Clarice Assad


(2023) Boitatá: Overture for Orchestra

Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director

The inspiration behind my piece is not only a fascination with the legend of Boitatá: A giant mythological snake made of fire, a fierce protector of the forests and animals against those who destroyed nature. It is also because this old myth could not be more current in today’s devastating reality of our burning forests worldwide due to the constant exploitation of natural resources.

The word Boitatá originates in the Tupi-Guarani language, meaning “Fire Serpent,” and the legend likely derives from the Indigenous people of Brazil. The earliest written chronicles of these legends come from the writings of Jesuit priests in the XVI century, who imposed the natives to their customs and worldviews. It was a traumatic time of invasion, destruction, disease, and horrors they have carried through generations and still suffer today. With more and more forests ravaged to make room for crops and livestock, Indigenous peoples such as the Akuntsu and Kanoê have been on the brink of extinction within the last three decades. So, what part does legend play in modern life? What became of Boitatá?

I hope the serpent’s fiery outrage will live on in the collective minds of those who want change. The music aims to embody the heroic essence of this creature and the people who created it. The legend of Boitatá is a reminder that corruption and crimes against nature should be punishable. And also a reminder that such offenses will ultimately hurt humanity, perhaps to the point of no return.


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