In Portugal, a new face has emerged in the fight against austerity, those budget cuts and tax hikes tied to the country's bailout. You could say a new voice as well. A famous opera singer has taken to showing up at the president's meetings and drowning him out with song. Reporter Lauren Frayer went to Lisbon to meet her, and sent us this profile.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: For embattled Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, last October 5th started bad, and then got worse.


FRAYER: Presiding over ceremonies for Portugal's Republic Day, the president raised the Portuguese flag in front of a crowd of dignitaries. But by accident, the flag was upside down. The ceremony had been closed to protesters. But...

ANA MARIA PINTO: When the president was finishing his speech, they said, oh, it's open to the public. So me and this other lady went inside with a lot of reporters.


PINTO: Everybody stood up. They were not understanding what was going on. There was this lady protesting and me singing opera.


FRAYER: That's Ana Maria Pinto, a Portuguese opera singer who interrupted the president, who was whisked away by security. TV cameras captured the commotion.


PINTO: (Singing in foreign language)

(Through Translator) You could see on their faces that they were really confused. Because I was singing opera, you know. You know, it's like, OK, maybe this is part of the protocol. And then at the end they really asked me, is this part of the event? And I said no, this is my protest.

FRAYER: From that day on, Ana Maria Pinto has become a household name in Portugal, the new soprano voice of the country's protest movement, leading street demonstrations.

While anti-austerity protesters throw Molotov cocktails in the streets of Athens, or blockade parliament in Madrid, their Portuguese counterparts like Pinto are singing songs in the street, 1960s-style.

PINTO: (Singing in foreign language)

FRAYER: Portugal's anger over austerity is more melancholy, less fiery, than other southern Europeans. In musical terms, it's the difference between Spanish flamenco...


FRAYER: ...and Portuguese fado...


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in foreign language)

FRAYER: ...that soulful music that wafts through Lisbon's cobblestone corridors, and where I met Ana Maria Pinto at a cafe that's been hangout for poets and revolutionaries for more than 200 years. The waiters here all know her.

PINTO: No, I'm just a normal citizen and I just have this strong instinct of protecting what I love. I do deeply love my country.

FRAYER: With unemployment and poverty rising because of austerity, Pinto wanted to break out of the rarified world of classical music and join the protests. So she bought her own megaphone. The song she belted out at the president last fall was an anti-fascist folk song from the 1970s, "Firmeza."

PINTO: (Singing in foreign language)

The words are (Foreign language spoken) Do you know what it means, Firmeza? It's like firm, a person who is steady, you know? It talks about being yourself and not allowing someone who is above you to abuse from yourself.

FRAYER: I went with Pinto back to that courtyard where she interrupted the president's speech last October.

PINTO: I was standing right here and I wanted to speak to the Portuguese also and sing for them. Just do it. Have the courage to have your own voice. And...

FRAYER: Were you nervous?

PINTO: Yes. I only felt my heart was beating, all my body was my heart beating.


FRAYER: I ask her to sing the same song again.

PINTO: (Singing in foreign language)

FRAYER: How does it feel?

PINTO: This is the first time I'm here since October. A lot of things are bad now in Portugal. But somehow I can see a bit of light there at the end. So yeah, it feels good.


FRAYER: The movement Ana Maria Pinto started here is growing. She's since founded a Choir of Intervention to carry on her activism and perform at protests nationwide.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer.

CHOIR OF INTERVENTION: (Singing in foreign language)

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