The first day of presentations by the Samba schools of Rio de Janeiro's Special Group showed that Imperatriz Leopoldinense has a good chance of winning the title again. The Samba school was the last to parade on Sapucaí, with the storyline "With luck turned to the moon according to the will of the gypsy Esmeralda", the reigning champions took to the avenue.
"Seeing Imperatriz making the grandstand sing, jump and follow them was the image of the night. Imperatriz put on a carnival it has rarely done in its history," summed up journalist Luiz Gustavo Thomaz, a specialist in carnival parades and a long-time veteran of the Sapucaí avenue and samba school “barracões”, the place where all the costumes and adornments are made.
Thomaz singled out the parades of Samba schools Beija-Flor and Grande Rio. On the other hand, Salgueiro was rated "the disappointment of the night", while Porto da Pedra and Unidos da Tijuca were the least appreciated (when not considering Salgueiro).
The second night of parades (Monday, 12) will feature, respectively: Mocidade, Portela, Vila Isabel, Mangueira, Paraíso do Tuiuti and Viradouro.
Check out below the highlights of the first day of parades in Rio de Janeiro's Special Group:
Unidos do Porto da Pedra
Porto da Pedra was the first Rio Samba school to parade / Vitor Melo / Rio Carnaval
Porto da Pedra returned to the Special Group after a ten-year absence. The school opened the first night of parades with a tribute to the Lunario Perpetuo, a historical book written by the Spanish mathematician, astronomer and naturalist Jerónimo Cortés, first published in 1594. The work, which was published in new editions over the centuries, became a reference for agriculture, highlighting the behavior of insects and the influence of the moon on crops, and had a great influence on the popular wisdom of the Brazilian Northeast region.
On Sapucaí, the school was impressive with its imposing presentation, especially the “abre-alas”, the first adorned car to parade. However, the Samba school had serious problems with the last car. According to Thomaz, there were "holes" in the parade, which will probably take the school back to the so-called “access group” (the “second division” of Samba schools), unless there are bigger problems with the Samba schools that will parade tonight.
Beija-Flor de Nilópolis
Beija-Flor sang about Maceió, the capital city of Alagoas / David Normando / Rio Carnaval
The third biggest winner of Rio's Carnival, Beija-Flor took to the avenue wanting its 15th trophy. The Samba school told the story of the capital city of Alagoas state, Maceió, with a dive into the city's Carnival. The central character of the plot is Rás Gonguila, a shoeshine boy born at the beginning of the 20th century and founder of the Cavaleiro dos Montes block, which made history in the city, parading in Maceió’s streets for decades, resisting.
The parade was the school's first headed by carnival designer (the closest English language has to the Portuguese word “carnavalesco”) João Vitor Araújo. The school presented the audience with a very beautiful presentation, and the plot was well developed. However, it had problems with evolution and some members had to run. The Samba didn't deliver enough on the avenue either.
Acadêmicos do Salgueiro
Salgueiro talked about the Yanomami people/ David Normando / Rio Carnaval
"The disappointment of the night". Seen as one of the favorite samba schools by Carnival experts before the beginning of parades on Sapucaí, Acadêmicos do Salgueiro presented a plot that paid homage to the Yanomami Indigenous people, talking about their mythologies and raising awareness on the defense of the Amazon. However, according to Luiz Gustavo Thomaz, the presentation fell short of expectations.
"It's a very strong storyline, with a message and a narrative. The carnival designer [Edson Pereira] is very good with the [adorned] cars, and the images, but he often doesn't have much to say. In a plot like this, you need to convey a very clear message. The plot even had its critical part, but it was developed in a bad way," said Thomaz.
An 8-meter-high LED jaguar was one of the highlights of Grande Rio's parade / David Normando / Rio Carnaval
The Indigenous theme was also seen in Grande Rio, which won the title of best samba school parade for the first time in 2022. The school presented the storyline "Our destiny is to be a jaguar". The animal is considered powerful and a divine symbol according to Tupinambá mythology. The presentation sought to show feline's representation in Brazilian culture in various ways.
The school did very well, with ornaments and costumes standing out. The samba-enredo – the theme song presented by each samba school – and the drums performed well on Sapucaí. The plot has some subjectivities, and it's not possible to predict how it will be uated, but the school can dream with the title, depending on tonight's performances.
Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca sang about Portugal / David Normando / Rio Carnaval
Unidos da Tijuca chose to tell the fables of Portugal with the storyline "Contos de Fados", a pun for “Fairy tale”, since “fada” means “fairy” and “fado” is the name of a famous Portuguese music genre. The school presented facts, legends and mysteries about the country's formation and the centuries that followed it. Slavery was not forgotten: "Portugal, from the glories that reveal the past, to the monster that bled the enslaved," sang the samba-enredo of the school, whose most recent title dates back to 2014.
For Thomaz, Unidos da Tijuca presented a "tasteless and dated" plot and had a weak commission of front. It was a problematic and "sleepy" parade, and would have had problems avoiding relegation if it hadn't been for Porto da Pedra's problems.
Carnavalesco Leandro Vieira and drum queen Maria Mariá celebrate Imperatriz's beautiful performance on Sapucaí / David Normando / Rio Carnaval
Champion of the 2023 Special Group with a plot about Lampião, Imperatriz Leopoldinense closed the first night of parades with more references to Brazil’s Northeastern culture. The plot "With luck turned to the moon according to the will of the gypsy Esmeralda" was based on a cordel literature work written more than a century ago by poet Leandro Gomes de Barros from Paraíba, state. The original text tells of a gypsy woman who left a testament that became a true manual of luck.
The school put on a parade that was almost flawless. Its samba-enredo was exciting, the drums were very good and everybody was in tune. Two of the adorned cars had lighting problems, and this may cause the school to lose a few tenths in the judges' assessment, but overall, it was very good.
Edited by: Geisa Marques