“O” by Cirque du Soleil is a water-themed stage production by Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus and entertainment company.
The show has been in permanent residence at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, since October 1998. “O”, whose name is pronounced the same way as eau, the French word for “water”, takes place in, around and above a 1.5-million-US-gallon (5,700 m3) pool of water, featuring water acts such as synchronized swimming as well as aerial and ground acts. The Otheatre, which is designed to resemble a 14th-century European opera house, has 1,800 seats, thus allowing the performance to be watched by 3,600 people a night since the performance usually plays twice in a given day, also designed to meet the special demands of the show.
“O” was inspired by the “infinity and elegance of water’s pure form,” which pays tribute to the beauty of the theater. A group of 150 stage technicians assist in the production of the show, the cast of which is 85 performers: international acrobats, synchronized swimmers, and divers. Some of them are former Olympic athletes.
Since late October 2010, Cirque du Soleil has offered backstage tours of the O theatre. The experience allows visitors to see the backstage wings, training rooms, costume workshop, break area, underwater lighting area, and go up to a catwalk into the sound and lighting booths. Not every experience will be the same as the tour is conducted around a “regular day”, so performers may or may not be training, rehearsing, or even working out.
As of early 2011, “O” has grossed over a billion dollars since the show opening in 1998.
“O” has received many awards, including the following:
- Entertainment Design Award, best production show, 1998
- Las Vegas Review-Journal, best production show, 1999-2006
- THEA, live show category, 1999
- Prix Italia, creativity in high definition, 2009, for the documentary Flow
“O” had its 8,000th performance on 20 July 2015.
SET AND TECHNICAL INFORMATIONS
The show has a cast of 85 acrobats, synchronized swimmers and divers performing in and above a 1.5 million-gallon pool. When maintenance needs to be performed, the pool is drained in about 12 hours to the Bellagio Lake, causing the lake’s water level to rise 1 inch (25 mm). The pool is kept at 88 °F (31 °C) and has an underwater communication system and regulators that allow performers to breathe underwater. Every member of the cast is scuba-certified.
The underwater stage lift was produced by Handling Specialty.
In order for the platform stage to rise and fall in the water without a wake, the surface of the stage has thousands of tiny holes which were drilled out by the Cirque du Soleil team.
Heaters under each seat help control the theatre temperature for the audience; the goal is to maintain two temperature zones in the theatre. The stage is kept at a higher temperature while the audience area is kept at a lower temperature. A temperature sensor every few seats in the theatre helps to ensure the audience area is maintained at the correct temperature.
To minimize damage to the musical instruments, the musicians play from glass enclosures in the theater. Some of the musical instruments used in the show are more than 100 years old. The unique string instrument heard in the soundtrack of O is an erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed string instrument.
To maintain a fresh look on the performers, some performers have multiple sets of costumes so they may reappear dry despite having been in the water. Some of the costumes only have a lifespan of approximately 20 shows due to the bromide and chlorine in the water.
Some additional facts about the show include these below.
- Some of the props function as boats, like the umbrella that Le Vieux rides on the water.
- There are 15 technicians underwater during the show, performing various tasks such as artist handling and props manipulation.
- The horses that the Comets ride in the show weigh 900 pounds (410 kg).
- The clown house weighs over 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg).
- Hanging 49 feet above the stage, the carousel and téléphérique (a conveyor system) carries tons of equipment as well as performers during the show.
- Most of the props that are used during the show are actually driven by the Performers who ride them. For instance, the carousel horses have a small propeller underneath their tails; they are controlled by a joystick located on the back of the horse.
Cirque du Soleil® weaves an aquatic tapestry of artistry, surrealism and theatrical romance in the timeless production, “O”. The international cast of world-class acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers and characters perform in, on and above water to create a breathtaking experience in a magnificent theatre reminiscent of a European opera house.
“O” by Cirque du Soleil – “You cannot move water, water moves you.” -Gilles Ste-Croix, Creative Vice President of Cirque du Soleil