Just one week before Rio Carnival, and the samba schools of Grupo Especial are well ahead in their preparations. Last year at this time some schools were in a state of panic, with no money left and many floats and costumes still to prepare.
This year there has been an extra injection of money which has smoothed things along. Petrobas, the Brazilian multinational, has donated 12 million reals - thats one million for each samba school - in their project `Samba Carioca is a cultural inheritance of Brazil´
The money is partially for the samba school parades, but part of it is marked for use in the cultural and educational activities that every samba school carries out in its home district.
The first Samba School technical rehearsal in the Sambodromo is on the 6th December. Entrance remains free. These rehearsals are enormously popular - in 2009 there was an average of 40,000 spectators at each one. This year these rehearsals will mostly be on Saturday and Sunday evenings; the Friday night events have been curtailed because the necessary road closures caused enormous traffic problems last year.
Saturday 6th Dec also has 3 local football matches , so the rehearsals may be later than originally advertised, to allow the football crowds to disperse down Avenida Presidente Vargas before it is partially closed for the rehearsal.
To find out more about the Rio Carnival technical rehearsals in the sambodromo, and to see a timetable, click here.
A complicated question, on some levels.
The pagode do Trem - a samba party till dawn in Rio, involving four sound stages, many samba stars, song, dance, beer, and four trains. Now this is an event that I would REALLY like to experience...
Celebrating the Brazilian Day of Samba on Dec 2nd, the event starts with a live stage set up in Rio's central rain station. From 12pm there's a big samba da roda in the station, with many samba stars performing - including (in 2009) the velha guardas of Mangueira and Portela.
Then, from 7pm, four trains set off towards Oswaldo Cruz. These party (pagode) trains contain a mixture of normal passengers, drums, music, songs and samba stars of the calibre of Nelson Sargento and Dona Ivone Lara. Everyone disembarks at Oswaldo Cruz, where there are three more music stages and a party that goes on till dawn.
Tickets are going on sale in the next couple of weeks. They will all be sold out in minutes, mostly to Cariocas (Rio locals) and agencies. As a tourist you are very unlikely to buy at these original face prices. Expect to buy from an agency with a mark-up of at least three times the face value. Its already possible to reserve tickets for the sambodromo through online agencies.
Original face values:( R$ = Brazilian Reals);Frisas (for 6 people) from R$3000 to R$6,500 per night, Arquibancadas (stands or bleachers)- from R$110 to R$300 per night per seat.
I've heard a sneak preview of the Rio carnival official samba CD 2010 (Grupo Especial) and it rocks! Read more here
The Rio samba school Salgueiro is planning to be holding its street rehearsals regularly on Wednesday evenings at Rua Sivas Teles, starting at 9pm.
The whole samba school will be practicing their parade down on the street, and singing their samba for 2010 "Stories without end"
The bateria will be out in force with over 200 drummers, led by Mestre Marcão, and the puxador Quinho singing the song through a huge mobile sound system.
As usual with street rehearsals, there will be hot dog stalls, street barbecues, plenty of beer and other street food and drink to create a real party atmosphere.
If you get the opportunity, here's how to get the very best out of your experience.
You can buy a tourist package for Rio Carnival that includes parading with a Samba School. You can also organise it yourself (advice below). Either way, if you want to know how to get the most out of this once in a lifetime experience, here's how to go about it.