Vinicius de Moraes

Marcus Vinícius da Cruz e Mello Moraes[1] (19 October 1913 – 9 July 1980), also known as Vinícius de Moraes (Portuguese pronunciation: [viˈnisjuʃ dʒi moˈɾajʃ]) and nicknamed O Poetinha ("The little poet"), was a Brazilian poet, lyricist, essayist, and playwright. Along with frequent collaborator Antônio Carlos Jobim, his lyrics and compositions were part of the birth of bossa nova music. He recorded several albums and also served as a diplomat.

Moraes was born in Gávea, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, to Clodoaldo da Silva Pereira Moraes, a public servant, and Lidia Cruz, a housewife and amateur pianist. In 1916, his family moved to Botafogo, where he attended Afrânio Peixoto Primary School. In 1920, he gained entrance to a Masonic lodge through his maternal grandfather. Fleeing the 18 of the Copacabana Fort revolt, his parents moved to Governador Island while Moraes remained at his grandfather's home in Botafogo to finish school. During visits with his parents on weekends and holidays, he became acquainted with the composer Bororo.

Beginning in 1924, Moraes attended St. Ignatius, a Jesuit high school, where he sang in the choir and wrote theatrical sketches. Three years later, he became friends with the brothers Paulo and Haroldo Tapajós, with whom he wrote his first musical compositions, which were performed at friends' parties. In 1929, he completed high school and his family moved back to Gávea.[2] That same year, he was admitted to the Faculty of Law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). At the "School of Catete", he became friends with essayist and future novelist Otávio de Faria, an activist integrist Catholic and leader of a group of right-wing Catholics organized around Centro Dom Vital, a think-tank created by Jackson de Figueiredo[3] shortly before his death.

Faria encouraged Moraes's literary vocation, turning him into a kind of right-wing fellow traveler. Moraes received his college degree in Legal and Social Sciences in 1933. Soon after, he published his first two collections of poetry: Caminho para a distancia ("Path into the Distance") (1933) and Forma e exegese ("Form and Exegesis"). Both collections were composed and published under Octavio de Faria's informal editorship. The collections were symbolist poetry concerned with Catholic mysticism and the search for redemption against sexual seduction.[4]

In his essay "Two Poets" (1935), Faria compared Moraes's poetry to that of Augusto Frederico Schmidt [pt].[5] The tension between Faria's and Moraes's mutual Catholic activism and Faria's homosexual attraction toward Moraes limited their friendship. Faria attempted suicide because of his unrequited love for Moraes.[6] Despite their estrangement, Moraes wrote two sonnets, the first in 1939 ("Sonnet to Octavio de Faria"), the second during the 1960s ("Octavio") in ambivalent praise of his friend.[7]

In 1936, Moraes became a film censor for the Ministry of Education and Health. Two years later, he won a British Council fellowship to study English language and literature at Oxford University. He abandoned his use of blank verse and free verse in favor of the sonnet, both the Italian form used in Portuguese poetry (two quatrains, two tercets) and the English form (three quatrains and a couplet).[8] He was considered one of the most prominent of the "Generation of '45", a group of Brazilian writers in the 1930s and 1940s who rejected early modernism in favor of traditional forms and vocabulary.[9] He is usually equated with his friend João Cabral de Melo Neto for the high technical skill of their poetry.[citation needed] However, if in Cabral's works technique served the depiction of objective reality, in Moraes's work technique served the depiction of the subjective mood of sexual love.[10] The basic meter in Moraes's love poetry is the decasyllable, taken mostly from Camões's lyric poetry.[11]

During his stay in England, Moraes wrote the verse collection Novos poemas ("New Poems"). He was married (by proxy) to Beatriz Azevedo de Mello, with whom he had two children: filmmaker Suzana de Moraes and Pedro. In 1941, he returned to Brazil and worked as a film critic for the newspaper A Manhã ("The Morning"), as a contributor to the literary journal Clima ("Climate"), and at the Banking Employees' Institute of Social Security, the public pension fund for workers in banking institutions.

During the following year, he failed the admission test for a diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE). Shortly after, he was commissioned to accompany American writer Waldo Frank, a literary acquaintance, on tour across northern Brazil. In Moraes's words, it was contact with both Frank and "appalling poverty" that turned him into "a man of the Left".[12]

In 1943, Moraes passed the MRE admission test on his second attempt. He was assigned as vice-consul at Los Angeles. He published a book of poems, Cinco elegias ("Five Elegies"), followed by Poemas, sonetos e baladas ("Poems, Sonnets, and Ballads"). After his father died in 1950, he went to Brazil, then returned to Los Angeles and published two more books: Livro de sonetos ("Book of Sonnets") and Novos poemas II ("New Poems II"). During the 1950s, he worked for the Brazilian consular service in Paris and Rome. He often visited historian Sergio Buarque de Holanda (father of the musician Chico Buarque de Holanda), who was teaching in Italy as a visiting scholar.

In 1951, Moraes married Lila Maria Esquerdo e Boscoli. He wrote film reviews for Samuel Wainer's Vargoist paper Última Hora. He was named a delegate to the Punta del Este film festival and was given a commission to study the management of film festivals at Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, and Venice, in view of the forthcoming São Paulo Cinema Festival, which was to be a part of the commemoration of the city's 400th anniversary.[13]

In 1953, his third child, Georgiana, was born. A fourth child by his second wife was born in 1956. He went to Paris as the second secretary at the Brazilian embassy in France. He released his first samba, "Quando tu passas por mim" ("When You Pass By"), which was composed with Antônio Maria. During the next year, he wrote lyrics to chamber music pieces by Cláudio Santoro. He became a well-known playwright with the staging of his musical Orfeu da Conceição ("Orpheus of the Conception") in 1956 and for the film made of it called Black Orpheus. He met pianist Tom Jobim, who was commissioned to write music for the play. Jobim wrote "Se todos fossem iguais a você" ("If Others Were Like You"), "Um nome de mulher" ("A Woman's Name"), and other songs included in the production. The play was staged in 1956 in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, having its text published in a deluxe edition illustrated by Carlos Scliar. At the end of 1956, Moraes returned to France, having been transferred in 1957 from the Brazilian embassy to the Brazilian representation at UNESCO. In 1958, he was transferred to the Brazilian embassy in Montevideo, returning to Brazil in transit. While in Brazil, he married Maria Lucia Proença.[1]

In 1958, the singer Elizete Cardoso released her album Canção do Amor Demais, marking the beginning of bossa nova.[citation needed] This record consists of compositions by the Jobim-Vinícius partnership, or by either of the two ("Canção do Amor Demais", "Luciana", "Estrada Branca", "Chega de Saudade", "Outra Vez"...). The recording also included a relatively unknown João Gilberto on two tracks. With the release of this record, Moraes's career in music had begun.

The songs of Jobim and Moraes were recorded by numerous Brazilian singers and performers of that time. Renditions of many Jobim-Moraes numbers on Gilberto's first, second, and third albums established the sound and repertory of the bossa nova and influenced a generation of singers and songwriters, especially in Rio de Janeiro.[citation needed] Among these songs are "Garota de Ipanema", "Insensatez", and "Chega de Saudade". In August 1962, Moraes performed for the first time as a singer with Jobim and Gilberto at the Au Bon Gourmet in Rio. This was the first of his "pocket-shows", performances made to small audiences where he presented new compositions, some of which became international hits, such as the aforementioned "Garota de Ipanema", as well as "Samba da Benção". Moraes introduced promising singers of the time, such as Nara Leão. Moraes wasn't a natural singer. He had a flat, nasal baritone voice, but he used background vocalists to sweeten the sound. His first undertaking as entertainer ended in 1963, when he returned to his post in the Brazilian representation at UNESCO, after his marriage to Nelita Abreu Rocha, his fourth wife.[1]

His play Orfeu da conceição (Orpheus of the Conception), a reworking of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the carnival of Rio, was adapted into the film Black Orpheus, which won an Academy Award in 1959 as Best Foreign Language Film. It was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival and the 1960 British Academy Award. The film was a co-production among France, Italy, and Brazil and included "A felicidade" ("Happiness"), a song by Jobim and Moraes, which became an international hit. His song "Samba da bênção" ("The Blessing Samba") was included on the soundtrack of A Man and a Woman (Un homme et une femme, 1966), another Cannes film festival winner.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Moraes collaborated with Baden Powell on a series of songs known as the Afro sambas. He collaborated with Edu Lobo on the Elis Regina hit song "Arrastão".

During a purge at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, he was forcibly retired in 1969 at the age of 55. Although taken aback by his forced retirement, he laughed at the case against him. When it was made known that the ministry purge was directed against "homosexuals and drunks", he jokingly retorted that his alcoholism was public knowledge.[14]

In the 1970s, Moraes collaborated with Antônio Pecci Filho, a guitarist and vocalist nicknamed Toquinho on musical and literary works. He married three women in succession: Cristina Gurjão, with whom he had a daughter, Maria; the actress Gesse Gessy; and the Argentinian Marta Rodrigues Santamaria.[1] He toured Europe with Chico Buarque and Nara Leão, and Argentina with Dorival Caymmi and Oscar Castro-Neves. His most stable musical partnership, however, remained with Toquinho, with whom he released popular albums. Their live performances in Brazil and Europe were often conducted as intimate meetings with the public. Moraes sat onstage at a table with a checked tablecloth and a bottle of whiskey, chatting and telling amusing stories to the audience in French, English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Moraes was an alcoholic who said, O uísque é o melhor amigo do homem—é o cão engarrafado ("Whiskey is man's best friend, it's the dog in a bottle"),[15][16] After a long period of poor health, which included several visits to rehabilitation clinics, he died at his home in Rio de Janeiro on 9 July 1980, at the age of 66, in the company of his ninth wife, Gilda de Queirós Mattoso, and the faithful Toquinho. He is buried in Rio de Janeiro's Cemitério São João Batista.

In 2006, Moraes was posthumously reinstated to the Brazilian diplomatic corps. In February 2010, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved his posthumous promotion to the rank of ambassador (first-class minister).[17]

In December 2014, following a three-week public vote, the mascot of the 2016 Summer Olympics was named after him.[18][19]


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