Corteo, which means "cortege" in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth.
The clown pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, to illustrate the portion of humanity that is within each of us. The music, by turns lyrical and playful, carries Corteo through a timeless celebration in which illusion teases reality.
The set and decor of Corteo plunge the audience into a lyrical world, a strange area between heaven and earth.
Set Designer Jean Rabasse has divided the Grand Chapiteau and its rotating stage in two, with each half of the audience facing the other half, so they see not only the performance, but also have a performer’s eye view of the audience. This is a first for Cirque du Soleil.
- There are two turntables built into the stage, which is about 31.6 m long, and the track is almost 12.5 m long.
- More than 9,000 images were used in the research and development phase of the set design to blend many visual styles and influences, from the baroque to the modern.
The Patience is a massive arched technical structure made of steel which dominates the interior of the Grand Chapiteau. It is one of the most complex set elements in the show and is used to transport various scenic elements and pieces of acrobatic equipment on and off stage from above.
- The Patience has two rails that traverse the Grand Chapiteau.
- Each rail is fitted with four platform-like carts to carry the scenic and acrobatic elements.
- The eight carts have a lifting capacity of 450 kg and a top speed of 1.2 m per second.
- The Patience is 12.5 m above the stage at its highest point. It is entirely self-supporting and could be set up anywhere.
It was a visit to the exhibition “The Great Parade: Portrait of the Artist as a Clown” at the National Gallery of Canada that inspired Jean Rabasse to paint the Corteo Procession on the curtains. His design was influenced by the work of such painters as Willette, Picasso, Tiepolo, Pelez and Knight.
- The inspiration for the show’s curtains was an 1885 painting by Parisian artist Adolphe Willette.
- The two enormous baroque-style “Roll Drop” curtains (17.6 m wide and almost 12 m high), and the four sideways- opening Italian-style curtains are among the most striking scenic elements in the show. They were sewn in Canada and sent to France to be painted.
- It took more than two weeks to paint each of the central curtains with watercolours.
- The central curtains are attached to huge supports which contain winding motors to roll them.
In the centre of the circular stage is a labyrinth which precisely reproduces the proportions and size of the classic design on the aisle floor in Chartres Cathedral.
- The labyrinth incorporates a 20 cm Moebius strip painted at its centre as a symbol of infinity and continuity.