Cirque du Soleil: Corteo on Tour
Like the deceased clown whose festive fantasy funeral it portrays, Corteo has risen again to assume its joyful place in the Cirque du Soleil solar system.
One of some 20 active Cirque du Soleil shows, Corteo closed its “Grand Chapiteau” – or “big tent” – run in Quito, Ecuador, in December 2015 after more than 3,500 performances seen by more than 5 million people since its Montreal premiere a decade earlier. In 2018, Corteo reopened in New Orleans as an even bigger and better arena experience slated for a two-year tour.
If you love clowns, Corteo is the show for you. Taking its title from the Italian word for “cortège,” or procession, Corteo offers a parade of brilliant entertainments in a carnivalesque atmosphere. It was inspired originally by “The Grand Parade: Portrait of the Artist as Clown,” a 2004 exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada.
That exhibition’s vast array of circus life, from 18th-century fairgrounds to Picasso’s harlequins, was transformed into an in-the-round big-top experience by director Daniele Finzi Pasca. Pasca founded the Swiss clown troupe Teatro Sunil and directed several other Cirque du Soleil spectacles.
While all of the show’s principal characters are clowns – including the Dead Clown, Clowness, Giant Clown, and Little Clown – the 62-member cast, from more than a dozen countries, also features aerialists, acrobats, musicians, jugglers, contortionists, hoopers, and gymnasts in addition to its many jubilant jesters.
Costume designer Dominique Lemieux was inspired by “raw and luxurious” European fabrics from the early 20th century and commedia dell’arte characters from the 16th to the 18th centuries. A labyrinth matching one on the floor of France’s famed Chartres Cathedral graces the stage. And French painter Adolphe Willette’s fantasy Parisian bohemian scene Parc Domine (1885) inspired the show’s elaborate water-colored curtains. Those curtains hide “Patience,” an imposing overhead structure holding up the rails traversed by four platform carts.
Its stunning mixture of acrobatics and character-driven acting has been Cirque du Soleil’s calling card since 1984, when what is now the world’s largest theatrical production was founded in Montreal by street performers Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix. With Corteo, Cirque du Soleil has outdone itself with an epic tribute to the circus world’s comical essence: the clown.