By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Profiling the twelve Samba Schools in the Grupo Especial in the order they will appear in the 2011 Carnival parade, brings us to the second in our series, Imperatriz Leopoldinense. There is little doubt that Imperatriz (Empress), as the school is commonly known, is one of the greatest Samba Schools ever to parade in the Sambódromo.
Its ever-present elegance, which has evolved through the years into a uniquely baroque-inspired visual style, has earned them the honor of being the only samba school to win the Carnival in the Grupo Especial three times, in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
It’s easy to understand school’s prizewinning history considering its origins. Imperatriz was founded in 1959 by members of the famous but defunct carnival troupe Recreio de Ramos.
An important milestone for the school was in 1972 when Globo TV chose its installations to be the backdrop for its wildly popular soap opera, Bandeira 2 (Flag 2).
This very Carioca version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, beat all viewing records on prime time Brazilian TV and gave the school unprecedented visibility.
It is impossible to separate Imperatriz’s success from the great array of talented Carnavalescos (Carnival designers) which have graced its presence.
One of the most notable is Rosa Magalhães. Artist, university professor, and 2007 Emmy Award winner for best costumes for the opening show of the Pan American Games in Rio, she was responsible for many of the school’s victories.
Magalhães left Imperatriz in 2010, and another veteran carnavalesco, Max Lopes, assumed the position.
The theme for this year, “A Imperatriz Adverte: Sambar Faz Bem À Saúde” (Imperatriz warning: Samba is good for your health) will unfold on the Avenue of Marques de Sapucaí (Sambódromo) and take spectators on a journey through time.
The parade will tell the story of Medicine and examine its links to deity and religion, its tribal origins and development through ancient civilizations like Egypt and Greece up to the modern times, when Cariocas and their penchant for partying make them realize that there is, after all, a panacea – samba!
Parading this year for the first time with Imperatriz are the new main Mestre-Sala and Porta-Bandeira, Phelipe Lemos, 18, and Rafaela Teodoro, 21. Recently hired by Imperatriz, the duo were previously second Mestre-Sala and Porta-Bandeira with the Unidos de Vila Isabel samba school.
As is common for this time of the year, the school is in full-gear preparing for the parade, and costumes to parade with Imperatriz Leopoldinense are already for sale on their website.
Their rehearsal are being held at its quadra on Rua Prof. Lacê, 235, Ramos, Rio de Janeiro. Technical rehearsals are held on Sundays at 8PM and the drum ensemble joins in on Mondays at 8PM.