The Unidos da Tijuca school, the third-oldest samba school in Brazil’s most glamourous city, is currently rehearsing its routines in preparation for this year’s dance competition at the famous “Sambadrome.”
The school, reigning carnival champions, has chosen an unusual title for their 80-minute performance: “Alemanha Encantada” or “Enchanted Germany,” which is about “Brazil and Germany coming together: colours, cultures, and capabilities,” the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Sunday.
One of its purposes is to expand the average Brazilian’s knowledge of Germany, which Bruno Tenorio, the school’s marketing chief, said amounts to “beer, sausage, Michael Schumacher, and Adolf Hitler.”
It is set to be a mammoth show, involving eight floats, built on buses, with various Germanic features – including outsized Playmobil figures, the moon (to represent Germany pioneering rocket scientists), and figures from ancient Germanic mythology, including thunder god Thor.
“Elves and gnomes will dance around him,” explained Tenorio, who led a number of fact-finding missions to Cologne and Berlin in preparation. The show is being put together by 50-year-old artistic director Paulo Barros, who has already choreographed two winning Sambadrome performances.
But the stereotypes are certainly not all one-way. “In Europe, when people think of the carnival in Rio, they just think of wobbling bottoms,” Tenorio told the paper. “In reality, it’s an opera.”
It’s fitting, then, that Barros has packed Germany into five acts, beginning with the above-mentioned Germanic gods and assorted mythic creatures. There follows Goethe’s Faust, Bertolt Brecht’s outcast characters, Fritz Lang robots, and a depiction of Marlene Dietrich as the Blue Angel.
Meanwhile, the “Universe of Children” section is dedicated to German fairytales and toys. “In Brazil, they think Red Riding Hood is an American girl,” said Tenorio. Costume-maker Larissa dos Santos was not the only person involved in the production to be disabused of such notions: “Now I know that Snow White isn’t by Disney.”
Along with German achievements like printing, the Zeppelin, and x-rays, the final section of the performance even includes the so-called “new Germans” – the immigrant communities, a suitable mirror image of the five million Germans that have settled in Brazil since the 19th century.
The whole spectacle will be broadcast in its entirety on Brazilian TV station Globo-TV, with a potential audience of 190 million viewers. “Our show is the best advert for modern Germany,” said Tenorio.
Which is the main reason for the school’s current frustration – that German firms have been reluctant to sponsor the event. The entire performance will cost a staggering €4.5 million, half of which will be paid by the city of Rio and state oil company Petrobras. The other half was to come from some of the 1,200 German companies that do business in Brazil.
After difficult experiences with the German Embassy to Brazil and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tenorio spent months getting German giants Volkswagen, Merck and Stihl on board – and yet the school is still €400,000 short. “It was the most frustrating experience I ever had,” he said.