CULTURE


Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the biggest celebration in the world

Baku, April 25, AZERTAC

Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival celebration is undoubtedly the planet’s most ostentatious, mind-blowing spectacle, uniting millions of Brazilians and visitors within the lush environs of the Marvelous City in rapturous merriment over the 5 days preceding the pious Catholic season of Lent. The party happens every February or March, ending 40 days before Easter and commemorating the close of the long, hot Brazilian summer with a lavish, world-renowned Carnival parade in the Sambadrome. Also on tap are popular itinerant street parties called blocos, and chic, high-gloss costumed balls called bailes.

With a parade tradition stretching as far back as the 1930s, Rio is home to over 70 samba schools. Representing modest neighborhoods from throughout the metropolitan area, the largest and most creative schools (collectively, the Grupo Especial) end up competing for cash and nationwide fame during a 2-night bonanza of sound and spectacle in Rio’s one-of-a-kind Carnival stadium, the Sambadrome. First opened in 1984 and designed by Brazil’s architect extraordinaire, Oscar Niemeyer, the nearly 2,300-foot-long stadium, with its distinctive arch -- jokingly referred to as a concrete thong -- holds up to 90,000 raucous spectators who pay anything from R$10 to over R$5,000 for the privilege of cheering on their favorite schools amid the unmatched energy of Carnival.

The competition itself, televised nationally late into the night on the Sunday and Monday of Carnival, consists of a series of performances in which each of the top 12 samba school’s roughly 3,000 members sing and dance nonstop -- with calculated precision for 90 minutes, dressed in dazzling costumes atop monumental floats and slowly parading down the length of the Sambadrome to the wild cheering of fans and the intense scrutiny of the parade judges. The judges consider each school’s performance in categories such as song lyrics, drumming cadence and precision, costumes, overall harmony and allegorical theme, with the lowest scoring schools relegated to the second-string Grupo de Acesso. Themes include whimsical homages to various world cities, historical events, and Brazilian personalities.

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