Brief History of the Rio Carnival Balls
The origins of the Rio Carnival balls can be traced back to the famous masked balls of the world's other Carnival capital: Venice, Italy.
It was in 1840 when Clara Delmastro, the Italian embassador's wife, decided to host her own carnival ball in pompous Venetian style, at Teatro São Januário. It was a big hit right away, with 1,000 attendees on that very night. Soon similar events followed suit and became custom also here in the new world, in Rio de Janeiro, to conduct balls during the Carnival season where major hotels and establishments organized grand and ostentatious events.
To crown the growing spectrum of Rio Carnival balls, it was the city's most prestigious venue, Copacabana Palace Hotel, which elevated the balls to their zenith, bringing international attention to the Rio Carnival balls. In 1993, after Copacabana Palace was acquired by the Orient-Express Group, the luxury costume balls were reinvented. It once again became and has remained the epicenter of the Rio Carnival world with its Magic Ball, Rio's only continuing luxury ball, reminiscent of the glamur of a golden age.
The Official City Gala Ball at the Municipal Theater was another ball which became an institution on the Rio Carnival scene. The first edition in 1932 received already 4,000 guests, including Brazil's then president Vargas. The ball went on at the famous theater until 1975 when experts concluded that all the thumping sound was damaging the very structures of the historical building. It had to change venues and finally closed down in 1991.
Over time, the night club culture spread to Brazil and took roots in the world of Rio Carnival, which had already greatly evolved and significantly grown in size becoming the biggest Carnival in the world. In the 70's and 80's, balls popped up at popular venues city-wide, some taking idiosyncratic Brazilian turns offering specialities like feijoada dinners. Today, Rio Scala nightclub is the main organizer with its thematic Rio Carnival balls during the season.
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