Lyrics from “Aurora” by Mário Lago and Roberto Roberti (1941)

If only you were sincere, o-o-o-oh, Aurora,
Check out how good it would be, o-o-o-oh, Aurora

A beautiful apartment, with a doorman and an elevator
And refrigerated air for hot days
“Madame” in front of your name, you would have it now
O-o-o-oh, Aurora


— Interpretation —

“Aurora” was one of the top hits of Carnaval 1941, and is still often mentioned among the greatest Carnaval “marchinhas” of all time.  The song lists major status symbols of the time — an air-conditioned apartment, with an elevator and a doorman — to remind Aurora of all she gave up  (not to mention the possibility of becoming a “madame”) by not being true to the song’s protagonist.

Carmen and Aurora Miranda

On Ash Wednesday, 1940, at a time when  “Ash Wednesdays were truly sorrowful,” according to Mário Lago, Roberto Roberti presented the half-complete “Aurora” to Mário, and the two finished the song together. There was still a year to go before it would become a Carnaval sensation interpreted by Joél and Gaúcho, a beloved duo that sang mostly marchinhas in the 1930s and 1940s. Carmen Miranda — whose sister’s name was Aurora (maybe the subject of the song?) — incorporated the song in her repertoire and sang it throughout the United States in 1941. In the meantime, Harold Adamson, an American songwriter perhaps best known for writing the theme song to I Love Lucy, quickly wrote English lyrics for “Aurora.” The Andrews Sisters‘ performance of the new arrangement became a sensation in the United States and England and was featured in Abbott and Costello’s 1941 comedy-horror film, Hold that Ghost:

The marchinha – or “little march – style was introduced in Rio de Janeiro toward the end of the 19th century by Portuguese theater companies, and provided the soundtrack for Carnaval in Brazil from the 1920s through the 1950s. The style is jovial and jesting, and even the name, little march, satirizes its military roots. The first marchinha written especially for Carnaval was Chiquinha Gonzaga‘s “Ô Abre Alas,” in 1899:

After the 1950s, marchinhas were pushed out of the Carnaval spotlight by samba-enredos, which were written for and performed by Rio de Janeiro’s beloved samba schools. What’s more, the often biting political commentary woven into cheerful marchinhas ensured the disapproval of the military dictatorship that took over in Brazil in 1965, further stifling the genre.

Mário Lago, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1911, was a lawyer, poet, composer, lyricist and actor, and one of the most  highly regarded songwriters in Brazil in the 20th century. Aside from “Aurora,” his most famous songs include “Ai, que saudades da Amélia” and “Atire a primeira pedra,” both written with Ataulfo Alves, “É tão gostoso seu moço,” with Chocolate, and “Numero um,” with Benedito Lacerda. He also acted in a number of movies, including Glauber Rocha‘s classic Terra em Transe.

Roberto Roberti, born in 1915, also in Rio de Janeiro, composed marchinhas and sambas — including a number of hits sung by Carmen Miranda — and was one of the founding members of  the Brazilian Composers Union.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, Vol. 1: 1901-1957, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello.

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