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Vinícius de Moraes: 1913-1980: Songwriter, Playwright, Poet, Diplomat Biography

Named After Character In Novel, Served As Diplomat In Los Angeles, Bossa Nova Songwriting Career Flourished

The name of Vinícius de Moraes is not well known in English-speaking countries, but he helped to create two of the enduring icons of twentieth century culture: the film Black Orpheus and the song "Girl from Ipanema" were both taken from plays and songs he wrote. Moraes was a Brazilian writer whose work over his long career encompassed both the elite realm of poetry and the democracy of popular song. In the latter sphere he was the favored lyricist of the pioneering Brazilian composer and pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim; together the two were important shapers of the sophisticated and internationally popular Brazilian music known as bossa nova.

A Renaissance man whose career also included substantial activity as a film critic and as a member of Brazil's diplomatic corps, Moraes made only a few excursions into playwriting and screenwriting. His 1954 play, Orfeu da Conceição, and its subsequent film adaptation, known in English as Black Orpheus, however, gained international renown. Those works, landmark achievements in cross-cultural fusion, combined the culture of Rio de Janeiro's hillside favelas and its African-descended inhabitants in a vivid synthesis with a story drawn from the ancient Greek mythology of Europe.

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