Cirque du Soleil's 'Corteo' is a celebration of (a clown's) life
Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, “Corteo,” focuses on the funeral of a clown.
The subject matter might seem like a sad scenario for the Canadian theatrical troupe that has brought joy and laughter to audiences around the world, including with its 22 current touring and residency shows.
“Corteo,” an Italian word meaning cortège or procession, actually is not a sad story at all, according to Mark Shaub, artistic director, but rather a celebration of a life well lived.
“It’s quite happy,” he says. “Our central character is a clown named Mauro, who is on his deathbed, imagining his own funeral. And while on the surface that might seem rather dark, it’s really very beautiful. All the people the clown has known and loved come together to celebrate their friend and a life in the circus.”
Reimagined touring show
“Corteo” first premiered in Cirque du Soleil’s home city of Montreal in 2005 and visited more than 60 cities – including Pittsburgh – in 19 different countries as a big top show before transforming to an arena show in 2016.
The new reimagined touring production directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca stops at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena for seven performances Jan. 16-20.
“Daniele is a fantastic Italian-Swiss director, who comes from a clowning background himself. So he really wanted to capture the feel of the old circus, from the turn of the last century,” Shaub says.
Innovative stage design
While the original “Corteo” was too technically complicated to fit in arena settings, he says, the updated production takes advantage of many advances in stage technology over the past decade.
An innovative stage configuration by set designer Jean Rabasse, a first of its kind for Cirque du Soleil, divides the arena and its rotating stage in two, so half the audience faces the other half, giving them views of the performance and performers’ eye views of the audience.
“We can set up in a new city in 10 hours, instead of seven days,” the artistic director says. “It’s a faster pace of touring.”
Shaub says the show has a “very international feel” to it, with Mediterranean-inspired costumes and makeup effects. The cast features 51 acrobats, including aerialists, artist marionettes and jugglers, in addition to musicians, singers and actors from all parts of the world. The lyrics to “Corteo’s” musical score are sung in Italian, French and Spanish.
Parade of acrobats
Some of the 16 acrobatic acts that help create the parade in Mauro’s fantasy include:
• Bouncing Beds, in which six artists perform acrobatic feats while jumping on two large rotating beds;
• Chandeliers, in which four women representing the clown’s former loves do aerial acrobatics on giant chandeliers spinning above Mauro’s bed;
• Acrobatic Ladder, in which a ladder specialist displays his balance and finesse as he performs on various ladders, attempting to reach an angel watching him from above;
• Hula-Hoop, in which a gypsy performer demonstrates her ability to spin and twirl a variety of hoops at the same time, and
• Suspended Pole, where a young woman explores movement and contortion-like shapes while flying above the ground on a suspended pole.
“Corteo” will continue its U.S. tour through August before heading to Europe for performances in several countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Spain, Shaub says.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.