November 3