May 1999


The name of the late poet Vinicius de Moraes has been very much in the news in the past year or two. Not only did Brazilian film director, Cacá Diegues, decide to shoot a remake of Vinicius de Moraes' Orfeu, prompting many articles discussing the play, the first film, as well as the remake, updated and made more to look like the play written in Paris in 1953; a publishing house also launched a giant work of "all" of Vinicius' writings in the latter part of last year.

Kirsten Weinoldt

In the middle of the 60's, when all my girl friends had Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger as pin-ups, I already had Vinicius on my side table. I was "introduced" to his lyrics and poetry by my mother—a poet herself—and I was devastated by his poems. Vinicius created a revolution in the way lyrics and poetry were written in Brazil and had a tremendous influence on the generation that followed and adored him (Chico, Caetano, and Gil to mention the three greatest). He created a revolution in my life, in my way of seeing the world and in my demeanor. He led his life following his poems, and he lived a true poet's life. Nothing was fake about him. In the middle of the 70's, I had the chance to meet him in London, and the man was even greater than the poet. A wonderful friendship began, and in 1978 we married. He taught me nearly all I know about life. He gave me confidence, happiness, knowledge, and love, love, love. In spite of the difference in age (he was 38 years older than I), he was my "sort" because he wasn't afraid of life, and I took care of him. His life was pure love that he spread among family, thousands of friends and women in general and especially to the nine elected to be by his side. I thank God that Vinicius saved some love to give me at the very end of his life. Saravá, Vinicius!

Gilda Mattoso, widow of Vinicius (who graciously agreed to write her tribute especially for this article. At the same time, she clarified the question of accent in Vinicius' name. There is none.)

Marcus Vinicius da Cruz de Mello Moraes was born on October 19, 1913 in Rio de Janeiro. The name was inspired by the protagonist of the novel Quo Vadis, and it was the way in which his father, Clodoaldo Pereira da Silva Moraes, paid homage to this character. As it turned out, the life of the poet was in many ways a restless and turbulent one, like that of the character of the most famous version of the movie—the 1951 release in which the role was portrayed by Robert Taylor.

Vinicius' father used to recite poetry in the home, and his mother, Dona Lydia, played guitar during family reunions. The son followed both vocations of poet and musician, composing his first songs while still at the Santo Ignácio School with the Tapajó Brothers. And young Vinicius wrote his first poem at the age of 7. Since childhood, he was a fanatic about the magic of moving images: One of his favorite diversions was to project images onto a sheet hung on a wall in his parents' house. This interest of his would later turn into one of his many careers.

In the early thirties he earned a bachelor's degree in language and literature. He attended law school, and it was during this time that he published his first book, O Caminho para a Distância (The Road to the Distance). In 1935, he published another work, Forma e Exegese (Form and Literary Interpretation). It was followed in 1936 with Ariana—the Woman, which is the height of his first phase filled with mystical sensation. Then he began using a more popular syntax, and his poetry was charged with sensuality in Cinco Elegias (Five Elegies). It was also around this time that he worked as a film censor.

In 1938, he departed for Oxford University on a scholarship to study English literature. His studies there, however, were interrupted by the onset of World War II, and he was forced to return to Brazil. While in Oxford, he was influenced by poets such as Rimbaud, Verlaine, Leopardi and even Shakespeare—probably the principal source of stimulus for his sonnets. He also admired the work of Spaniard Federico Garcia Lorca and Brazilian writers such as Octávio de Faria and Lúcio Cardoso. His Catholic upbringing was responsible for the eternal conflict between the flesh and the spirit present in his poetry. During the Second World War, he cultivated sympathies for Nazism until he met Luiz Carlos Prestes who contributed to his transformation into a man of the left.

In 1941, he embarked on a career as a journalist. His first assignment was with the newspaper A Manhã (The Morning) as a film critic. Although he defined himself as simply a "fan of the seventh art," he possessed, already then, a more refined vision of cinema, a consequence of his close friendship with writer Otávio de Faria, erudite expert on the subject and one of the founders of Chaplin Club, in whose sessions Vinicius learned to adore "Carlitos" (Charles Chaplin) above all else and to consider talkies heresy.

In his first column, he published a mimicry of a prayer—his cinematographic credo, which began as follows: "I believe in Cinema, silent art, daughter of image, original element of poetry and infinite visual arts, simple cell of ephemeral duration and freely multiplicative."

He was a great admirer of the classic silent-film makers, Eisenstein, Dreyer, and Murnau and fought a holy war against the talkies, which he considered a "diversion for the ignorant masses." In fact, Vinicius was not crazy about silent films with subtitles of any kind, nor even music—even the kind that occurred when a lone pianist accompanied the showing of the film. An important ingredient of being a renaissance man is, of course, to constantly learn and grow—and Vinicius was nothing if not that. Thus, from being adamantly opposed to talkies, a controversy Orson Welles found very entertaining, he did a 180. During his diplomatic assignment in Los Angeles (the alternative was Moscow, which Vinicius turned down), he quickly became a citizen of Hollywood. All his purism vanished. Soon, he was on a first name basis with Donald Duck!

This assignment in Los Angeles as vice consul started in 1946, and the "party" lasted for almost five years. From the diplomatic mansion on Redondo Boulevard, as often as he could, he would get away to go to the movies. He also went to the private showings of Alex and Elza Viany on Highland Avenue. Viany was the president of the Foreign Correspondents' Association in Hollywood, had access to collections of films, and Vinicius had the chance to watch, again and again, his favorite movies by D.W.Griffith and Buster Keaton.

Vinicius also edited the only two issues of the magazine Filme. One of his great passions, Charles Chaplin, was on the cover of the first issue. He also got to attend the shooting of Orson Welles' The Lady From Shanghai with Rita Hayworth. Vinicius, who loved women, was only too happy to keep company with such goddesses as Marlene Dietriech, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Paulette Goddard, Ava Gardner "the antithesis of the Ten Commandments", and Lana Turner, "for whom nature rounded all the edges."

At some time during his stay in Los Angeles, he had time to write and publish Poemas, Sonetos e Baladas (Poems, Sonnets, and Ballads). His style of poetry had by now become enriched with a sense of social consciousness. He also wrote some of his most famous works Livro do Sonetos (Book of Sonnets), Procura-se um Amigo (Looking for a Friend), and Para Viver um Grande Amor (To Live a Great Love). His lyricism was written in the sensual style which had become his trade mark.

Vinicius spent the next couple of years in Brazil. He liked having a good time and spent much of his time "hanging out" with friends at a popular Rio bar, Casa Villarino. Nobody would ever go as far as saying that so many thoughts and ideas would not have seen the light of day but for the existence of Casa Villarino, but it became almost a sacred place the way Mecca is to those of the Islamic faith.

Ruy Castro in his book about bossa nova, Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) has the following to say about it:

"If all the great ideas that you find around a bottle of whiskey came to life at the last drop, Casa Villarino on the corner of Avenida das Calógeras and Presidente Wilson, then in safe, potable, and civilized Rio, should be on the list of national monuments. In and around the fifties, a valiant pack of Bohemians planned the best radio programs, the definitive poems, the plays which would make posterity drool, the most devastating sambas-canção, the overthrow of some presidents and, with or without just motive, the destruction of the purest reputations. It is true that almost all of this happened only in the imagination of those frequenting the place—not that they didn't have the talent, but because they were more interested in going on drinking to, in reality, put their plans into practice. It is almost unbelievable that the partnership between Vinicius and Tom Jobim could have been born in Casa Villarino."

Ronaldo Bôscoli, one of the central players of bossa nova, was not happy when he became aware that Vinicius, then 38, was hanging around his sister, Lila, 19. He was still of the school of thought that a sister needed brotherly protection. For the passionate Vinicius, such amorous incidences were commonplace. In this case, however, he was still with his first wife, Tati. Vinicius and Tati, together 13 years, appeared to be inseparable. She exercised great influence over Vinicius. It was she, along with American socialist Waldo Frank, who was responsible for swaying Vinicius from his decidedly pro-Hitler and Mussolini sympathies. Up until that time he had rooted for that alliance in the war in the same way he rooted for Botafogo in soccer. His wife's influence, however, caused such a radical turnabout that in 1946, he was enamored of the idea of joining the Communist Party. He was dissuaded from doing so. It was probably just as well. Vinicius had a horror of bureaucrats and likely would not have stood for the discipline of the party.

Dear Helenice

Having convinced Bôscoli that his intentions were honorable where it came to Lila, he separated from Tati and started living with Lila. The salary of diplomats stationed in Brazil was meager, and they lived in an apartment without light or refrigerator on Rua Francisco Otaviano. Bôscoli was at that time a reporter for the paper Última Hora. The publisher, Samuel Wainer, offered Vinicius some added income for being a film critic and gave him a daily chronicle. He was also put in charge of a "Dear Abbey" column, responding to the lovelorn, female readers under the pseudonym Helenice, something that amused him a great deal.

His "suffering" at Última Hora lasted two years. In 1953, he left behind his life as a film critic, columnist, and lonely hearts advisor, took Lila, and went to his new diplomatic assignment in Paris, where Orfeu da Conceição (Orpheus of the Conception)—the Carioca favela version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, first saw the light of day.

Upon his return from Paris in 1956, Vinicius was ready to put music to Orfeu. It was a natural thing for him to turn to his brother-in-law, Ronaldo Bôscoli for advice on a composer. Bôscoli had his finger on the pulse of the Carioca music scene and hung out at the right places. Vinicius let it be known that he was looking for someone "modern" to score the play. Vinicius also relied on Bôscoli for proper slang expressions for his play.

He did not consider himself very "up" on current street language. For one thing, at this time, Vinicius was still somewhat conservative, but he had also lived outside Brazil for some time. When Bôscoli suggested Tom Jobim as the composer for Orfeu, Vinicius tended to accept his judgment. Bôscoli and his friend, Chico Feitosa, who became Vinicius' secretary, showed up to help with the preparations, and Lila made figurines of the characters.

Tom Jobim was finishing up an engagement at the Odeon on Avenida Rio Branco and could not join Bôscoli and Feitosa at Vinicius' house. Journalist Lúcio Rangel set up the meeting at Casa Villarino, and after Tom Jobim had inquired if there would be any money, (dinheirinho, a little money) in the project, the rest became history.

Most of the work with Orfeu took place at the house on Rua Nascimento Silva 107, Tom Jobim's house. Vinicius' own house was impractical for work, as it soon became an "open house" for all the friends of Vinicius and Lila who wandered in and out at will.

Vinicius and Tom worked—and drank. Vinicius liked his whiskey, though he did not drink while writing poetry. Orfeu, however, was popular music, which changed things. Tom was a beer drinker, but at the advice of Vinicius, he exchanged the barley for malt. As Vinicius said, "Beer is a waste of time."

Orfeu da Conceição débuted at the Teatro Municipal on September 25, 1956 with set designs by architect Oscar Niemeyer—the genius of Brasília—which caused a great stir. There was a ramp leading to a platform—Niemeyer's image of a morro (hill, like the ones found in Rio), home of many favelas (shantytowns).

Candinho was supposed to play the guitar, but he couldn't read music. Tom had suggested Luiz Bonfá, and so it was. Tom Jobim, who suffered from stage fright, should have conducted the orchestra, but his fear won out, and Léo Peracchi picked up the baton. Orfeu played for full houses, but only for a week. Vinicius must have been unsure of the potential of his play and had reserved the theater for merely a week.

The black cast, consisting of Haroldo Costa, who played Orfeu, Léa Garcia, Mira, and Dirce Paiva, Eurídice, was beautiful. It was said at the time that it was the first time an all black cast had performed at the Teatro Municipal. That was not quite true, however, as a production of O'Neill's Emperor Jones had been produced there before.

Teatro República had no prior engagement, and the play moved. A couple of days into the performance, Abdias do Nascimento, who played Aristeu, accused Vinicius of taking advantage of the black actors. Vinicius, who just a few years later would be known as "the blackest white man in Brazil," was offended and fired him. Instead, he hired Chico Feitosa, whose handicap for playing the role was that he was white. No problem. He appeared in blackface—and the crowds did not seem to mind. Out of the stage lights Chico was courting Eurídice (Paiva). Having been a great success in Rio, the play was to move to Teatro Municipal in São Paulo. The set was dismantled and shipped—and was never seen again.

The Orfeu score, which consisted of a number of beautiful songs, was somewhat overshadowed by Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você (If everyone were like you).

At Casa Villarino, Tom Jobim had asked if there would be "a little money" in the project. As it turned out, that became a prophecy, as they went on to be very successful, and bossa nova became the craze.

Without a doubt, the start of bossa nova and one of the most played songs of that era and the next was Chega de Saudade with music by Tom Jobim. Vinicius and Tom had created it and then put it in a pile of songs, where it remained for more than a year.

Tom had composed the song while visiting his family in Petrópolis. He arrived at the house of Vinicius, who was on his way out the door, leaving for Paris. He took a look at the song—and stayed a few more days to write the lyrics.

Nobody could have known that ground had been broken for a revolution. In fact, the reaction of the people who heard it ranged from disdain to indifference. Lila had a comment, "How silly, trying to rhyme peixinhos with beijinhos (pois há menos peixinhos a nadar no mar, do que os beijinhos que eu darei na sua boca—for there are less little fishes swimming in the sea, than the little kisses I will give in your mouth). Vinicius' response was, "Oh stop being sophisticated."

Years later, Vinicius acknowledged that one of the greatest thrashings his work had received, had been bestowed on this song. Fortunately, it was dug out of potential oblivion and recorded, first by Elizete Cardoso and then, with thundering success, by João Gilberto.

In 1959, French film maker Marcel Camus in a French-Brazilian production, put Orfeu on celluloid in the now classic Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus)—later to become the first—and lasting—impression of Brazil for many foreigners all over the world, including this author. It went on to win several awards, among them the Golden Palm in Cannes and the Academy Award for best foreign film. It starred Breno Mello as Orfeu and Marpessa Dawn as Eurídice. It also put bossa nova on the world map.

In 1962 Vinicius was in his first big show with Tom Jobim and João Gilberto at the Bon Gourmet nightclub. During this period, he participated in film festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, and in Venice, and in 1966 he was on the international film jury at the Cannes Film Festival. In the 70's, he embarked on an extensive partnership with Toquinho that took him on many travels and university tours. In particular, Italian and Argentine audiences adored him.

In 1980, on the 9th of July, at the age of 66, Vinicius died in his beloved Rio in the bathtub where he loved to spend time and from where he had conducted interviews and meetings. Brazil and the world had lost a unique renaissance man. And, as is always the case when a man like that passes, everybody steps up to the plate and offers their evaluation of his life, his loves, likes and dislikes, in fact, every facet that shone its light on the survivors.

The Poet

It is as a poet, of course, that Vinicius is most well known and loved. To this day, more than 40 years after the start of bossa nova, his songs are still heard on the radio and in the heart of the Brazilian people. Those words of strong emotion and overwhelming love have never lost their power. His passion has always rung true, which accounts for the staying power of the lyrics. His poetry denotes a certain religious impregnation, in long poems with biblical emphasis, which he abandoned little by little in favor of his natural tendency: intimate, personal poetry with a return to physical love, with a language at the same time realistic, colloquial, and lyrical.

Established in the movement of bossa nova, composed with Tom Jobim The Girl from Ipanema, the symbol of an era. He formed many wonderful partnerships with other composers such as Baden Powell, Carlos Lyra, Ary Barroso, and his "inseparable friend" Toquinho, about whom he used to say that he had the best possible relationship, and they "just didn't have sex." And in the bathtub, where he died, he used to let himself feel lazy, chat with friends, and always have that indispensable glass of whiskey. He had a habit of saying that whiskey was a man's best friend, "a bottled dog."

"Luciana's Page" on the Internet has this to say about his poetry:

"In his work, Vinicius expresses with intense anguish, the constant opposition between matter and spirit, from which results a sensation of sin. The earthly existence for him takes shape as chaos, the abyss. He looks in mysticism for the solution for that clash. This is the predominant vision of the world in O Caminho para a Distância (The Road to the Distance).

In that context, love, by the fact of linking man to the earthly world—has a negative connotation, from the start. In the following book, Forma e Exegese (Form and Literary Interpretation), however, love begins to assume the role of strength which would permit uniting the material and the spiritual, especially in the figure of the idealized woman. The poet begins to distance himself from the mystical plane and searches, in the reality of daily life, a way out of his anxiety. In "Ariana, the Woman," long poem published as a book, and New Poems, emerge the first signs of sensuality and eroticism which later will characterize his work."

Other themes, however, also permeated his work. Death was one of those, as almost all poets, especially in the pieces he produced between the forties and fifties. In addition, he was also a poet with social worries, as he demonstrated after the poem Operário em Construção (Construction Worker) and the play As Feras (The Beasts).

The Film Critic

Vinicius' original purist view of silent films vs. talkies was well known, and there would come a time when his words would come back to haunt him. Journalists would question him on his militant stance against talkies and the turnabout after his stay in Los Angeles. He decided to once and for all put his cinematographic conservatism to rest and told the world in his usual and sometimes self deprecating manner, "I was and continue to be, not a cinematographic mute, as many think, just a little bit of a stutterer."

And it was this humor, paired with his keen insight into and enthusiasm for film that prompted him to put together a futebol, soccer, team consisting of the best filmmakers of that time:

Chaplin on goal, Griffith and Stroheim as fullbacks, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovjenko in midfield, and in the offense Flaherty, Gance, Vigo, Dreyer, and King Vidor. His team of actors again found Chaplin along with John Barrymore and Harry Baur, Werner Krauss, Emil Jannings and Fritz Kortner, Raimu, Orson Welles, Nicolai Cherkassov, Laurence Olivier, and Walter Huston.

In April 1945 in an article for Sombra—apart from that, overshadowed by an ingenuous evaluation of Soviet cinema ("never made concessions in the way it shows life and reality of the people.")—gave his list of preferred classics: The Gold Rush, City Lights, and The Great Dictator by Chaplin; Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, and Broken Blossoms, by D.W.Griffith; Napoleon by Abel Gance; Variety by Dupont; Greed and The Wedding March by Stroheim; The Crowd, Hallelujah, and The Big Parade by Vidor; The Battleship Potemkin and The General Line by Eisenstein, among others.

Adept at culinary metaphors and audacious parallels, such as comparing Hitchcock to Mallarmé and Carol Reed to Paul Valéry, Vinicius was, like any and all critics guilty of some injustices. The most blatant related to the musical film genre, which he detested, "Gershwin is perhaps the best of the three worst musicians in the world," and John Ford, whose artistic death he proclaimed in 1951, well before at least three prime works: The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

Was Vinicius a good film critic? If you had asked him, he would have told you that he was not, nor intended to be a great film critic, but rather just a columnist, whose material people would find enjoyable. Enjoyable until today, especially when he set aside a certain edifying tone. Every so often, the movies served him as a mere pretext for speaking on other topics, such as the art of making out in semi darkness without attracting attention. Even a bike trip with Rubem Braga was explored in his column.

He was intimate with the esthetic of cinema, he was cultured, sensitive, intelligent, and inventive, but he did not appear to bring much seriousness to his trade, perhaps because he did not take it seriously. And with good reason, what with the bulk of the cinematic productions submitted for his scrutiny.

His major deficiency as a critic, according to Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, was not to be able to put one argument after another and draw a conclusion, and that his major virtue was his humor.

José Castello of daily O Estado de S. Paulo writes:

"The relationship of Vinicius with the movies is usually reduced to three aspects. The first, his hard fought battle against the talkies, which is treated much as an oddity. The second, his intimacy, more or less intense, with the celebrities of Hollywood, is considered a worldly sin. Finally, there is an aspect considered somewhat negative, his dubious taste and the soft arguments in his "reviews"—and here the quotation marks are fundamental, because they indicate the nonsense of this classification.

"Vinicius, the poet, continues to be equally misunderstood. His relationship with the movies was always, moreover, that of a passionate spectator, the kind who, in principle, likes everything and when he does not like it, it is more because of a bad mood than conviction. His chronicles, of a rambling style, in which the cinema sometimes is only a pretext, never had the intention of rigor nor of a theoretical exercise, but was just the expression of a passion. Passion: a word that always returns when one speaks of Vinicius."

In another context, José Castello says:

"It is nonsense, therefore, to take Vinicius' relationship to the movies very seriously—and there is nothing belittling in this. On the contrary, the poet, who always had a tense relationship with the verse, and an exalted one with music, had with the movies a bond of pure affection, disinterested, full of romanticism, like that of those little girls who, in the stuffy afternoons of summer, lock themselves in a movie theater to refresh themselves and to cry.

There is an aspect which, apparently, could contradict all that: The time Vinicius worked as a film censor. But that was just the bread winning efforts of a young guy starting out, and in addition, under the argument of backbiting, had the chance to see all the films he wanted. Vinicius de Moraes was a lover of the cinema, and it is like that—as love letters—full of quarrels, but also of exaltation, that his "critiques" should be read today."

Vinicius as Seen
by Others

"In spite of the multiplicity of his talent, Vinicius de Moraes was never well accepted by the critics of academia. Extremely popular, incorrigible Bohemian—in the most explicit sense of the word—he wrote in a bubbly manner. Even so, he was admired by Manuel Bandeira, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and Rubem Braga. To repay the critics who turned on him, he gave himself the luxury of not recognizing the genius of Guimarães Rosa: "He just wants to be the Brazilian Joyce, that's not writing."

"As a diplomat, he angered many conservatives with his appearance in the 100,000 person protest march in 1968, when a young student was shot to death by police in Rio. At the same time he offended academics by showing up in black tie. Neither side could accept the non-conformist ways of Vinicius. And when his colleagues were sipping champagne with foreign dignitaries, he preferred sharing a bottle of whiskey with personalities of the artistic world such as the poets Pablo Neruda and Nicolás Guillén, film maker Orson Welles, and musicians Louis Armstrong and Astor Piazzola.

"During one of the first performances of Astor Piazzola's self-described "little opera" Maria de Buenos Aires in 1968, a voice rose from the audience, repeatedly emitting profane exclamations. Backstage, after the show, the culprit was discovered. It was the Brazilian poet, Vinicius de Moraes, paying homage in his paradoxical way to the composer's astonishing achievement."

Pablo Zinger, New York Times, October 4, 1998

Everyone, who knew Vinicius, has his or her own story or opinion about him, and one would be remiss if one did not mention some of those diverse opinions and anecdotes about him. After all, just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so is a person's entirety the sum of all the many facets.

"Who is right is Tia Zulmira, when she says, that if Vinicius de Moraes were only one person, he would not be Vinicius de Moraes, but Vinicius de Moral." Thus ends the chronicle "The Vinicius de Moraes'es" by columnist Stanislaw Ponte Preta (or Sérgio Porto as they like).

Singer Toni Garrido of the group Cidade Negra is the protagonist in the remake of Orfeu Negro and declares his admiration for the author: "Vinicius is illuminating me and filling my life with poetry. I have the objective of making this Orfeu more beautiful because I know how he (Orfeu) was important to Vinicius." You could say that the poet continues to be present in the cultural life of Brazil.

"I remember Vinicius in Ouro Preto (baroque town in Minas Gerais). He was staying at the house of Chico Rei. I arrived with guitar in hand and he received me, listened to me, and adopted me. He was very important in my career. Through him, I got to know the true MPB (Música Popular Brasileira, Brazilian Popular Music), in a much more acute form. He began writing lyrics for my songs. From that meeting on, I started dreaming about a much more definitive form of music. To do that, having besides the observations and advice of Vinicius, is something which left its mark on me."

João Bosco, singer and composer.

"Vinicius was a great poet. A very happy person who, in spite of being a diplomat, left it all behind to live as a Bohemian. He spoke several languages, was an intellectual and never let that, his great culture extrapolate the capacity for communication with people of all kinds. Among the phrases he always used with me, I remember one: "To drink beer is a waste of time, let's drink whiskey right away." The most beautiful phase in his career, in my opinion, is the partnerships with Carlos Lyra and Tom Jobim. He was a very likable figure, charismatic and always in a good mood. In addition, he was a great jokester."

Luiz Carlos Vinhas, pianist.

"Vinicius is a person about whom you don't forget anything. We had a great and constant friendship. Sometimes, people forget that he died. When he went away, there was a void which will never be filled. He was a happy person, pleasant, and we spent many Carnavals together. Living with him was always very good."

Olívia Hime, singer and composer.

"Vinicius was a person in love with the movies, a splendid columnist, the two things came together in his reviews, which resulted in a valuable whole. He is one of the most important critics in the country, next to Octávio Faria and Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes."

Alexei Bueno, author of Vinicius de Moraes, poesia completa e prosa

"An author, very interesting, very rich, very present in the soul of the Brazilian people." Alexei Bueno

Vinicius spoke and sang about love in numerous forms and with the sensitivity of few. Perhaps, it was the close connection between romanticism and the feminine figure, which so fascinated him. "The ugly will pardon me, but beauty is fundamental," was one of the phrases which became famous on the exaltation of feminine beauty by the poet. The passion, the suffering, the unconditional surrender. To him, love meant more than just a feeling, it was a state of spirit.

"The work of Vinicius has been compared to one of those Russian dolls that come apart in the middle and reveal a similar, but smaller doll inside, which also comes apart and so on and so forth. But the comparison, which at the beginning is tempting, because Vinicius was a poet who multiplied himself with impressive speed, fails in two aspects. First, unlike the Russian dolls, the work inside the hollow of the one before is not necessarily smaller than the one that preceded it. Another difference from the Russian dolls, is that it is not always the same inside, in fact, it is always different and surprising.

"It is the great feat of the organizer, Alexei Bueno, that he did justice to a man who lived in abundance and with paradox, who never was afraid to err and to correct himself, and who never was totally happy inside himself. But it was because he never fled from conflicts, never dodged them, that Vinicius became the great poet that he was."

From review of Bueno's Vinicius de Moraes, poesia completa e prosa from the magazine Bravo, July 1998

Vinicius Today

Although it has been 19 years since Vinicius left this world, he is barely forgotten. Last year, Nova Aguilar issued a collection of his his work Vinicius de Moraes, poesia completa e prosa (Vinicius de Moraes, complete poetry and prose) organized by Alexei Bueno. It contains practically everything "The Little Poet" wrote along with film critics and other pieces, which had been lost or misplaced. It is a mammoth work of over 1500 pages and sells for around $70. It was received well by the critics, and although a work like that is only for those serious about reading Vinicius, it is no longer available—sold out in its first printing.

Orfeu Today

Back in the late fifties, when Orfeu Negro was on everybody's lips and a lifelong love affair was begun between Brazil and many people around the globe, Brazil was the only country in which the movie was not a success. That, however, is not the case with the new version, directed by Cacá Diegues and under the musical direction of Caetano Veloso. On May 5th, Salvador's A Tarde reported that the newly released Orfeu do Carnaval was the most watched movie of the past week. The soundtrack was released about a month earlier by Natasha Records.

Asked about his new version juxtaposed with the original, the director says the following: "It is understandable that the first version was less popular in Brazil. It offered a certain utopian vision of the reality in a Brazilian favela, and perhaps people of that era could not identify with it. Perhaps prejudice had something to do with it as well. And if middle class people of today associate poverty with crime, imagine in the fifties, when the film by Camus was released."

Cacá Diegues goes on to say that unlike the French production, his new version is faithful to the social reality of today's favela. Orfeu is portrayed by Toni Garrido, who is a composer for Carnaval, and drug traffickers are among the other characters. "My version is much closer to the play by Vinicius, whose plot was part of the social context of Brazil. The favela is a Brazilian synthesis: a social horror and a boundless cultural treasure."

The soundtrack is a combination of some of Tom Jobim and Vinicius' classics A Felicidade and Se todos fossem iguais a você and some brand new songs composed, in part, by Caetano, O enredo de Orfeu, co-written with Gabriel o Pensador and Sou você, both sung by Toni Garrido. "We are including two sambas which were not even in the play. Cacá chose Cântico à Natureza (Song to Nature) and I chose Os cinco bailes da história do Rio (Five dances of the history of Rio)," says Caetano. "The samba-enredo by Dona Ivone Lara is my favorite of all times. I attended the parade of Império Serrano, in 1965, and I learned the song in the street."

Clearly, a man so capable of creating poetry, prose, plays, reviews, music as well as the cultural atmosphere of his time, will not go quietly into oblivion. Here's to you, Vinicius!

Kirsten Weinoldt was born in Denmark and came to the U.S. in 1969. She fell in love with Brazil after seeing Black Orpheus many years ago and has lived immersed in Brazilian culture ever since. E-mail:


After leaving the diplomatic service, Vinicius threw himself into music and soon became the "guru of bossa nova." He collaborated with a number of luminaries of Brazilian music and went on to author, compose and write lyrics of some of the best-loved Brazilian songs to date.

The following lists a few of those songs.

As Lyricist:
with Baden Powell:
Canção do Amor Ausente
Canto de Ossanha

with Carlos Lyra:
Pode Ir
Coisa Mais Linda
Você e Eu
Sabe Você
Minha Namorada

with Tom Jobim:
Chega de Saudade
O Amor em Paz
Brigas, nunca mais
O Nosso Amor
A Felicidade
Eu Sei que vou Te Amar
Canta Mais
Chora Coração
Derradeira Primavera
Por Toda a Minha Vida
O que Tinha de Ser
Canção de Amor Demais
Soneto de Separação
Água de Beber
Ela é Carioca
Só Danço Samba
Garota de Ipanema

with Toquinho:
Tarde em Itapoã
Canto de Oxum
Maria, Vai com as Outras
Um Homen Chamado Alfredo
Sei Lá
O Poeta Aprendiz
Samba da Volta
Regra Três
As Cores de Abril
O Filho que Eu Quero Ter
Cotidiano no. 2
A Benção Bahia
Meu Pai Oxalá
O Velho e a Flor
Veja Você
Mais um Adeus
Como Dizia o Poeta
Para Viver um Grande Amor
Morena Flor
São Demais os Perigos Desta Vida
Samba de Orly (with Toquinho and Chico Buarque)

As Composer:
Medo de Amor
Serenata do Adeus
Valsa de Eurídice

In addition to these above mentioned composers and lyricists, Vinicius also had partnerships with Francis Hime, Tapajós Brothers, Pixinguinha, Garoto, Ary Barroso, Ernesto Nazareth, and Adoniram Barbosa. Even Johan Sebastian Bach became a partner, however unknowing, in that Vinicius transformed Jesus, Alegria dos Homens into Rancho das Flores.

Poetry and Prose

A Casa

Era uma casa muito engraçada
não tinha teto, não tinha nada
ninguém podia entrar nela, não
porque na casa não tinha chão
ninguém podia dormir na rede
porque na casa não tinha parede
ninguém podia fazer pipi
porque penico não tinha ali
mas era feita com muito esmero
na rua dos Bobos, número zero

The House

It was a very funny house
it didn't have a roof, didn't have anything
nobody could enter it, no
for the house had no floor
nobody could sleep in the hammock
for the house had no walls
nobody could pee
for there was no potty
but it was made with much care
on Fool Street, number zero


music Baden Powell

fale quem quiser falar, meu bem
deixe o coração falar também
porque ele tem razão demais quando se queixa
então a gente deixa, deixa, deixa, deixa
ninguém vive mais do que uma vez
diz que sim pra não dizer talvez
a paixão também existe
não me deixe ficar triste


to speak, those who wish, my dear
allow the heart to speak as well
for it is quite right when it complains
so people allow, allow, allow, allow
no-one lives more than once
say yes in order not to say maybe
passion also exists
don't allow me to be sad


Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar
music Tom Jobim

Eu sei que vou te amar
por toda a minha vida eu vou te amar
em cada despedida eu vou te amar
desesperadamente, eu sei que vou te amar

E cada verso meu será
prá te dizer que eu sei que vou te amar
por toda minha vida

Eu sei que vou chorar
a cada ausência tua eu vou chorar
mas cada volta tua há de apagar
o que esta ausência tua me causou

Eu sei que vou sofrer a eterna desventura de viver
à espera de viver ao lado teu
por toda minha vida

I Know That I Will Love You

I know I will love you
all my life I will love you
with every farewell I will love you
desperately, I know I will love you

And each verse of mine will be
to tell you that I'll love you
all my life

I know I will cry
with each absence of yours I will cry
but each return will erase
what your absence caused me

I know I'll suffer the eternal unhappiness of living
waiting to live beside you
all my life


Procura-se Um Amigo

Não precisa ser homem, basta ser humano, basta ter sentimento, basta ter coração. Precisa saber falar e calar, sobretudo saber ouvir. Tem que gostar de poesia, de madrugada, de pássaro, de sol, da lua, do canto dos ventos e das canções da brisa. Deve ter amor, um grande amor por alguém, ou então sentir falta de não ter esse amor. Deve amar o próximo e respeitar a dor que os passantes levam consigo. Deve guardar segredo sem se sacrificar.

Não é preciso que seja de primeira mão, nem é imprescindível que seja de segunda mão. Pode já ter sido enganado, pois todos os amigos são enganados. Não é preciso que seja puro, nem que seja de todo impuro, mas não deve ser vulgar. Deve ter um ideal e medo de perdê-lo e, no caso de assim não ser, deve sentir o grande vácuo que isso deixa. Tem que ter ressonâncias humanas, seu principal objetivo deve ser o de amigo. Deve sentir pena das pessoas tristes e compreender o imenso vazio dos solitários. Deve gostar de crianças e lastimar as que não puderam nascer.

Procura-se um amigo para gostar dos mesmos gostos, que se comova, quando chamado de amigo. Que saiba conversar de coisas simples, de orvalhos, de grande chuvas e das recordações de infância. Precisa-se de um amigo para não se enlouquecer, para contar o que se viu de belo e triste durante o dia, dos anseios e das realizações, dos sonhos e da realidade. Deve gostar de ruas desertas, de poças de água e de caminhos molhados, de beira de estrada, de mato depois da chuva, de se deitar no capim.

Precisa-se de um amigo que diga que vale a pena viver, não porque a vida é bela, mas porque já se tem um amigo. Precisa-se de um amigo para se parar de chorar. Para não se viver debruçado no passado em busca de memórias perdidas. Que nos bata nos ombros sorrindo ou chorando, mas que nos chame de amigo, para ter-se a consciência de que ainda se vive.

Looking For a Friend

You don't have to be a man, it's enough to be human, it's enough to have sentiment, it's enough to have heart. You have to know how to speak or be quiet, more than anything you have to know how to listen. You have to like poetry, dawn, a bird, the sun, the moon, the song of the winds and the music of the breeze. You must have love, a great love for somebody, or feel a void of not having that love. You must love your neighbor and respect the pain the passer-by carries with him. You must keep a secret without sacrificing.

You don't have to be first-hand or even second-hand. You may already have been deceitful, for all friends are deceitful. You don't have to be pure, nor totally impure, but you shouldn't be vulgar. You should have an ideal and fear of losing it and, in case you are not like that, you should feel a great vacuum which that leaves. You must have human resonances, your principal objective should be that of a friend. You should feel pity for sad persons and comprehend the immense emptiness of the lonely. You should like children and lament those who could not be born.

Look for a friend to like the same tastes, who is moved when called a friend. Who knows how to converse about simple things, the dew, the great rains, and the recollections of childhood. You need a friend so as not to go mad, to talk about what transpired, beautiful and sad things during the day, of the yearnings and realizations, the dreams and reality. You should like deserted streets, puddles of water and wet roads, the edge of the street, the countryside after the rain, to lie down in the grass.

One needs a friend who says it's good to live, not because life is beautiful but because he has a friend. One needs a friend to stop crying. In order not to live leaning on the past in search of lost memories. Who slaps us on the shoulder smiling or crying, but who calls us friend in order to have the consciousness of what we are still living


Soneto Do Amor Total

Amo-te tanto meu amor … não cante
o humano coração com mais verdade…
amo-te como amigo e como amante
numa sempre diversa realidade.

Amo-te enfim, de um calmo amor prestante
e te amo além, presente na saudade
amo-te, enfim, com grande liberdade
dentro da eternidade e a cada instante.

Amo-te como um bicho, simplesmente
de um amor sem mistério e sem virtude
com um desejo maciço e permanente.

E de te amar assim, muito e amiúde
é que um dia em teu corpo de repente
hei de morrer de amar mais do que pude.

Sonnet of a Total Love

I love you so much my love—don't sing
the human heart with more truth
I love you as a friend and as a lover
in an always diverse reality

I love you, finally, with a calm, giving love
and I love you, furthermore, present in the longing
I love you, finally, with great freedom
within eternity and every instant

I love you like an animal, simply
with a love without mystery and without virtue
with a solid and permanent desire

And to love you thus, a lot and often
is to one day, in your body, suddenly
die of loving more than I could.


A Casa Materna

Há, desde a entrada, um sentimento de tempo na casa materna. As grades do portão têm uma velha ferrugem e o trinco se encontra num lugar que só a mão filial conhece. O jardim pequeno parece mais verde e úmido que os demais, com suas palmas, tinhorões e samambaias, que a mão filial, fiel a um gesto de infância, desfolha ao longo da haste.

É sempre quieta a casa materna, mesmo aos domingos, quando as mãos filiais se pousam sobre a mesa farta do almoço, repetindo uma antiga imagem. Há um tradicional silêncio em suas salas e um dorido repouso em suas poltronas. O assoalho encerado, sobre o qual ainda escorrega o fantasma da cachorrinha preta, guarda as mesmas manchas e o mesmo taco solto de outras primaveras. As coisas vivem como em preces, nos mesmos lugares onde as situaram as mãos maternas quando eram moças e lisas. Rostos irmãos se olham dos porta-retratos, a se amarem e compreenderem mudamente. O piano fechado, com uma longa tira de flanela sobre as teclas, repete ainda passadas valsas, de quando as mãos maternas careciam sonhar.

A casa materna é o espelho de outras, em pequenas coisas que o olhar filial admirava ao tempo em que tudo era belo: O licoreiro magro, a bandeja triste, o absurdo bibelô. E tem um corredor à escuta, de cujo teto à noite pende uma luz morta, com negras aberturas para os quartos cheios de sombra. Na estante junto à escada há um Tesouro da juventude com o dorso puído de tato e de tempo. Foi ali que o olhar filial primeiro viu a forma gráfica de algo que passaria a ser para ele a forma suprema da beleza: o verso.

Na escada há o degrau que estala e anuncia aos ouvidos maternos a presença dos passos filiais. Pois a casa materna se divide em dois mundos: o térreo, onde se processa a vida presente, e o de cima, onde vive a memória. Embaixo há sempre coisas fabulosas na geladeira e no armário da copa: roquefort amassado, ovos frescos, mangas-espadas, untuosas compotas, bolos de chocolate, biscoitos de araruta—pois não há lugar mais propício do que a casa materna para uma boa ceia noturna. E porque é uma casa velha, há sempre uma barata que aparece e é morta com uma repugnância que vem de longe. Em cima ficam os guardados antigos, os livros que lembram a infância, o pequeno oratório em frente ao qual ninguém, a não ser a figura materna, sabe porque queima às vezes uma vela votiva. E a cama onde a figura paterna repousava de sua agitação diurna. Hoje, vazia.

A imagem paterna persiste no interior da casa materna. Seu violão dorme encostado junto à vitrola. Seu corpo como que se marca ainda na velha poltrona da sala e como que se pode ouvir ainda o brando ronco de sua sesta dominical. Ausente para sempre de sua casa materna, a figura paterna parece mergulhá-la docemente na eternidade, enquanto as mãos maternas se fazem mais lentas e as mãos filiais ainda mais unidas em torno à grande mesa, onde já agora vibram também vozes infantis.

The Maternal House

There is, from the entrance, a feeling of time in your mother's house. The bars on the gate are rusty, and the latch is in a place which only the filial hand knows. The small yard seems more green and humid than the rest, with its palms, ornamental plants, and ferns, which the son's hand, faithful to a gesture from childhood, defoliates along the stem.

The maternal house is always quiet, even on Sundays, when the son's hands rest on the table full of lunch, repeating an old image. There is a traditional silence in its rooms and a sad rest in its armchairs. The waxed, wooden floor, on which the ghost of the little white dog still slips, is keeping the same stains and the same loose parquet block of other springs. The things live as in prayers, in the same places where the maternal hands put them when they were girlish and smooth. Brothers' faces look from the photo frame to be loved and understood silently. The closed piano, with a long flannel strip over the keys, still repeats past waltzes, from when the maternal hands needed to dream.

The maternal house is the mirror of others, in little things which the filial glance admired of the time when all was beautiful: the slim carafe-set, the sad tray, the absurd ornament. And there is a crawlspace from whose ceiling hangs a dead light, with black openings to the rooms full of shadow. On the bookcase next to the stairs there is a Treasure of youth with its back worn by touch and time. It was here that the son's glance first saw the graphic form, which would come to be, for him, a supreme form of beauty, the verse.

On the stairs is the step that creaks and announces to the maternal hearing the son's footsteps. For the maternal house is divided into two worlds: the ground floor, where the present life goes on, and that of above where the memories live. Below there are always fabulous things in the refrigerator, and in the cupboard: mashed roquefort, fresh eggs, cut mango, rich fruit in syrup, chocolate cake, araruta biscuits, for there is not a better place for a nocturnal supper than the maternal house. And because it is an old house, there is always a cockroach, that appears and is killed with a repugnance that comes from far away. Upstairs are the guarded antiques, the books which remind you of infancy, the small oratory in front of which nobody, except the maternal figure, knows why there sometimes burns a votive candle. And the bed where the paternal figure would rest from his agitation of the day. Today, empty.

The paternal image persists in the interior of the maternal house. His guitar sleeps leaning against the victrola. It's as if his body is still leaving its mark in the old armchair and as if one can still hear the gentle snore of his Sunday nap. Absent, forever, from the maternal house, the paternal figure seems to immerse itself sweetly into eternity, while the maternal hands work more slowly and the son's hands, still more united around the big table, where already now vibrate childlike voices.


music by Tom Jobim

Ah, insensatez que você fez
coração mais sem cuidado
fez chorar de dor o seu amor
um amor tão delicado
ah, por que você foi fraco assim
assim tão desalmado
ah, meu coração, quem nunca amou
não merece ser amado

Vai meu coração, ouve a razão
usa só sinceridade
quem semeia vento, diz a razão
colhe sempre tempestade
vai, meu coração, pede perdão
perdão apaixonado
vai, porque quem não pede perdão
não é nunca perdoado.


Oh what folly you committed
heart very much without care
your love makes me cry with pain
a love so delicate
ah, why were you so weak
so cruel as this
ah, my heart who never loved anybody
does not deserve to be loved.

Go my heart, hear the reason
use only sincerity
who sows the wind, says reason,
always gathers the storm
go my heart, beg pardon
passionate pardon
go, because he who doesn't beg pardon
is never pardoned.


Onde Anda Você

E por falar em saudade
onde anda você
onde anda seus olhos
que a gente não vê
onde anda esse corpo
que me deixou morto de tanto prazer
e por falar em beleza
onde anda a canção
que se ouvia na noite
nos bares de então
onde a gente ficava
onde a gente se amava em total solidão
Hoje saio na noite vazia
numa boemia sem razão de ser
na rotina dos bares
que apesar dos pesares
me trazem você
E por falar em paixão
em razão de viver
você bem que podia me aparecer
nesses mesmos lugares
nas noites nos bares
onde anda você

Where Are You Going

And to speak of longing
where are you going
where are your eyes going
which people don't see
where does that body go
which left me dead with so much pleasure
and to speak of beauty
where is the song going
which was heard at night
in the bars of back then
where people stayed
where people loved in total solitude
Today I go out in the empty night
as a Bohemian without reason to be
in the routine of the bars
which despite everything
bring me you
And to speak of passion
as a reason to live
you could well appear to me
in those same places
in the nights at the bars
where are you going


Carta ao Tom
Music Tom Jobim

Rua Nascimento Silva, cento e sete
você ensinando prá Elizete as canções de "Canção de Amor Demais"
Lembra que tempo feliz, ai que saudade, Ipanema era só felicidade
Era como se o amor doesse em paz
Nossa famosa garota nem sabia
A que ponto a cidade turvaria neste Rio de amor que se perdeu
Mesmo a tristeza da gente era mais bela e além disso se via da janela
Um cantinho de céu e o
É, meu amigo, só resta uma certeza, é preciso acabar com essa tristeza
É preciso inventar de novo o amor

Rua Nascimento Silva, cento e sete
Eu saio correndo do pivete tentando alcançar o elevador
Minha janela não passa de um quadrado, a gente só vê Sérgio Dourado
Onde antes se via o Redentor
É, meu amigo, só resta uma certeza, é preciso acabar com a natureza
É melhor lotear o nosso amor

Letter for Tom

Rua Nascimento Silva a hundred and seven
You teaching Elizete the songs of "Song of Too Much Love"
You remember a happy tune, oh what longing
Ipanema was just happiness
It was as if love hurt in peace
Our famous girl didn't even know
At what point the city would darken in their Rio
of love that was lost
Even the sadness of the people was more beautiful
and moreover was seen in the window
A little corner of Heaven and the Redeemer (statue of Christ in Rio)
It is, my friend, there only remains one certainty,
it is necessary to finish with this sadness
It is necessary to invent love again.

Rua Nascimento Silva a hundred and seven
I go out running from the street kid trying to reach the elevator
My window doesn't overlook a block, people only see Sérgio Dourado
Where before they saw the Redeemer
It is, my friend, there remains only one certainty
it is necessary to finish with nature
It is better to divide one love



É claro que a vida é boa
E a alegria, a única indizível emoção
É claro que te acho linda
Em ti bendigo o amor das coisas simples
É claro que te amo
E tenho tudo para ser feliz

Mas acontece que eu sou triste


It is clear that life is good
And happiness, the only indescribable emotion
It is clear that I find you beautiful
In you I praise the love of simple things
It is clear that I love you
And I have everything to be happy

But it happens that I am sad


Serenata do Adeus
Music and Lyrics by Vinicius

Ai, a lua que no céu surgiu
não é a mesma que te viu
nascer dos braços meus…
cai a noite sobre o nosso amor
e agora só restou do amor
uma palavra: adeus

Ai, vontade de ficar
mas tendo de ir embora
ai, que amor é se ir morrendo
pela vida afora
É refletir na lágrima
o momento breve
de uma estrela pura
cuja luz morreu…

Ó mulher, estrela a refulgir
pane, mas antes de partir
rasga o meu coração
crava as garras no meu peito em dor
e esvai em sangue todo o amor
toda a desilusão

Ah, vontade de ficar
mas tendo de ir embora…
ai, que amar é se ir morrendo
pela vida afora
É refletir na lágrima
o momento breve
de uma estrela pura
cuja luz morreu
numa noite escura
triste como eu…

Serenade of Farewell

Ah, the moon, which rose to the sky
is not the same that saw you
to be born of my arms
the night falls on our love
and now remains only, of the love,
one word—goodbye

Ah, willing to stay
but having to go away
ah, love is to go and die
throughout life
it is to reflect in the tear
the brief moment
from a pure star
whose light died

Oh woman, star shining
break down, but before you go away
tear out my heart
drive the talons into my breast in pain
and vanishes in blood all our love
everything an illusion

Ah, wanting to stay
but having to go away
ah, how loving is to go and die
throughout life
it is reflecting in the tear
the brief moment
from a pure star
whose light died
in a dark night
sad like me…

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