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We went to see Corteo, the traveling Cirque du Soleil production that is getting ready to leave Minneapolis. This marks my seventh Cirque production. I’ve previously seen “O”, Dralion, Alegría, La Nouba, Varekai and Mystère (perhaps not in that order, but close). I enjoyed Corteo greatly, it is hard to not be impressed by any Cirque production, however it didn’t fill me with awe as other productions have. Granted the traveling productions (Dralion, Alegria, Varekai and Corteo) are somewhat handicapped when compared to the permanent installations (“O”, La Nouba and Mystère), but Dralion for example was a stunning performance, on par with “O”. The acts in Corteo were visually great, but the acrobatics and performances lacked the sizzle of other productions.

Corteo is set in the dreamland of an aging clown. It starts with a funeral prosession as the clown envisions the events after his demise. This opening act sets one of the unique things about Corteo, the stage design. The big top is setup with the audience in a circle, which is typical for a Cirque production. However, the stage is a long strip that cuts right through the center of that circle. It starts before it even enters the big top, allowing the acts to run on stage and run off. It gave an interesting perspective as characters didn’t seem to come on and off stage, but instead to simply appear off the edges of the screen, as if you were watching someone walk off-frame in a movie. Also typical for a Cirque production the stage itself, in the middle, was a circle with several rotating rings. This allowed for very cool performances where characters on the outside would rotate around action happening in the middle.

The clowns in Corteo were not as memorable as other Cirque productions. Additionally, this was the first time I’ve ever heard english words used in a Cirque production. Typically Cirque uses no dialog. It was a little shocking to hear someone start saying things, and then to realize it wasn’t French, the only other language I’ve heard in a Cirque production.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Corteo, and if you’ve never been to a Cirque production you will find it stunning. However, it didn’t reach the heights that I really expect of Cirque du Soleil. The acts were good, but there were few that lingered with me. I found the Chandelier act somewhat dull. Probably most notable in my mind was the Teeterboard act which was both fun to watch and comical. I really enjoyed the Giant Clown character in Corteo.

Where Corteo missed in my mind was just putting it all together. It’s a little surprising since it was one of the more literal Cirque production (for example, english words) but I didn’t get a strong sense of connection across the production. The others in our party shared this perspective. Perhaps buying the $10 (crazy!) program would have helped, but I hardly think that should be necessary.

Next on my Cirque-list, for a future visit to Las Vegas, is Ka or Zumanity.


  1. I also am a frequent Cirque ‘freque’ :-). I got a chance to check out Corteo just before I left town. I was a little disappointed. The ‘teeterboard’ act was not done well the night I was there. They had to restart a few times. They were off.

    I always like the little acts that they peform in the seats before the actual show starts. For example, in Corteo it was three clowns and a woman with an umbrella. I was wondering what the deal was with an umbrella, but soon found out. The clowns occasionally would burst into ‘tears’, the tears being a contraption that sprayed water (the tears) all over the patrons. At one point they cornered a poor guy who couldn’t find his seat. By the time he did, he was drenched!

    I still have the music and images of Alegria stuck in my head, so that had much more impact on moi.

  2. I’ve never seen a Cirque production before, so I was an easier target … but I loved Corteo. The acrobatics were amazing. To me the bouncing on the trampoline "beds" was remarkable. I agree with Jamie that the production did not really hold together as a powerful story — but what a great show, anyway!


  3. I just got back from Vegas where I saw Ka – I thought it was incredible, but it seemed to lack the acrobatic displays that Cirque is known for (like in Mystere and a few I’ve seen broadcast on TV). Ka focused more on the story this time around, with the acrobatic sequences mainly involving fights between "good" and "evil" characters. The two most striking performances to me: a scene where they did some very impressive shadowpuppets, and the final battle sequence. The whole performance felt like it was adapted from some grand RPG, and it was very cool to see it in live action.

    The characters used a made up language in this performance – which, after reading about Corteo’s use of English, I was happy about. There was a brief narration at the very beginning of the performance in English that came over the sound system, but that was all. It served to set up the story, rather than tell it, so it didn’t detract from the sense of wonder of the show. I think the 15 or so Japanese tourists sitting next to me in the theater appreciated it, too :)

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