A free outdoor theatrical spectacle in Gateway Park at Navy Pier
Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12, 2008 around 9:00 p.m.
Presented in partnership with and with generous support from the Cultural Services of the French Consulate in Chicago, Alliance Française de Chicago, Étant donnés: The French-American Fund for the Performing Arts and Navy Pier
Compagnie Transe Express is recognized around the world for creating theatrical spectacles that “speak to a city.” Imagine a beautiful human carillon suspended 200 feet in the air at the front of Navy Pier and set against the backdrop of Chicago's magnificent skyline. A musical chandelier adorned with performers ringing bells, beating drums and swinging on trapezes rises above the heads of thousands of awestruck visitors. On Saturday evening, the aerial performance of Maudits Sonnants will culminate with a fireworks display over Lake Michigan.
Approximate Running Time: 60 minutes
The American premiere of Compagnie Transe Express' production of Maudits Sonnants is presented as part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s World’s Stage Series.
A musical chandelier rises above the crowd and over the city as vibrant chimes echo off buildings. Shaped like an enormous lotus flower, a carillon of twenty-six harmonized bells is played by eight fantastically costumed musicians suspended at the tips of the petals. Acrobats spin and somersault against the backdrop of Chicago’s stunning skyline, choreographing the night sky. Atmospheric and virtuosic, the performance evokes the splendor of a music box. The power of the reverberating bells and drums and the aerial extravaganza combines to create a public, outdoor celebration of community and the city.
Compagnie Trans Express and the Cirque Nouveau
As part of the European circus movement that traces its roots to the jugglers and jesters of the Middle Ages, Compagnie Trans Express belongs to a community of artists who combine traditional performing arts with innovative ideas about design and storytelling.
David H. Bell on the Circus Tradition in America
Director, choreographer, writer and Northwestern University Associate Professor David H. Bell spoke with members of the CST Education Department about the definitions and influences of circus and circus arts over the past century.
The perfectly balanced mobiles and large monumental sculptures of Alexander Calder inspire the work of Transe Express.
The human bell-ringers of Maudits Sonnants mimic the sounds of a carillon. The Chicago area has many, including Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon in Naperville and the 72-bell Rockefeller Carillon in the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago, the second largest carillon in the world.
Additional Resources and Images
The work of Transe Express and the production of Maudits Sonnants can be seen in images by photographer JM Coubart. The 2008 performance at the Thames Festival in London was captured on video. And the official Compagnie Transe Express website features images and articles.
Compagnie Transe Express was founded in 1982 by dancer, choreographer and musician Brigitte Burdin and writer, scenographer, and director Gilles Rhode. The company is located in Crest, in the Drôme region of southern France. Sixty artists develop their work—actors, acrobats, bell ringers, dancers, percussionists, singers, string players, welders and technicians. They create large complex shows, like Maudits Sonnants, which enter their repertory and are presented around the world. They also develop “Ephemeral Creations,” interactive, site-specific shows for occasions, including for the Opening Ceremonies of the 1992 Winter Olympics that were held in Albertville, France, the performance that brought them global acclaim.
Inspired by the mobiles and monumental sculptures of Alexander Calder, Transe Express invented a form they named “Celestial Arts.” Using all media and modes of expression as ingredients—music, visual arts, virtuosity, circus skills, fire, literature, metallurgy, opera, rock, dance, with theatre as the organizing force—they transform a city space into unforgettable events.
By performing for their audiences in public spaces, Transe Express has explored urban areas with parades and processions, experimenting and playing with audiences in motion and as spectators to moving events. Their experiences with large audiences pushed the company to reexamine the concepts of mobility and visibility, leading to the quest to find spaces where performances could be seen equally by all spectators and resulted in their airborne spectacles. For each show, Rhode invents a mobile from which he suspends his characters. The monumental works are staged in public squares, often during festivals, and inject a sense of awe community into modern cities.
– Contributed by the CST Education Department
Maudits Sonnants Slide Show
Compagnie Transe Express has performed Maudits Sonnants all over Europe, in Africa, Australia and now North America. Situated in open public spaces, the aerial sculpture that is the centerpiece of the performance is presented with unimpeded views for the spectators. The urban sites also provide unexpected, beautiful and dramatic environments that not only serve as backgrounds but are also re-imagined as communal spaces during the performances, as the images and sounds reflect and echo off the surrounding building and landscape.
Maudits Sonnants Load-in in Gateway Park
Members of Compagnie Transe Express and CST’s production team had one day to set up for the performances of Maudits Sonnants. The equipment, musical instruments and lights needed to be ready for the rehearsal at dusk on the eve of the public performances on Friday and Saturday.