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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:


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