Acrobats, musicians, singers and actors showcase their talent in “Corteo,” a family-friendly production that attempts to evoke awe, excitement and sometimes even tears from the audience.
More than 8 million people have witnessed “Corteo,” a Cirque du Soleil production that has toured across the world. With talented acrobats, musicians, singers and actors performing in unison, “Corteo” makes it obvious that the human body is capable of extraordinary feats.
This spring, the Rockford region has an opportunity to see the high-energy production directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca. Tickets are on sale for six performances occurring from April 5 to 8 at the BMO Harris Bank Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford.
“I think what differentiates ‘Corteo’ from other shows is that we combine multiple artistic mediums,” says Mark Shaub, artistic director of the production. “Choreography, music, lighting, makeup – we bring these elements together to make the show stronger than its individual parts.”
Shaub did gymnastics for 15 years before joining Cirque, and he’s been with “Corteo” off and on since the show premiered in Montreal, Canada, in April 2005. For 10 years, the show toured the world in a big top, visiting 64 cities in 19 countries.
The big top tour ended in 2015, but the cast still had an urge to perform.
“We’re so excited to bring ‘Corteo’ back to life again,” Shaub says. “When the big top shut down, we felt the show wasn’t over. It had more life. There are more people to reach. We’re excited to go to Rockford and other communities so more people can see ‘Corteo’.”
The plot focuses on a central character, a clown who pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere. Corteo stems from the Italian word cortege, which means procession.
“When the show starts, you see the clown watching his own procession, but at that time we don’t know if he’s really dead or not, maybe he’s just dreaming,” Shaub says. “But then, ‘Corteo’ looks at everyone he met in his life when he was in the circus. We meet a lot of characters and see scenes that just celebrate life. It’s a beautiful show.”
Now in an arena format, “Corteo” is the same show that toured the word, but with a few tweaks. During the big top tour, the cast always had multiple days to set up and take down the set. With an arena tour, the cast only has eight to 12 hours.
“It’s a big transformation,” Shaub says. “We want the show to look and feel the same as the big top tour, so to make that happen there’s a lot of technology that goes into it. Artistically, we’re putting ‘Corteo’ together the same way, but it’s a bit edited with two 50-minute acts and an intermission. I’m happy to do the editing because when a show has been touring for a number of years, it’s nice to have an opportunity to tighten up things.”
Ciprian Mihai Veres has been performing in “Corteo” since the show began in 2005. As a professional dancer for nearly 20 years, his skills were easily transferrable to join a Cirque production. He already had the muscle memory for many acrobatic tricks.
Veres performs in two acts during the show: a trampoline act and a high-bar act, in which multiple gymnasts “fly” back and forth across bars. He’s also a backup for the clown role.
“Our performers go through crying, happiness and lots of emotion during the show,” Veres says. “When we finished our big top tour, we thought we needed to go to more places so more people could see the beautiful storyline. Plus, it’s a very family-friendly show that’s great show for kids.”
Veres attributes his skills to years of practice and starting at a young age. But it’s not just about the acrobatics. When Veres joined Cirque, the skills were already in his body, but he needed to learn more about becoming an artist.
“Acting is what makes an artist good,” Veres says. “It’s important to have all artistic skills in this show. It’s about knowing the music and knowing what to do if something goes wrong. We train about two hours every day while the show is touring.”
Since Veres has been a part of “Corteo” since the beginning, he has held multiple roles throughout the years. His versatility comes in handy when new performers join the production, since Veres is easily able to offer advice.
“Ciprian is really helpful when it comes to teaching new artists, whether it’s the meaning of the show, the styles we perform in, or the technical cues – because there’s a lot happening on stage in this show,” Shaub says. “Half the cast, around 26 of the 51 artists, have done ‘Corteo’ before. Outside of Ciprian, 10 or more people were there in the beginning. But it’s great to have Ciprian, who can help teach the new artists.”
As artistic director, Shaub springs into action when the show begins. He works with the artists to make sure the show is as good as it can possibly be. And, while “Corteo” evolves over the years, Shaub tries to keep true to the production’s original goals.
“Daniele Finzi Pasca had an idea and a certain aesthetic in mind when he created the show, so my job is to keep that in mind as new people come and go. But also, I try to integrate the new personalities into the show to help it grow,” Shaub says. “We’ve performed around the world for so many different cultures that we know there’s a strong universal appeal.”
Shaub expects audiences to have multiple reactions to “Corteo.” But overall, as long as the audience feels something, he knows the show was a success.
“We want audiences to react emotionally, and there are many emotions to react with,” Shaub says. “Joy, happiness, excitement, but some parts you might want to cry. There’s an exchange of energy and emotions between performers and the audience. The performers get as much as they give on stage. As long as we take you on a journey, we did our job.”