Cirque du Soleil’s dazzling ‘Corteo’ comes to EagleBank Arena in Fairfax

The imaginative premise: What does a circus clown experience during their funeral?

Even in its short-run productions, Cirque du Soleil always manages to create an unforgettable experience for its audiences, built on the talents of its exceptional performers and creative team. Audiences can expect to experience the unexpected.

To add to the performers’ incredible skill, Cirque approaches the plots of its shows very much like it approaches their acrobatic feats: Cirque takes traditional circus acts — say, the trampoline — and challenges the audience and the performers to take it one degree of magnitude further: What if the trampoline was built into beds? What if instead of a puppet show, we strap a person into a device that uses ropes and weights to transform a performer into a marionette-like character?

Corteo, starting its North America at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, is no exception. The imaginative premise: What does a circus clown experience during their funeral?

Scene from Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Corteo’ at EagleBank Arena. Photo by Craig Hunter Ross

In Corteo, a clown named Mauro witnesses his own funeral, guided by suspended angels that float in and out of the stage. Mauro meets a rotating cast of dream-like characters, who blend into the acrobatics, and both elements lead to the wondrous, magical, and enthralling experience that makes every Cirque show unforgettable.

Corteo premiered as a tent show in Montreal in 2005 and has toured over 60 cities in 19 countries. It switched to a touring arena show in 2016. The technical elements for Corteo — as a production that can shift venues on a quick timetable — are one of its highlights. The show travels with a massive steel structure installed above the stage, called “The Patience,” which is used to transport various scenic elements, including angels and other characters, on and off the stage. This brings to the stage a new set of acrobatics and technical skills that can’t be seen or performed elsewhere.  An act called the “Paradis” utilizes two elevated frames, called Korean cradles, that allow acrobats to toss each other in a high-flying feat. (I am now inspired to go heavier on my workouts.) The “Teeterboard,” a giant seesaw built to launch artists up in the air with coordinated support, is backed by an energetic percussive beat that fits the theme of the show.

Corteo lands the expectations of a Cirque du Soleil show — an enchanting, dazzling, and magical experience. The kids in the audience are delighted, gushing about their favorite performance during the intermission. You get the sense that at least one of those kids will leave the show pursuing gymnastics, parkour, or juggling. That’s inspiring in its own right.

Scenes from Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Corteo’ at EagleBank Arena. Photos by Craig Hunter Ross

To me, the staging in Corteo, compared with other Cirque shows I’ve seen, while beautiful to look at seemed to have less clarity: There were a lot of competing elements on the stage at the same time, too many things to see that deflected from what should have been the focus of the moment. “Look at that horse,” my partner whispers to me, and in that glance to one side of the stage, we both miss a performer landing a triple axle on the other side. (Although the pantomime horse splitting in half while playing fetch did elicit the biggest laugh from us.)

The Teatro Intimo piece, where small-statured actors piled into a scaled-down theater, played with a slapstick humor that just felt uninspired. The topic was treated as gently as it could have been, but to deliver jokes based on the size of a person feels like an out-of-touch and dated premise.

Costume Designer Dominique Lemieux has created over 260 costumes for Corteo’s cast including attributes necessary for high-performance acrobatics. At EagleBank Arena, Corteo is performed proscenium style except May 25, when the stage will be in the center with the audience seated on opposite sides.

The set and décor of Corteo ingeniously designed by Jean Rabasse immerse the audience in a lyrical world, a strange area between heaven and earth. The curtains in Corteo are inspired by an 1885 painting by Parisian artist Adolphe Willette, influenced by painters such as Willette, Picasso, Tiepolo, Pelez, and Knight. These curtains are among the most striking scenic elements in the show, with enormous baroque-style “Roll Drop” curtains and Italian-style curtains, painted in watercolors.

Director Daniele Finzi Pasca, in this creation, blends his experience in circus arts and clowning to tell a wonderful tale and provides another phenom from Cirque in its American leg of the tour. This is worth a visit.

Running Time: Two hours with one 20-minute intermission.

Corteo plays through May 25, 2025, presented by Cirque du Soleil performing at EagleBank Arena, 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax, VA. Tickets range from $29 to $300 and can be purchased online.

Daniele Finzi Pasca – Creator and Director
Line Tremblay – Director of Creation
Martin Labrecque – Lighting Designer
Jonathan Deans – Sound Designer
Dolores Heredia – Dramaturgical Analyst – Teatro Sunil
Hugo Gargiulo & Antonio Vergamin – Acting Coaches – Teatro Sunil
Danny Zen – Acrobatic Rigging Designer
Nathalie Gagné – Makeup Designer
Jean Rabasse – Set Designer
Dominique Lemieux – Costume Designer
Debra Brown – Choreographer
Jean-Francois Cote – Composer
Philippe Leduc – Composer and Musical Director
Maria Bonzanigo – Composer and Musical Director


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here