Joy to world

The internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil brings its breathtaking show ‘Alegria’ to Tel Aviv.

Cirque du Soleil's 'Alegria' in Tel Aviv 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cirque du Soleil's 'Alegria' in Tel Aviv 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s taken 28 years for Cirque du Soleil to touch down in Israel, and all signs indicate that the wait was worth it. The internationally renowned acrobatic troupe founded in 1984 and based in Canada has already performed in almost 300 cities around the world and is an established Las Vegas staple, so all the kinks should be worked out by its Tel Aviv run of 20 shows, which began on Wednesday night and continues through August 25. Not that one of the slickest, most memorable visual extravaganzas around has any kinks to work out.
The “Circus of the Sun” was founded by two Canadian street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier. Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world, with its own central theme and storyline. They draw the audience into the performance through continuous live music, with performers rather than stagehands changing the props, creating a synthesis of a rock concert and a supernatural circus.
Alegria, the performance that is taking place over the next two weeks in Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena, is one of Cirque du Soleil’s most popular touring events. The show, devised by director Franco Dragone and director of creation Gilles Ste- Croix, debuted in 1994 and has since been performed more than 5,000 times. Originated as a touring big top show,.
Alegria was converted to an arena format beginning with its 2009-2010 North American tour, enabling it to visit cities like Tel Aviv that were previously inaccessible.
Over the last week, in addition to the 60 performers who make up the cast of Alegria, another 60 support staff personnel arrived in Israel, together with more than 20 trailers of equipment for the elaborate, precisely designed show. Each show will be limited to 3,500 spectators, far below the capacity of the Nokia Arena, due to the fact that more than half of the theater will serve as the cast’s training area.
Alegría, created for Cirque du Soleil’s 10th anniversary, takes its name from the Spanish word for “joy.” Cirque du Soleil’s literature describes the show as “an operatic introspection of the struggle for power and the invigorating energy of youth.” It is considered darker and heavier than most of the troupe’s productions, but just as breathtaking and entertaining.
Featuring 400 original costumes and accessories that are handmade in a studio at the company’s home base in Montreal, the designs are a celebration of decadence and ornamentation. The stage of Alegría adds to that feeling, with a giant dome and stylistic columns and balustrades highlighting the appearance. The stage also features spiral ramps on opposing sides, and the floor sports the head of a salamander. Austerity is apparently not in their vocabulary.
At the same time the musical score, composed by René Dupéré, is equally bold and outlandish, blending French, Spanish, African, and Mediterranean influences that incorporate jazz, pop, tango, Jewish folk music, synthesizers and sampling of street sounds.
While the brisk sale of tickets to the shows has prompted promoters Shuki Weiss and Mark Liberberg to add more dates to those previously scheduled, not everyone is happy about Cirque du Soleil’s bringing their magic to Israel. An organization called The Palestinian Circus School sent a letter to the management of Cirque du Soleil in June calling on it not to perform in Israel, and the calls for boycotts from the usual suspects around the world – including a Canadian artists’ collective called Tadamon – have been issued.
But the grand tradition of the circus dictates that “the show must go on.” And for thousands of enthralled attendees over the next two weeks, Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria will be the hottest ticket in town.
Cirque du Soleil performs at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv until August 25.