Krannert Center for the Performing Arts hosts Carnaval Celebration


Daniel Zhou

Members of the community samba group Bloco Gavião perform at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday.

By Lily Perez, Contributing Writer

Lively and loud samba music filled the lobby of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as people in glittery masks and colorful beaded necklaces danced, gambled and drank the night away this past Tuesday, waiting for the Carnaval concert to begin. 

Lyric Theater at Illinois put on the Carnaval performance, a traditional celebration that occurs a few days before Lent, on Mardi Gras, which is Fat Tuesday in French, and chose to highlight music and dance from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

Sophia Urban, junior in FAA, experienced their first time celebrating Mardi Gras at KCPA.

“I’ve worked with a lot of the people in the show or who staff the show so I like to come to as many things as I can,” Urban said.

They were joined by Ethan Fazio, senior in Media, who had been to last year’s Carnaval festivities, which featured a New Orleans music style.

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“I haven’t celebrated a lot of Mardi Gras holidays in my life, but I think it’s cool to learn more about that background and cultures, things I haven’t personally been exposed to,” Fazio said. 

Aidan Gardner, junior in FAA, also accompanied them to the festivities. Urban, Fazio and Gardner are board members of Illini Student Musicals and had canceled their own rehearsal to encourage members to support the students and staff in the production.

“I heard really good things about it last year and I missed it,” Gardner said. “It’s really fun. It’s a party and we were having a good time.”

The Bloco Gavião, a local Afro-Brazilian-inspired community drum ensemble, paraded alongside acrobats around the KCPA lobby, leading patrons to the entrance of the Foellinger Great Hall where they could be seated. Upon entrance, guests were met with the flashy sounds of the Latin Jazz Ensemble led by Tito Carrillo and the Guitar Ensemble led by Guido Sanchez-Portugez.

The performance began with Celia Cruz’s popular song, “La Vida Es un Carnaval” sung in Spanish, followed by English classics from the musical “West Side Story,” and “Escúchame” from the Spanish opera “Florencia en el Amazonas.”

The first half featured “Painting #1-The Village” from ”Cadinho,” the work of João Guilherme Ripper, a Brazilian composer who has worked closely with the University’s Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies. Student performers and children sang alongside the Lyric Theatre Orchestra, the Latin Jazz Ensemble, and the Guitar Ensemble.

While people enjoyed the performances at KCPA Tuesday night, other cultures around the world celebrated Carnaval differently. As featured in last year’s production of “Carnaval,” people in New Orleans celebrate with lavish parties and parades in the streets. In Brazil, the Rio Carnaval is a weeklong party that celebrates with lots of food and dancing before people have to fast for Lent the following week.

After a brief intermission where delicacies like king’s cake, a Mardi Gras special and chocolate dipped churros were served, the second half of the “Carnaval” performance included songs from “Brazilian Medley” and “Siete Canciones Populares,” and the stage closed the night with “Carnaval del Barrio” from “In the Heights.” Despite cultural differences in celebration styles, Lyric Theatre brought a new style of performance and celebration to the University community.

“It’s really nice to see the wider community of Champaign-Urbana,” Urban said. “I’ve seen so many people on campus that I know here tonight and getting us to know more about a different culture is something that I think is very beneficial.”


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