Review: Odysseo: ‘Larger Than Life’ at the Hershey Centre (Mississauga, Ontario)

The horse has marked human history and progress more than any other animal. Horses have taken us to the ends of the earth, enabled us to build bridges between cultures and expand civilization. It is the beauty and harmony of this ancient relationship, this meeting of two worlds – those of horse and man – that inspired the creators of Odysseo. As friends, partners and inseparable performers on stage, 65 horses and 50 artists lead the viewer on a great journey in yet another world – a world of dreams – where, together, they discover some of the planet’s most unforgettable landscapes.

Odysseo marries the equestrian arts, stage arts and high-tech theatrical effects at never-beforeseen levels. A veritable revolution in live performance, Odysseo comprises a list of superlatives: the world’s largest touring production and traveling big top, the biggest stage, the most beautiful visual effects, and the greatest number of horses at liberty.

Scenography and Visual effects

To give life to this extraordinary equestrian adventure, a 1,626 square meters stage was created with a hill rising three-stories tall. Some 10,000 tons of rock, earth and sand are trucked in and then sculpted to create the vast space of freedom where humans and horses come to play in complicity. Above the stage hangs an imposing technical grid capable of supporting 80 tons of equipment including a full-sized merry-go-round far beyond anything attempted to date on any touring show and comparable to the best-equipped theaters of Las Vegas, London or New York.


  • Odysseo features 65 horses of 12 different breeds including the Appaloosa, Arabian, Canadian Horse, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint Horse, Percheron Hanoverian Cross, Quarter Horse, Selle Français, Thoroughbred, Spanish Purebred (P.R.E.) and Warlander.
  • The horses are from Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the United States and Canada.
  • There are 50 artists – riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.
  • The artists are from around the world including the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Italy, Guinea, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
  • There are 350 costumes and 100 pairs of shoes and boots in the show. Artists may have up to seven different costumes.
  • An artist may have no more than 30 seconds to do a quick costume change between numbers.
  • A team of 13 dressmakers, one property master, one designer and one shoemaker worked in the Odysseo studios to create the costumes.
  • Materials used in the costumes include linen, silk, cotton, leather and some imitation fur. The use of natural fibers gives the clothes sheen and lets them fall in a way that synthetic fibers simply cannot match.
  • The costumes are adapted to the artists’ needs, especially those of the acrobats and riders, to facilitate their onstage movement while not compromising their appearance.
  • The on-tour costume department consists of one wardrobe person and three dressers who launders, mends and cares for the costumes. At times during the show, they juggle 15 simultaneous wardrobe changes. They have two sewing machines, one shoe-repair machine and one overlock machine.


Standing 38 meters tall, the White Big Top is a traffic-stopping addition to the skyline of each city Odysseo performs. When visitors enter, they are immediately transported into a lavish and intimate environment reminiscent of any permanent theatre.

Following the instant success of the company’s eponymous show in 2003, creator and artistic director Normand Latourelle began to dream of how to break through the limitations of a big top tent. The biggest challenge was to open up the performance area. Latourelle knew that such unprecedented flexibility would allow him to showcase more horses and acrobats to create mind-boggling scenes. This involved removing supporting masts from the stage, a common staging issue in tent shows. A specially-designed big top was created in Europe, where the weight of the structure shifted from masts to three arches above the tent. The Italian firm Canobbio, in collaboration with Normand Latourelle, designed the tent and supervised construction. Asteo of France and Genivar of Canada oversaw engineering operations. The arches that support the massive structure were built by Show Canada.

More than twice the size of the structure created for the first production, Odysseo’s White Big Top is the size of a CFL football field. The 1,626 square metres stage, larger than a hockey rink, and the 15 meters wide backstage area offers a vast playground for more than 30 cantering horses. The grandiose stage also offers incredible possibilities for large-scale staging.

A total of five tents comprise the Odysseo village. The White Big Top houses the stage and backstage, seating and lobby areas under a single roof. The Rendez-Vous tent hosts VIP ticket holders for dinner, an open bar and photo opportunities with the artists. This package includes a private tour of the stables and the best seats in the house. The horses live in a climate controlled stable tent complete with showers, tack shop and a blacksmith department.

Between the stables and White Big Top, the Warm-Up tent is where the riders rehearse with the horses before and after the show. This area also includes wardrobe, makeup and dressing areas for the human artists. A staff kitchen tent prepares more than 300 meals daily.

Assembly of the White Big Top

  • There are 3 arches that support the White Big Top. Each arch consists of 8 sections that are 2,5 metres wide by 9 meters long. Once assembled, each arch is 27 meters high by 62 meters long.
  • The masts of the big top have been specially engineered to be able to lift the arches into place.
  • The canvas is held in place by 1,310 one-meter long stakes holding down the 250 anchor plates
  • 26 motors are needed to raise the canvas onto the structure, resulting in the White Big Top.
  • The length of all the steel cable used to attach the structure to the ground is equal to 5.8 kilometres.


The overall experience at Odysseo consisted of a melding of magic and majesty. Between the performers friendly smiling beckoning nods as they rode by on the most beautiful horses to the horses giving the audience knowing glances – the 2.5 hour performance left us moved, emotional and feeling grateful to have taken in such a journey.

The fairy like acrobatic dances versus the African vignettes made for beautiful interludes as horses were revolved for even more extraordinary dancing and running sequences. As the worlds transformed in front of us we the audience participated in sing offs between sections led by the acrobats – these moments proved to be well rounded and interactive.

Highlights could be seen in the Merry Go Round vignette which was mesmerizing and hypnotic. How can you not gawk at the tremendous and taut bodies of the artists?  It made me not want to eat another brownie at the break and do some sit ups when I got home that evening.

The lake of water sequence was also exciting and thrilling. To see the horses and the artists run and play together as the basin magically filled made us smile with glee and breathe in a different texture of the night’s performance.

There was a moment when one rogue horse ran off as the other horses participated in a dance with their individual artists. No one flinched.  The artists carried on with the performance while the rogue horse had its moment and came back into line.  It was neat to see that even a show as perfectly coordinated as Odysseo can’t control a wild horse looking for a little fun on their time.  The horses are truly in charge of the show.

I recommend the RENDEZ-VOUS VIP PREMIUM experience when booking your Odysseo tickets. It will put you that much closer to the horses, artists and a wonderful behind the scenes luxe experience.


With your Rendez-Vous VIP Tickets, you will be invited to relax in the private RENDEZ-VOUS VIP Lounge 60 minutes before the show, during the intermission as well as after the show. You will also be enjoying the following:

  • VIP Pass.
  • Variety of complimentary snacks and beverages
  • Exclusive stable tour after the show (The stable tour was truly the icing on the cake. We were able to meet the artists and horses in their milieu. The artists were incredibly hospitable and took their time answering our questions. The horses were friendly too and were keen to stand beside us and take loads of pictures for prosperity).

Catch Odysseo ‘Larger Than Life’ at the Hershey Centre (Mississauga, Ontario) before it leaves on July 23, 2017!  Use the Promo code SOCIAL at for an additional discount off pricing.

Cavalia Handle: @Cavalia
Hashtag: #OdysseoSAUGA


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