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, Alegria, La Nouba, Varekai and Mystere (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 Mystere), 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.