The voluminous stage is filled, end to end and rear to front with five metre high rainbows of luxuriant plumes rising from what are essentially mobile stage settings on the themes of imperial Rome, the rhythms of springtime, eternal love and nine more. At the centre of each stage is its star; a scantily clad woman harnessed into her chariot, her perfectly coiffured hair, painted lips and bejewelled face waiting. We’re all waiting. Audience, designers, families, cameras, laptop screens and TV viewers ““ all waiting for the moment when presenter Eloísa González announces the name of the new Carnaval Queen 2012.

“Reina Carnaval, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 2012 …la señorita…” Eloísa pauses in between the words, a polished nerve jangler of an announcement. “…Carmen Gil González!” she shouts into the microphone.

There’s a collective releasing of breath as the full house of the Feria Recintal roars out its applause. Plumes of fireworks rise from front of stage alongside glitter streams which explode into the air and rain down on the entire ecstatic scene on and off stage. Slowly, Carmen moves her chariot ‘Imperio’ to front of stage and blows theatrical kisses to the deafening applause. Her body is shaking and her tears are flowing. She’s emotional, and she’s tired. We all are.

It’s been almost four hours since the curtain raised on the spectacular show that accompanies the election of a new carnival queen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

To a packed house and a live TV audience of almost half a million, the night began with a sombre reminder of the war torn world from which the Carnaval’s theme of Flower Power emerged. A mock Vietnam War of silhouette soldiers, machine gun rattles and fearsome bombings gave way to the surreal world of the Beatles” Yellow Submarine and the sex, drugs and rock ‘n” roll of the Rolling Stones” Satisfaction.

Through a medley of hits of the 1960s, the audience were treated to performances from some of their favourite singers including Chago Melián, Isabel Gonzalez, Morocho and Pepe Benavente, all accompanied by magnificent stage sets and polished dance routines. As the night continued, the twelve candidates were introduced to the judges and audience, each girl having just three and a half minutes in which to make her appearance, do a circuit of the huge stage area and get the audience on side.

Having started 15 minutes late to accommodate the TV channels” need to satisfy the twin demi-gods of football and adverts, the show moved at a pace through musical numbers, a Venezuelan folklore group Yacambú; a homage to 49 years of Carnaval Queens from 1966 to present day; a tribute to Manolo Monzón who founded the first ‘comparsa’ carnival group, Los Rumberos, back in 1965 and who died in October 201; and no less than two Murga performances, the clock ticked relentlessly on until the early hours of Thursday morning.

When the new queen was finally announced, the stage was mobbed by TV and camera crews, Carmen Gil Gonzalez got her first taste of what life in the spotlight would be like for the next 12 months, the audience made its weary way homewards and Carnaval 2012 could get ready to take the party to the streets with its Opening Parade.


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