If you find yourself still waiting in vain for an invite to the ball from your local Prince, while childhood fantasies go unfulfilled, then it is time to start whispering to the fairy godmother about Copacabana’s Carnival ball. A modern-day magicland that falls on the Saturday of Carnival and has become the stuff of legend for its sheer lavishness, it wins the prize as the most elegant way to begin Rio’s riotous Carnival. The Copacabana ball encapsulates the old school glamour of Rio’s golden age, attracting a heady combination of international glitterati who flit between the 7 elaborately decorated ballrooms.
First held in 1924, the ball has long drawn the hippest celebrities and some of the hottest totty, from Jayne Mansfield in 1959, who almost caused a riot when the strap off her dress came off, to Brigitte Bardot, who starred as the main attraction in 1964 and judged the costume contest. Anyone with access to a time machine, this is the one to go to – celebrating Rio’s 400th anniversary, the 7 ballrooms were transformed to look like Rio’s streets during the Imperial reign and 180 musicians took turns without ever interrupting the performance. A cocktail of creative crème de la crème, other famous guests to have graced the corridors include Orson Wells, Ginger Rogers, Mary Pickford, Joan Fontaine, Rhonda Fleming, Walter Pidgeon, Lana Turner, Ann Miller, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Romy Schneider, Veruskha, Glenn Ford, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas and Rita Hayworth, who stole the show in a traditional baiana costume.
Come the 1970’s independent contractors stepped in and the ball reached such heights of brash commercialism that it was almost relegated to the stuff of lore. Copacabana’s managing director Philip Carruthers, stepped in like a knight in shining armour, among whispers of madness and inevitable failure, to recapture the reigns and restore the ball to its former glory, once again capturing the magic of Carnival and attracting a slew of Rockstars, Supermodels and even the occasional Prince Charming.
What to wear? The choice is between Black Tie Gala attire or costumes relating to the ball’s overall theme. Beware to choose wisely: While last year’s Oncinhas (little leopards) may have opened some doors in the costume department, this year’s theme of the Queen’s ball (as in the Queen Bee) proves somewhat more of a challenge – that giant bumble bee suit just isn’t going to cut it. Every year, the Copacabana Palace opens up its own shop two weeks before the ball, overflowing with fabulous costumes for those for whom money is not an object.
What to say? I usually spend my time hanging out with the Stones. Ronnie just loves Agua de Coco.
What not to say? I’m sure my carriage should have been here by midnight.
What ticket to get? Ticket types range in price according to what access you get to specific ball rooms and if you want to have a designated seat at a table. The trick is to go for a standing ticket unless you have a whole table of friends to take with you and roam around until you find your spot.
Contact luxury travel specialists Dehouche to organize your entire Carnival Fairytale.