Picks and Pans Review: Saltimbanco

UPDATED 05/03/1993 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/03/1993 at 01:00 AM EDT

Cirque du Soleil

If a circus with no animals, no rings and no human cannonball sounds paltry, chances are you've never seen Cirque du Soleil. Since its founding in 1984 by a group of Montreal street performers, the French-Canadian circus of the sun has virtually reinvented the aesthetics of circus performance, uniting modern dance, fantastical costuming, in-your-face clowning and world-class circus feats into a theatrical experience as mysterious and artful as it is jaw-dropping.

Music is the solder that fuses this reinvention. As composed by René Dupéré, 47, a classically trained former music teacher and street performer, and as played by a tight, resourceful band driven by electric guitar and programmable keyboards, the songs in Saltimbanco, Cirque's currently touring production, evoke a palette of moods, from awe and enchantment to stabbing ferocity and tension. Except that it accompanies an aerial ballet performed by acrobats suspended from bungee cords, "II Sogno di Volare" could be a Verdi aria. Dupéré writes almost all his lyrics in wordless phonetics lifted from several languages. It's his own Esperanto (Cirquish, perhaps?), an open vessel of vocal sounds that listeners can fill with their own meanings. (RCA Victor)

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