The Black Orpheus Mystery
Warning: Brazilian folk music with its potent blend of celebratory festival sambas and gorgeous love ballads, possesses time-tested mood amplifying properties. Listen with caution.
Black Orpheus is a beautiful movie with an equally beautiful soundtrack. I recently found a copy of the original LP for $3, which is now in almost constant rotation.
The soundtrack features wonderful versions of classic Bossa Novas and sambas such as “Felicidade” and “Samba De Orfeo.” Yet as a friend pointed out recently, no vocal credit is given on this recording. We’ve since been trying to determine the identity of these amazing singers–in particular, the name of the woman singing Luiz Bonfa’s “Manha De Carnaval” (incorrectly called “Black Orpheus” in jazz circles).
After re-watching the movie today, I hatched a theory, which proved incorrect, but I’ll tell you anyway. I noticed that a considerable chunk of the music on the soundtrack was lifted directly from the audio track of the film itself — including boat horns, kazoos, and other foley sounds. So I wondered if perhaps the woman singing on the recording was the film’s leading lady, actress Marpessa Dawn. She was a singer, after all.
But upon further digging I finally found the correct answer. And here she is, the great Elizete Cardoso.
Incidentally, this 1959 film is finally available on Netflix Instant Play. If you have an account click this link:
Aaaaaaaah. I still wonder, though, who sang for Breno Mello (Orfeu). Interesting trivia: Breno Mello and Marpessa Dawn both died in 2008 within 41 days of each other. Were there ever two more beautiful young people?
I read that! Weird.
I found the answer to Question #2, the singing voice of Breno Mello. His parts were covered by a singer named Agostinho dos Santos, who died in a plane crash in 1973. Not much online about this guy. I found a Brazilian WIKI page though (this link is translated):
Maybe you like to know that both, Elizete Cardoso and Agostinho dos Santos, are legendary singers in Brazil. Cardoso enjoyed a career spanning almost 50 years, recording ca. original 50 albums. Both singers started as crooners years before the bossa nova but have been able to be successful in every genre from bolero to samba jazz. Dos Santos performed the famous ‘Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall’ concert in 1962. He recorded ca. 17 original albums before his early death, and was married to Elza Larajeira, another brilliant singer. Neither one was orginally credited for singing in the movie, although being already big stars in Brazil then. Besides, both were coloured and of poor background, which was a handicap in Brazil as well, when they started their carrers.
Interesting information. Thank you!