BRAZIL BEAT: Still singing in Italian in Sao Paulo during the World Cup

Luiz Antonio Mazzulli still plays his guitar and sings six nights a week at Cantina Roperto, a landmark since 1941 in the heart of Sao Paulo's Italian neighborhood, Bixiga. He has been a fixture here for 17 years.

At 72, Mazzulli is loving every minute of it, playing a mix of Italian and Brazilian favorites and a few classics such as Tony Bennett's "Tender is the Night" and "From Russia With Love" by Matt Monro.

And Mazzulli — whose grandfather is from Calabria, Italy, his mother's family from Spain — still keeps a day job in the cardiology and geriatrics office of his niece.

For the past five years at the bustling Cantina Roperto, Mazzulli has been spending from 8 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday entertaining a late-night dinner crowd that often sings right along.

"It's not a job. It's my pleasure to play my guitar," Mazzulli said.

He once had a monthlong gig in 1984 on a cruise ship that left Brazil for Buenos Aires and on occasion would make a stop in Uruguay, with the well-known rough waters on that voyage.

"For me, it was a party," said Mazzulli, who grew up in the Brazilian countryside city of Sorocaba and came to Sao Paulo to work for his sister in her psychiatry business.

Mazzulli began taking guitar lessons at 13 but never had formal voice instruction, saying, "I just taught myself."

He walked to a wall of photos in the restaurant and points to former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso — and there is a striking resemblance.

"They say I look like Cardoso," Mazzulli said, then walked away to play another song.

— By Janie McCauley —


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