By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Monday, February 11th, G.R.E.S. Imperatriz Leopoldinense will enter the Sambódromo as the second to last samba school from the Grupo Especial (Special Group) to parade for the 2013 Carnival Championship Competition.
The school, also referred to simply as Imperatriz (Empress), last saw three consecutive championships in the years of 1999, 2000 and 2001. They have won the Carnival competition a total of eight times in their over fifty year history.
Imperatriz was founded in 1956 in the Rio suburb of Ramos in Zona da Leopoldina part of Zona Norte (North Zone) of the city. The school’s name is a tribute to the Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, who was also the Empress of Brazil by marriage to Emperor Pedro I (Dom Pedro).
With a golden crown as their official symbol, the samba school first began to receive recognition in the early 1970s. It was then that their Quadra (Rehearsal Hall) in Ramos was chosen as one of the sets for the novela Bandeira 2 (Flag 2). The Rede Globo series ran from 1971-1972 for a total of 179 episodes with a plot-line that included a love story involving a samba school’s Porta-Bandeira (Flag Bearer).
The show also incorporated other elements of the Imperatriz Leopoldinense school into the plot, including a representation of a famous composer Zé Catimba – who helped found the school at age sixteen – and one of the school’s Samba-Enredos (Theme Song), “Martim Cererê” as part of the show’s soundtrack.
Interest and knowledge of the school grew due to the novela but the school’s performances in Carnival ranged from good to bad for the following decade.
Everything changed in 1980 after the school hired the famous Carnavalesco (Carnival Director) Arlindo Rodrigues. That year they presented an Endredo entitled, “O que que a Bahia tem” (What does Bahia have). The theme paid homage to the Brazilian state of Bahia, its culture and traditions and earned Imperatriz their first Carnival championship.
Rodriques remained at the school until 1984 when Carnival designer Rosa Magalhães took the position and earned a reputation for her artistic presentations.
In the late 1980s the school began to be known as the “technical school” as they tailored their parade processions specifically to match to the technical requirements of the judges.
The strategy worked as Imperatriz won the 1989 Carnival with the theme, “Liberdade, liberdade, abre as asas sobre nós” (Freedom, freedom opens the wings over us). It was an historical enredo celebrating the one hundred year anniversary of Brazil’s first declaration as a Republic in November 15, 1889.
This year the school will be lead by three Carnavalescos: Cahê Rodrigues and Mário and Kaká Monteiro as they present the theme, “Pará – O Muiraquitã do Brasil”. Translating to “Stop, Muiraquitã of Brazil”, the theme focuses on the Amazonian natives and the Muiraquita, the name given to various types of stone or wood carved Amazonian artifacts.
Often representing animals or people the Muiraquita can be used as pendants or amulets that bring luck. Many Brazil folklore legends include use of Muiraquita and they are thought by some to possess supernatural qualities.
This year actress Cris Vianna will take the position of Rainha de Bateria (Queen of the Drums), replacing Luiza Brunet, who had until this year served as Imperatriz’s muse for seventeen consecutive years. With little over a week until the Carnival competion begins, Imperatriz is hard at work putting the finishing touches on this year’s parade presentation.
The school will host a “feijoada de carnaval” at their quadra on Sunday, February 3rd. Tickets will be available at the door for R$15. For more information see their Website .
G.R.E.S. Imperatriz Leopoldinense
235 Rua Professor Lacê, Ramos, Rio de Janeiro
Tel: (21) 2560-8037 | (21) 3593-6582