Odysseo, the dreamworld of high spirited horses and riders with the beauty, strength and energy to match, opens in San Francisco Thursday evening with Bay Area local Brennan Figari featured as an aerialist in ‘Carousel’ or ‘Carosello’ and in the finale ‘Odysseo’ with a steel hoop suspended 45 feet above the tent floor. He performs with a troupe of gymnasts and aerialists on rotating poles on a rotating carousel in the fourth act, with Valentina Spreca, a live singer, on the carousel and singing in French. Guillaume Lord designed the sets all created for movement and Geodezik created the scenic visuals projected, a dynamic panorama making the huge big top seem even loftier and more dimensional.
Figari and Cavalia founder Normand Latourelle of Cirque du Soleil gave the media a preview under the gigantic white big top at AT&T park this afternoon, with the creator from Montreal paying his respects to France and the United States and turning the spectacular cirque into a tribute. Here he is relaxed and serious for a moment after the media preview, in the video. The show, full of exuberance, breathtaking beauty and speed, flies along with flowing long hair, long manes and long sweeping tails all accenting the movement, a culmination of a lifetime of producing by the forever young creator 60 year old Normand Latourelle. Merci, merci. Vive la Odysseo. Vive la France.
Brennan Figari interview video in SF
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The soft spoken, warm and approachable French Canadian appeared in the spotlight in jeans, bright blue high top tennis shoes and his curly dark hair, all of which hint at his heart and soul, from which Odysseo sprang. A businessman as well as creator, he announced 30,000 tickets have been sold and that the show will run through Christmas in San Francisco. Seriously, it’s a Christmas gift of a lifetime, a shared experience to remind anyone about love and happiness even if one walks in the door sad; and the boyish Latourelle has not been back to San Francisco since his original creation Cavalia ran five years ago. He said mirthfully Cirque du Soleil takes up all the suitable spaces around the world and it’s hard to find a location.
Latourelle appears well seasoned and comfortable in his big top element. He said he produced his first show at age thirteen. He was bored in school, trying to sit through lectures. His tour manager Marc Beaudry said something to that effect about himself. So, that restless spirit, a spirit of going with the energy and idiosyncrasies of a live show, permeates throughout. Brennan Figari of Woodacre in Marin County of San Francisco’s North Bay talked a little about that after the preview today. Figari, in his mid twenties, talked about the timing of these big acts at high speed or of intricate maneuvers and how each performer will adjust to the movements of others rather than trying to move in eight counts or to the music. The live musicians, in the tree tops or rafters above the stage and perched on either side, watch the action and also move with it, operatically.
Figari’s hoop will lower to the warm water lake which flows through the big top He says five different crew operate the apparatus mechanically and on cue from one director. It’s not the old fashioned hoist by counterweight and muscle such as those of rock climbers or boatswains. The steel hoop raises and lowers and swings. He spins it using his own momentum and pushing off from the floor.
Figari’s costume for aerial performance
Figari performs bare chested with loose Asian or Eastern pants that drape and move with his legs. He can frame and spread the costume like a fan or butterfly wings while in the air. He actually gets his bare feet wet in the signature act, the finale, as he skims the surface while in the hoop, essentially walking or dancing on water. The hem of his costume shows a water mark about a foot up his legs. His blond hair remained intact, his asymetrical cut now braided along the skull and opening into flowing loose hair down the back. Louis Bond designed the free flowing hair with tiny braids for Odysseo. The performers each wore peacock colored eye shadows, turquoise with accents of yellow. Some have ancient and Eastern looking gems on their face, mainly the forehead.
Figari sculpts his lean frame specifically and with precision as well, saying he takes care to develop the muscles he uses in these performances but not other muscles since he will have to carry them. He does not jog or run although he looks light and fast, saying cleverly ‘there’s no room’. He said he planned to work out Wednesday after the preview in preparation for the show’s opening Thursday night. He works out on tissues as the French call them, or silks. It’s going to be a happy run for the young man who not only gets to spend Thanksgiving at home for the first time in five years but also Christmas. Five years ago he had a friend with the other show, Cavalia, who inspired Figari to audition and he got the job. He stays close to his parents while on the road via Skype and the internet.
Horses live on a ranch in Manitoba and are adoptable
Figari talked a little about the ranch Latourelle maintains with all the horses on it. There are too many horses to keep so Cavalia will actually sell the horses who retire to the public. Prospective buyers send a photo of the land on which the horse would live. The horses have extensive socialization and are great with children as the horses are used to everything, including cameras and lights. The horses during the preview each seemed to look into the audience in the grandstands. The horses show a lot of spirit with each other while performing, sometimes kicking up a heel during the show or giving another a little nip while running in a herd. It’s all about working with what’s done naturally.
Not that it’s a free for all, there is intense team work, particularly with the trick riders. One gentlemen preened after leaping into the ring. His biceps bulged, that’s what the preening showed off rather than his perfect and glossy black hair. He sped on his horse which galloped around the ring steadily as the rider slipped under the horse’s belly and up the other side. The audience gasped. Here’s bicep video.
The Nomads or Cossack riding gleamed with jewel toned robes and capes streaming. The riders emerged from the distance as the multi-story screen projection of a timeless place turned into real life as the horses and riders seemed to come from the distance. Colors flew as the ensemble performed precision maneuvers. California native Spencer Rose appeared in this and she also performs Roman Riding, standing astride two horses moving parallel.
Elise Verdoncq, soloist and trainer
Elise Verdoncq the soloist with the Arabians trained them. She stars in The Great Adventure, in silhouette in front of a powerful waterfall projection with the real-water lake in the foreground. She rides Omerio, with a long wavy gray mane which gets braided after the performance when he’s back in the stall, with groomer Camille. The dressage moves in silhouette look inspired and mesmerizing then the scene goes color, with blue sky over the waterfall and the green grass of the meadow lush above the lake. Verdoncq, a slender blond young woman from France and with flowing blond hair, works with a herd of dapple gray Arabian males running through the lake in Liberty. The boys, as tour manager Marc Beaudy says they are called, run together and in formations around her, an exercise in quiet and gentle beauty. It’s magical and breathtaking with the silent communication, which appears more felt and sensed than directed. Thank God she has stayed out of law school.
Odysseo opens Thursday evening and runs through Christmas. Odysseo performs matinees at 2 pm some days and at 8 pm for evening shows. Here is the calendar. Tickets may be purchased from the call center, open 8 am to 10 pm; the box office on site in China Basin from 10 am to 7 pm; or on line. One may bike from Embarcadero BART easily to AT&T park or get there on foot, pedicab or Muni along the Embarcadero. The parking lot charges $25. A collection of permanent food trucks set up next to the park and there’s Java cafe at South Beach marina with outside cafe tables.