‘Odysseo’ Raises Its Tent In Nashville

The Cavalia production opens August 30.

We’re already blown away, and this is just the tent. Photo by Candace Wade.

I have never dreamed of “running away to join the circus” – until now. But Odysseo isn’t a circus. Both the smaller Cavalia show and expanded Odysseo are an equestrian odyssey as made clear by show founder (and a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil) Normand Latourelle. Odysseo is transporting. It is magic. It is horses-as-you-ache-to-see-them thrilling. The Nashville tour will be my third experience with this equestrian extravaganza.

I am a Cavalia groupie. The assignment to cover the Odysseo “Raise the Tent” press event on July 31st at the field near the Opryland Hotel was an “oooo, oooo, yes, yes!” gift to me. I could see the beginnings of white radiance of the monolithic tent (125 feet tall and 58,387 square feet) as I angled off the freeway. My insides felt like a gerbil on a wheel.

Much of the information at the presentation was show stats (including the 40,000 gallons of recycled water for the water features!). We heard about the international acrobats and aerialists, the live “world” music and the construction of the awe inspiring tent (boasted as the world’s largest touring tent). I asked Normand, “May we talk about the horses?”

Normand shared that when he created – dreamed – the original Cavalia in 2003, he didn’t want a show with wild animals – no circus. He wanted to reveal the bond between humans and horses. He wanted to show horses being horses. Odysseo (launched in 2011) is a sights-and-sounds extravaganza in a natural environment in which the horses move free for half the show. Forty horses will run at large on stage at one time.

Normand sounds proud when he speaks of the care of his horses. He said the horses live and work in a “friendly” environment. The horses are on tour for only four to five years. They retire to Montreal for a “real life.” Some are allowed to be adopted. Normand said that they apply “soft training” with the horses. “We have the luxury of time. We don’t push the horses.” Each horse learns and advances at its own pace — to match its temperament. “One horse may take three weeks, another five months. Whatever the horse needs.” The horses will be turned out for several hours a day during the tour in a “huge paddock behind the tent area.” “We want them to run free and be happy,” Normand added.

Why did I plunk down $214.50 for VIP tickets? I want to sit up close where I might smell the horses’ breath — to see the whiskers on their chins. The VIP pre-show dinner, champagne and intermission desserts at the private Rendez-Vous tent are a plus. But I want to meet the horses after the show. That’s what the VIP ticket offers. That said, for the $79.50 to $109.50 general admission (there are no bad seats, by the way) you still get the wonder of the stage craft. Nature is recreated. The horses gallop through a real lake, down a mountain, through rain and wander a forest with real trees.

“I wanted to bring the feeling of traveling – an odyssey – man and horse traveling together,” Normand dreamed. He wanted Odysseo.

OdysseO opens in Nashville, TN August 30 and runs through September 10.  Tickets are available at Cavalia.com or 1-866-999-8111.

My next report will be the “Arrival of the Horses” event on August 24th.

Go riding!

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