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Corteo Logo.png
Logo for Cirque du Soleil's Corteo
Company Cirque du Soleil
Genre Contemporary circus
Show type Touring production
Date of premiere 21 April 2005 (Montreal)
Creative team
Director Daniele Finzi Pasca
Director of creation Line Tremblay
Set designer Jean Rabasse
Composers Philippe Leduc
Maria Bonzanigo
Additional composers Jean-François Côté
Roger Hewett
Costume designer Dominique Lemieux
Makeup designer Nathalie Gagné
Sound designer Jonathan Deans
Lighting designer Martin Labrecque
Dramaturgical analyst Dolores Heredia
Acting coaches Hugo Gargiulo
Antonio Vergamini
Acrobatic equipment Danny Zen
Other information
Preceded by (2005)
Succeeded by Delirium (2006)
Official website

Corteo /kɔːrˈt./ is a Cirque du Soleil touring production that premiered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on April 21, 2005. As of May 24, 2005, Cirque du Soleil had broken its record of spectators for the première location in Montreal; more than 200,000 people had viewed the production, far outpacing the prior record of 180,000 tickets sold for Varekai during its première.[1] The show's final performance under the big top took place in Quito, Ecuador on 13 December 2015. On November 20, 2017, Cirque du Soleil announced that the show would once again set out on tour, this time in the arena format. The re-staged show premiered March 2, 2018 in New Orleans.

Cortéo—an Italian word meaning "cortège" or procession—was a contemporary circus show about a clown who watches his own funeral taking place in a carnival-like atmosphere. It was partly inspired by The Grand Parade: Portrait of the Artist as Clown on display at the National Gallery of Canada.[2]

Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, founder of the Swiss clown troupe Teatro Sunil and director of several shows by Cirque Éloize, Cortéo was presented in the round under a large tent. The action took place on a large circular stage consisting of concentric rotating rings. This allowed one area of the stage to rotate while another remained stationary. At times during the performance, the stage was divided by a large curtain illustrated with a painting called the Cortéo Procession. There were entrances/exits at either side of the circular stage.[2]

Set and technical information[edit]

During its big top tour, Cirque du Soleil divided the Grand Chapiteau in two by creating a stage that spanned the diameter of the tent, thus allowing the audience to face one another as well as giving a performer's perspective to them. Built into the 104 feet (32 m) long stage were two turntables with a diameter of 41 feet (12 m). Corteo's set had a special overhead transport mechanism, dubbed the "Patience", which had two rails fitted with four platform-like carts each. Each cart had a lifting capacity of 1,000 pounds (450 kg) and a top speed of 4 feet per second (1.2 m/s). At its highest point, it was 41 feet (12 m) above the stage.[3]

The curtains utilized in Corteo were painted in watercolors and were inspired by a painting from 1885 by Adolphe Willette. The Roll Drop curtains were about 58 feet (18 m) in width and 40 feet (12 m) in height. The inner curtains were constructed in Canada and sent to France to be painted. Each of the four inner curtains took nearly two weeks to be individually painted.[3]

The design on the center stage was a labyrinth which exactly matches the proportions and size of the one on the floor of Chartres Cathedral.[3]


The principal characters of Corteo were clowns, as is fitting for a clown's funeral, but 62 artists comprised the full troupe.[4][5]

  • The Dead Clown: The central character of Corteo, and the one being honored in this funeral procession.
  • The Clowness: The Clowness is an actress, a grande dame of the stage, who somehow found herself a part of this nutty troupe. Her professionalism and her strength of character allow her to bear the foolishness of her partners, whom she never fails to charm.[6]
  • Giant Clown: Although only an amateur opera singer, the Giant Clown imagines himself to be a great artist of worldwide renown. Without doubt, it is with him that the Dead Clown is closest, almost like brothers.[6]
  • Little Clown: A diminutive clown who is in love with the Clowness, the Little Clown is always ready to play tricks on his associates. Impish and lively, he is both an endearing companion and a force to be reckoned with.[6]
  • The Loyal Whistler: His origins come from the classic role of "Mr. Loyal", the ringmaster of a traditional circus. He was played by professional whistler Sean Lomax in the original and re-staged runs.[7][8]
  • The White Clown: For the White Clown, a Pierrot, appearances are what matters most. Like the Loyal Whistler, he is an authority figure … at least, he’d like to be. Of all the colourful characters, he admires only the stars and scorns the others. It is the White Clown who opens the door to the magic of the circus for the Dead Clown.[6]
  • Angels: Watch over the Dead Clown and guide him.


The acts in Corteo brought together the passion of acting with the grace and power of acrobatics.[9][10]

  • Chandeliers: An aerial act involving three large chandeliers and four aerialists representing Mauro's past lovers.
  • Bouncing beds: A group of artists mimicked children in this comical act on beds whose mattresses were trampolines.
  • Cyr wheel: A group of performers spun and rotated in a large metal ring.
  • Suspended pole: A young ingénue discovers the sheer pleasure of exploring movement and contortion-like shapes while flying above the ground on a suspended pole.
  • Hula hoops: Using her entire body and all of her limbs, a performer dazzles everyone with her ability to spin and twirl a multitude of hoops.
  • Helium Dance: The clowness floats above the ground with the aid of a large set of gigantic balloons and the dead clown.
  • Teeterboard: Three feuding artists send each other flying high in the air in this energetic act.
  • Paradise: A unique aerial act involving a trampoline safety net and four aerial cradles. The performers threw one another from these cradles to a group on the next cradle.
  • Tibetan bowls: A large group played the soothing Tibetan bowls, accompanying the Loyal Whistler's whistling.
  • Juggling: A quartet of performers tossed clubs and rings to each other with bullseye accuracy.
  • Ladder: An acrobat climbs up and down and even performs a handstand on top of a tall, freestanding ladder.
  • Aerial strap duo: Using sheer strength, a duo performed suspended from long cords, swinging around the stage.
  • Tournik: An original act that takes the traditional high bar apparatus, but creates a twist by fusing four high bars to make a cube.

Acts in Rotation[edit]

  • Diabolo: An artist manipulates diabolos.
  • Vocal aerial silk: A unique rotational act that was performed by Marie-Michelle Faber and is now being performed by Aurélie Dauphin; she performs an extravagant tissu act while singing.

Retired acts[edit]

  • Not so serious: A fiery act that involved two female and a male rhythmic gymnast, they used hoops, ribbons and balls in this act.
  • Aerial strap solo: A lone artist swung across the stage clinging to a pair of long cords.
  • Tightrope: A solo artist walked a tightwire barefoot or in ballet pointe shoes; the act also involved props such as hula hoops and a unicycle.
  • Acro duet: A couple performed stunning acrobatic feats. The man threw the woman in the air; she somersaulted and landed, and they would unite again for the next trick.
  • Duo adagio: On a rotating platform, two artists used strength and balance as they contorted themselves into many beautiful poses.
  • Foot juggling: Elegance, dexterity and coordination are wrapped up in one character who carries us away to a world tied to the traditions of old-time circus, in which Mauro and his friends once played.


Corteo's costume designer, Dominique Lemieux, utilized "matériaux bruts et des matières nobles"[9] (French for "raw and luxury fabrics") to create a wardrobe that accentuated the artists' natural beauty. The finer details of the outfits were inspired by European styles between 1890 and 1930. The color palette chosen was soft in nature, including blue, pink, and fuchsia along with copper and gold hues. In order to create a worn-in, hand-me-down style of clothing, the costumes were airbrushed and dyed. Common fabrics throughout the wardrobe included silk, linen, and cotton, which were adorned with beaded lace, sequins, and gemstones.[9] In total, more than 900 fabrics were utilized to create the 184 costumes. If back-up and rotational costumes are to be taken into account, the total costume count was around 450 costumes with 284 rotations.[3] During each show day, 12 to 16 hours of ironing was necessary to prepare the costumes.[5]

  • The performers in the Paradise act were clothed in silk georgette, crêpe de Chine, and satin.
  • The musicians had pleated ruffs along the neckline in addition to engageantes.
  • The White clown was dressed to represent classic commedia dell'arte characters. The fabric was gathered at both the hips and shoulders by cartridge pleats, and the bibs were covered in honeycomb stocking.


Corteo’s score was originally composed by Philippe Leduc and Maria Bonzanigo. Additional composers including Jean-François Côté and Michel A. Smith subsequently reworked several pieces. Show director Daniele Finzi Pasca contributed lyrics. Cirque du Soleil Musique released an album of music from Corteo on 23 September 2006 in Canada, and 7 October 2006 in the US. Corteo was one of the first Cirque du Soleil CDs to feature multiple composers.

The album features the contributions of 61 musicians and singers, a 16-piece choir and a 13-piece string section. Corteo’s lyrics are sung in Italian, French, and Spanish.[11]

Listed below are the tracks from the CD, alongside the acts during which they were played.

  1. Funerale (Opening pt. 1)
  2. Ritornare (Opening pt. 2)
  3. Rêve d'un pantin (Marionette)
  4. Les chevaux à bottes (Little horses)
  5. Nos dejó (Cortege)
  6. Klezmer Moment (Helium dance)
  7. Prendersi per mano (Aerial strap duo)
  8. Anneaux (Cyr wheels)
  9. El cielo sabrá
    • Tightwire (2005-2015)
    • Suspended pole (2018-)
  10. Fugue (Chandeliers)
  11. Volo volando (Chandeliers)
  12. Un tierno y dulce (Teeterboard)
  13. Balade au bout d'une échelle (Ladder)
  14. Garda lassù (Teeterboard)
  15. Triangle tango (Rhythmic gymnastics)
  16. Che finalone (Tournik, 2005-)
Other Songs
  • Bouncing Beds (Trampo-Beds, 2005-)
  • Trumpet Bed (Trampo-Beds, 2005-)
  • Ascension (Mauro's Flight)
  • The Singing Angel (Little horses intro)
  • Paradis (Paradise, 2005)
  • Prelude to Sette Ricordi (Paradise intro, 2005-)
  • Sette Ricordi (Paradise, 2005-)
  • Golf
  • Foot Juggling
    • Foot juggling (2008-2015)
    • Hula hoops (2018-)
  • Acro Duet (2006-2015)
  • Jonglerie (Juggling, 2005)
  • Jongleurs (Juggling, 2005-)
  • Planches (Korean Plank)
  • Démontage (Transition)
  • Costume (Transition)
  • Lilipussiens (Adagio duet)
  • Appeso al blu (Vocal aerial silk)
  • Crystal Bowls (Tibetian bowls and Whistler)
  • Prendersi per mano
    • Aerial strap duo (2006-)
    • Aerial strap solo
  • Diabolo Tango
    • Aerial strap solo (2005)
    • Foot Juggling (2007-2014)
    • Diabolo (2014-)
    • Handbalancing (2015)
  • Vols Magiques (Flying Angels)
  • Tournik (Tournik, 2005)
  • Finale (Ending)


Male baritone[edit]

  • Paul Bisson
    • From April 2005 (Montréal) to February 2008 (San Diego)
    • From September 2008 to October 2008 (Ottawa)
    • From July 2009 (Osaka) to December 2010 (Moscow)
  • Alain Labrie
    • From February 2008 (San Diego) to September 2008 (Calgary)
    • From November 2008 (Miami) to September 2010 (Tokyo)
    • From May 2012 (Amsterdam) to Present
  • Kit Goguen
    • From October 2010 (Moscow) to June 2011 (Madrid)
    • From July 2011 (Valencia) to May 2012 (Amsterdam)
  • Mathieu Lavoie - From June 2011 to July 2011 (Valencia)

Female lead[edit]

  • Marie-Michelle Faber
    • From April 2005 (Montréal) to June 2007 (Columbus)
    • From January 2008 (San Diego) to September 2008 (Ottawa)
    • From December 2008 (Miami) to May 2011 (Madrid)
  • Estelle Esse
    • From April 2005 (Montréal) to September 2005 (Toronto)
    • From September 2008 (Ottawa) to December 2008 (Miami)
    • From March 2018 (New Orleans) to April 2018 (Knoxville)
  • Denise Stefanie - From May 2007 (Columbus) to December 2007 (Costa Mesa)
  • Sophie Guay - From March 2011 (Vienna) to April 2013 (São Paulo)
  • Émilie Émiroglou - From April 2013 (São Paulo) to December 2015 (Quito)
  • Aurélie Dauphin - From March 2018 (New Orleans) to Present

Female background[edit]

  • Helena Saldanha - From April 2005 (Montréal) to January 2007 (Atlanta)


Cirque du Soleil released their film adaptation of Corteo on April 11, 2006.[12] It was filmed in Canada in 2005.[13] During the Creative Arts ceremony on September 8, 2007, it won the Emmy award for Outstanding Picture Editing for a Special. The following day, it also won a Gémeaux (Gemini Award) for Meilleur montage - humour, variétés, arts de la scène (best editing - humor, entertainment, performing arts).[14]


Following Corteo's première in Montreal in 2005, it was seen by more than 5 million spectators. Corteo celebrated its 1000th show in January 2008 in San Diego; its 1500th show in June 2009 in Nagoya, Japan; its 2000th show in September 2010 in Kazan, Russia, and its 3500th show in March 2015 in Bogota, Colombia.

Corteo began (like all touring Cirque du Soleil shows) with a North American tour (2005-2008), which was followed by a Japanese tour in 2009. The show did not go on to any other cities in Asia or Oceania, but instead proceeded to a European tour (2010-2013) and then a South American tour (2013-2015).

The show's Big Top final performance took place in Quito, Ecuador on 13 December 2015.

The show has been adapted to an arena format and premiered in New Orleans, Louisiana, kicking off a two-year tour across North America in March 2018.[15]

The following colorboxes indicate the region of each performance:
 EU   Europe  NA   North America  SA   South and Central America  AP   Asia/Pacific  OC   Oceania  AF   Africa