Epona; photo by Pascal Ratthe

A packed house including media filled the Cavalia White Big Top on Tuesday night for the opening of Odysseo in Vancouver. A large, round curtain with illuminated graphics stands in the center of the main stage, waiting to be opened to start what will be a beautiful, emotional show, including both horses and acrobats.

The Travelers III
[Les Voyageurs]

A bit Cirque-like in concept and design, Odysseo is more focused on an equestrian adventure and contains a live 3D stage hosting high-def graphics to add movement to an already very impressive view. The photos included with this review don’t begin to do the production justice.

Carusello; photo by Shelley Paulson
[Carusello; photo by Shelley Paulson]

A tree-filled forest sets the tone for the opening piece (there are 14, nicely divided into two acts, plus the Grand Finale). One piece features a musician playing an African Kora harp accompanying horses and acrobats; another, a carousel, washed in deep blue light against a shooting star kinda night.

The horses are of course the stars of the show. There are 67 of them (comprising 11 breeds) from Spain, the US, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, Germany, and Canada. An additional 48 artists – riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, and musicians – form the team, also widely varied, from Ukraine to Brazil.

Angels, photo by Alexandre Legault Déry Angels; photo by Pascal Ratthé
[L to R: Angels, photo by Alexandre Legault Déry; Angels, photo by Pascal Ratthé]

There are two different viewing experiences to be had under the White Big Top: one up close (where we viewed the facial expressions of both performers and horses in the second half from our sixth-row centre seats) and one further back (where the view opens wider to reveal more of the scenery and horse-riding maneuvers).

We were lucky to have been given the chance to view the show from both perspectives, and both will amaze you for the different qualities mentioned above. Most of the time though, my husband and I were fixated on the mood-setting music (featuring four musicians and a vocalist, set above the tree-lined stage off to the sides), gorgeous backdrops (courtesy of Set Designer Guillaume Lord), and lighting, all three components adding much texture to the acrobatics and horsemanship on stage.

Tempete; photo by Lynne Glazer Grand Cavalia II; photo by Francois Bergeron
[L to R: Tempȇte, photo by Lynne Glazer; Grand Cavalia, photo by Color-ish Company]

Artistic Director Normand Latourelle should be commended on this memorable achievement, one that takes the audience on a visual journey across many lands over the course of a two-hour (plus intermission) show.

The costumes (by Georges Lévesque and Michèle Hamel) are colourful and also work well into the production.

Grand Cavalia; photo by Color-ish Company
[Grand Cavalia; photo by Color-ish Company]

The 38-metre tall White Big Top comprises two NFL football fields, with a 1,626-meter stage and 15-meter wide backstage. The stage is also unique in that it conveys both depth and height, adding even more dimension to its large size. It’s also impressive to see the horses ride behind the central stage area. The lighting on the horses is spectacular.

Voyageurs XIII; photo by Lynne Glazer
[Les Voyageurs; photo by Lynne Glazer]

If we had to describe Cavalia’s Odysseo in two words, we’d give it “visually stunning”.

Cavalia’s Odysseo continues at False Creek’s White Big Top (299 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver) through January 26. Visit the website for details and tickets.

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