The Tears of a Clown
Mauro’s funeral has lasted years. Corteo by Cirque Du Soleil, the elegiac circus show celebrating the life of a fictional clown upon his passing, is returning to North America for the first time since 2019. Originally in Italian but beloved around the world, this piece of theater will both entertain and move Austinites as it transforms the Moody Center for five shows, February 2-5, 2023.
Although Corteo has been in North America, this is its Ausin debut. It comes on the heels of Ovo almost exactly one year prior. Where the insect-themed Ovo dealt with birth via a mysterious egg, Corteo runs through a clown’s memories and relationships as he’s on his deathbed. The tone is nostalgic, but according to artistic director Alison Crawford, it’s not a sad show.
“It's very touching because we get to know his character and the people that he loved during his life. He was a clown, so he had … some funny moments, and there's happy moments,” says Crawford. “Sad moments? I mean, at the end, we feel he's leaving us. Some people, it can remind them of somebody that was dear to them. But it's a very happy look at life.”
Set in the 18th century — if not in earthly Italy, then at least in a very Italian space full of chandeliers and velvet — this quasi-play is narrated by Mauro, and set to music by a seven-piece band spanning several styles from the folk music of the Romani people and Ashkenazi Jews, to more romantic and lyrical tunes. The multicultural aesthetic draws wonder from all audiences, but Crawford says Americans seem most drawn to humor across the circus repertoire.
“I love every moment of it. I've watched the show hundreds of times and I still don't get bored of it,” says Crawford. “The music really pulls you into the story, too.”
Corteo premiered in 2005 in Montreal, under a Big Top tent, meaning things will look a little different here, in Austin. This show in particular is unique for its dual view of the circular stage, causing half of the audience to face the other. Despite the opulent stage design and safety considerations — with aerialists literally swinging from the chandeliers — loading the show in takes 12 hours, and loading out takes less than four.
Like Crawford, audiences who have been to many Cirque Du Soleil shows know that the shine remains, even when they’ve seen the troupe or the story before. Austin is the only Texas city hosting this circus, but audiences have five chances to see it. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster.