The power of the circus to conjure this mood is captured beautifully by Emily Dickinson in a letter to a friend: “Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A Circus passed the house—still I feel the red in my mind though the drums are out.” Wall does not include this in his book or many other examples of the circus’s wide-ranging cultural impact, but if he had, it could only strengthen his case for the circus as an art form. He could also have mentioned the recognition thatnouveau cirque has been gaining more recently among followers of other arts: late last year, Robert Lepage, who has created shows for Cirque du Soleil, produced Thomas Adès’s opera The Tempest at the Metropolitan Opera. His production opens with dramatic trapeze-work, as Ariel swoops and whirls from a spinning chandelier.3 It could be easier for circus acts to gain recognition by presenting themselves as a sub-genre of experimental theatre, but there have always been important differences between the stage and the big top.
more from Laura Marsh at TNR here.