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    Parade Plots - Carnival Parade Themes

    Posted on 07 February 2019

    On this section we will be discussing an extremely central aspect of the Brazilian Carnaval parades:  the enredo or Carnaval theme as we have translated. The theme, sometimes simply referred to as ‘the Carnaval’ of a Samba-School parade is essentially the plot, the story, sequence of events behind a Carnaval parade in Brazil.   The Caranaval enredo, functions like the narrative we see in operas and theater plays.  Brazilian Carnaval parades are based around such stories, or themes.  The ‘Carnaval enredo’ description is what we will take a look at right now.

    Maria Helena Kuhner, a Carnaval researcher defined the Enredo as follows:  “the theme in the Samba School offers support to the entire visual and aesthetic show, as well provide structure to the music and the choreography”.   According to Osvaldo Macedo, another Carnaval scholar, “the theme is a new gender that has invented its own set of rules and modules.”   Finally, Fernando Pamplona, the late Carnival Director once noted: “the Enredo is not just the subject itself, but mainly the format and presentation a plot / theme is staged within a carnival parade.”

    Photo Credit:  Agencia Foto BR - Alexandre Vidal

    In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the themes were not as they are today; they were expressed by the rudimentary aesthetic elements used that time, such as papier-mâché dolls, signboards, and other adornments. However, in 1952, the Carnival Regulation made obligatory the use of costumes in the parades, so that, we can say the identity of samba schools was finally concluded.   The Enredo could be then clearly defined through the elements that formed it, like script, samba-enredo¬, costumes, as well as trimmings and adornments.

    Choosing Enredos – Plot themes for Parades

    In the past, the themes were chosen by the Board of Directors from the School.  Today, the carnavalescos (carnival producers) usually choose the theme, but at times samba-schools directors analyze several subjects and vote for the best. 

    At first, the themes referred almost all to History of Brazil.  Because of this pride-nationalist themes phase, people started thinking they could not use other ‘subjects’ for enredos.  Perhaps, this happened due to the fact the first parade Regulation was created in the beginning of the Estado Novo (New State), in 1939, establishing a preference for such subject, although it was never a requirement. Further, the carnaval parades at War times (1943 to 1945) contributed for such conviction, since the enredos were determined by the National Defense League and by the Students’ National Union.   Thus, in the 1930’s, the 1940’s, and the 1950’s, the Carnaval themes were based on episodes, fights, important characters, etc., all taken from books on History of Brazil.

    Jayme Silva - Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro

    In the 1960’s, Fernando Pamplona, pioneering Carnaval Director created an enredo exalting the black people, it was called Quilombo dos Palmares.  Accordingly, the subject became diversified and, finally, Carnaval producers realized there was nothing in the Regulation determining the themes were exclusively regarding to History of Brazil.  The enredos, thus, started to be designed based on Brazilian rich folklore, legends, customs, and literature.  Today, the only requirement is that the enredos must be somehow linked to Brazilian culture.

    Creating & Developing Enredos – Plot Themes

    Enredo’s creation presents two different moments, the literary and the visual-aesthetic.  It is tells a story, a sequence of events. It is a literary play performed in the avenue with costumes, trimmings, and music.

    There is a script written as a narrative about this enredo. This script is called Argumento.  The Argumento can be original, that is, totally created by the author, or it may be inspired or reproduced from other texts, books, etc.

    In addition, there is a Guide or Parade Order, which is the performance guide for the Wings, Floatees, Trimmings, and Adornments.  This guide is important since the samba-school must be loyal and fitted to the enredo during the whole parade, showing clearness to the development, as well as originality and creativity by exploring the whole potential of the theme.

    The Carnival Artists

    First, the great societies, then the ranchos carnavalescos and the samba-schools became a stage for amazing art creations, making Carnaval stage sets more and more beautiful throughout time. In 1855, Clube Sociedade Euterpe Comercial started hiring artists to design and adorn the floats, as well as to decorate the balls salons and paint the Flags.  A skilled group was, thus, created, making specific sceneries for Carnaval parades.  Such specialists are called carnavalescos (carnaval producers), and form a very popular and Brazilian aesthetic design school.  Please refer to specific tab on the Carnavalescos.


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