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Viva Elvis

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Viva Elvis


The Music


Blue Suede Shoes
Don't Be Cruel
One Night w/You
All Shook Up
Got a Lot of Livin
Heartbreak Hotel
Love Me Tender
Return to Sender
You Lonesome?
Western Scene
Burning Love
Bossa Nova
King Creole
Jailhouse Rock
It's Now or Never
Can't Help Falling
Love Me/Don't
Viva Las Vegas
Suspicious Minds
Hound Dog




The Music
    "What would the songs of Elvis be like if he were doing them for the first time today? With all humility, I set out to evoke the soul and the spirit of Elvis Presley, while building a bridge between his music and future generations of fans." - Musical Director and Arranger Erich van Tourneau

Viva ELVIS highlighted the music of an American icon who changed rock and roll forever. Elvis Presley created an art form for the masses with his voice, his movements and his provocative image as the herald of adolescent rebellion in the 1950s and 1960s. His music was an explosive mixture of rhythm and blues, gospel, country and the music of the South that brought rock and roll to the forefront of popular music.

By creating a reinterpretation of the music of Elvis, Cirque du Soleil set out to present the songs of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll in a contemporary form that evokes the spirit of Elvis in every way. The styles of Viva ELVIS move from Delta blues to rockabilly, soul to gospel, through Dixie and Southern folk music. Some of the songs even evoke garage rock and punk, steeped in waves of hip-hop and urban music. But one thing is certain and remains consistent: the sound of Viva ELVIS is pure rock.

About 30 Elvis Presley classics are heard in "Viva Elvis," but the nine-piece band playing the classics often steers those hits in new directions, sometimes trying to imagine how Elvis would do them today. You won't hear much meddling with the lean rockabilly sound of "Mystery Train." But "Jailhouse Rock" sidesteps into hip-hop and "Got A Lot O' Livin' to Do!" ventures into Zeppelin-esque guitar rock. "You have a lot of shows paying homage to Elvis doing exactly the same stuff, but this is Cirque," says Erich van Tourneau, the show's musical director and arranger. "Cirque is innovative, Elvis was innovative, so I think that's the correct way to approach it -- to keep him moving artistically."

  Before starting work, Erich van Tourneau and Ugo Bombardier reviewed and recorded 914 authorized and unauthorized albums and countless films, concert recordings, interviews and home recordings – a job that took more than 3,000 hours! 17,765 samples of Elvis songs – the raw material of the show – were made during the process of creating the musical score. In addition to the four female singers, the team of eight musicians consists of a drummer, a bassist, two guitarists, a trombonist, a saxophonist, a trumpeter and a percussionist.
One of the biggest challenges was to establish a balance in the selection of songs. The score had to include enough of Elvis’s hits but not be a simple "best of" playlist. Some of the songs were chosen to fit the narrative of the show, but above all it was Presley’s boundless energy and his disarming charisma that dictated van Tourneau’s choices. "I wanted to highlight his rebel side, recall his sexy and provocative facets and seize the powerful and charismatic Elvis you see in the documentary Elvis ‘56 and Elvis, the television broadcast of his 1968 comeback concert," he says. One thing’s for sure: choosing thirty songs from such a rich catalog of work by the greatest songwriters of the era was as delicate a task as it was challenging.

The producers often had trouble isolating the vocal track -- Elvis liked to lay it down with the band, not in the isolation of a vocal booth -- and they didn't have access to the masters of early classics such as "Jailhouse Rock." Van Tourneau turned to live recordings, often gravitating to the 1968 TV Comeback Special. "He was at the top of his game then. I would go with the young, dangerous and hungry Elvis first, every time I could," he says.

Since "Viva" is also biographical, the creative team decided a few songs could take an outside perspective, voiced by the four live female singers. Being freed from having to match time or key signatures of the records opened the door to dramatic reinterpretation: "King Creole" goes reggae; "One Night With You" gets a wispy Norah Jones feel, with Presley coming in as a ghostly backing vocal.

Armed with tens of thousands of samples of Elvis’s voice, Erich van Tourneau, assisted by Ugo Bombardier, often wove several sequences and colors into the same songs, sometimes changing the key. In creating his remix, Erich was looking to accentuate and boost the emotional charge of the songs. For example, he incorporated ragga rhythms into King Creole, and urban and hip-hop sounds into Blue Suede Shoes. But in all such cases, the watchword was to be respectful of the spirit of the original recordings. The live singers in Viva ELVIS are all female; the only male voice is that of Elvis himself – on the grounds that only Elvis could possibly do justice to Elvis when it came to portraying his vitality and seductive charm. Isolating his voice on the original recordings was a major technical challenge, because his voice and the instruments were almost always recorded on the same tracks.

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    • Jennlee Shallow — Dec.16.2009 to Dec.xx.2011
    • Dea Norberg — Dec.16.2009 to Dec.17.2011
    • Sherry St-Germain — Dec.16.2009 to Dec.16.2010
    • Toscha Comeaux — Dec.16.2009 to Aug.31.2012
    • Carly Smithson — Dec.18.2010 to Aug.xx.2012
    • Sandra Allen — Dec.2011 to Aug.31.2012

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