Orfeu Negro

Programming / to stage.

I’m still in the theme of fantasy, where death and life mix and mingle – in video games, this can lead to splendid horrors like Five Nights at Freddy‘s.
In entertainment, it can give splendid terrors like Orfeu Negro‘s.

Please, don’t expect any sparks from me now & in the next few days, I’m in a complete mental fog – I don’t think I’m very clear, I will try, I promise.

I don’t need to tell you the terrible story between Orpheus and Eurydice.
Without the unbearable pain of humanity’s first poet, you and I would not be here talking about the performing arts.

But perhaps you are less familiar with the rewriting of this myth: first it was a play, written by Vinícius de Moraes, Orfeu da Conceição (in 1956) – then a film directed by Marcel Camus: Orfeu Negro, a Franco-Brazilian co-production, in 1959. That’s to say that it dates back to the time of the dinosaurs – I was neither born nor unborn in those times.

The story takes place in the favellas of Rio.
Orpheus is a young man, a sailor who works on the ferry, and a dazzling guitarist who plays on the heights of the city.


Eurydice is such a beautiful and happy young girl that everyone greets her with enchantment: she carries with her all the suns of her smiles – and it literally bursts the screen.

Isn’t she a shining Lady ? So beautiful & so joyful ?

They fall in love – and Carnival is coming.
Alas, behind Eurydice, there is a strange man – whose strange costume evokes only death.
He pursues her – we won’t know why, but he wants her.

In the myth, Orpheus fights to take Eurydice back.
In Orfeu Negro, death is more sneaky, so slow to come – he follows beauty step by step, and mixes with the magical madness of the Rio Carnival.
The heart of the film is there – and that’s where Orpheus changes century.

The sequel is more kitschy – and it has aged a bit badly, it’s true.
But all this rise of fear, of injustice: why her? – all this absolutely opposite atmosphere, where you sing, where you dance, where you have samba in your head like an obsession, make this work a masterpiece.

I saw this film as a child: I was afraid – should I say so? – but above all I was absolutely amazed.
I saw it again as an adult: I was no longer afraid and I could notice the moments when the film had aged and didn’t go well at all – or I really became an adult.

But no one watches Orfeu Negro anymore – he has fallen into oblivion.

So, because I loved the film so much – because I know that this link to the dead, to the world of the dead – is a very big link to video games – I thought it was time to bring Orfeu Negro back to life.
On a stage, that requires a nice – it’s true – staging job.
You need the grandeur of the perspectives on Rio.
You need the warmth.
the eager madness of Carnival nights
You need that music that would drive you crazy
and the death

So you need actors and dancers and circus performers. And a beautiful staging.
And maybe (yes, it is necessary) to re-write the myth for its end – which doesn’t go down well at all in the 20th and even less so in the 21st century.
Because the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is not a kitsch story. Death surrounded Eurydice. Orpheus wanted to save her – to the very end he wanted to. He almost succeeded. He was afraid, at the last second, of losing her: and it was his fear that lost her. That second of doubt – not for him – for her, because he was so deeply in love. How could he recover from that? from that guilt? No way, he only has to become, truly, again, Orpheus, the one whose pain was so powerful that even the stones were crying.
There is no real need for Hades and Persephone – no real need to travel the world of shadows –
If we want, the terrible story of Orpheus and Eurydice can enter our – rational – worlds.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful show?

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Featured Image : Orfeu Negro – M. Camus

Now I can go to sleep and let myself go to my fog. I’m going to dream about Carnival – I love shows and movies that use Carnivals – it’s so beautiful and so scary at the same time.

2 Thoughts

  1. This brought back memories of my 20s. I have seen both the 1st & 2nd version with a friend of mine. It was required for a film course they were taken. I think you summed them up well, for me there was joyful with an ominously under tone. I saw so many wonderful strange movies with him…the Dada and Busby Berkeley movies and how the movie Freaks affected me. It was a free education into film for me. 😁

    Liked by 3 people

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