The internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil productions are a beautiful sight to behold, but the process behind the scenes is as fascinating and mysterious as the shows themselves. The company now has 18 different active shows around the world, employing almost 4,000 people from over 40 countries, yet little is known about how people become part of the company or how the shows are created.
Eirini Tornesaki, part of the touring production of “Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities”, which will come to New York on September 29th, opened up to us about what working for one of the most prestigious artistic companies in the world is like, as well as her singing career and dreams.
If you want to see Eirini in “Kurios”, check out the show’s upcoming tour dates and see if she’s performing near you soon!
How did you get started in your music career?
I grew up in a very musical family with my two sisters – everyone was talented and played music, and we always played music together. We sang since I can remember, and I studied classical piano, classical cello. In addition, I was part of the choir of the Municipality of Heraklion and played in the string orchestra. So I was completely surrounded by music growing up.
Because of that I always knew I wanted to be a singer. Of course people try to change your mind along the way, but they didn’t manage to change my mind.
Where did you study music?
I decided I wanted to study modern singing so I moved to England when I was 18 and studied there for three years. My school was called BIMM – The British and Irish Institute of Modern Music – so I did my bachelor’s there and I was also performing professionally all over the UK since my second year.
Slowly I started doing auditions, taking part in vocal groups or bands, you know, always looking for ways to perform professionally. So I started building that up and before I graduated I auditioned for Cirque du Soleil.
What was it like to audition for Cirque du Soleil?
They came to London, and a friend of mine sent me the e-mail about it so I thought I would try it. At that moment I didn’t think that is what I wanted to do, but I thought auditioning would be a great experience.
You never know when it’s going to be the right time because Cirque du Soleil has thousands of applicants every year. You go through quite a tough process just to be in their database.
It’s very competitive, but also it’s a little bit of a matter of luck, because you don’t know when there will be a position where you could potentially fit in. At the audition they tell you if you are at the level that they are looking for and if they will put you in their database, but the database has thousands of people. So you may do your audition and then wait for up to ten years. You never know when you will hear back from them.
So what is the audition process, step by step?
The first step is to send in videos of what you do, along with some repertoire that they ask you to perform. You go online and you pick songs if you’re a singer, for example, from the list of materials they provide. Then if they like your submission, they call you to their next live audition, which they do all over the world. I submitted my videos and they invited me to the London audition.
After the live audition, they put me in the database but I didn’t hear from them for a job until just over a year later. I knew this is usually what happens, so I just put it aside and continued my life in England. I moved to London at that point in time and spent a year being a freelance singer when I suddenly heard from them.
After that, there were a few more steps where they asked for more specific videos. And then the last audition was in Montreal, after which they gave me the contract for Kurios.
How is your rehearsal/work schedule for ‘Kurios’?
It’s a very intense schedule, especially for the touring shows. There is always a creation period. Kurios was being created for about two years before it opened in April 2014. I joined the creation period about three months before opening. So those three months were extremely intense; we would rehearse all day. When the actual shows began we have 8-10 shows per week, and we perform every day except Mondays. We also have to rehearse for the replacements, because if someone doesn’t sign for the following year or we have injuries, we need replacements.
In addition to all that, the show changes slightly very often, so we have to rehearse to perfect the adjustments – there are always things to work on!
What’s your role in Kurios and where do you fit into the story?
I’m the only singer of the show. I wear a gramophone on my head, actually – my costume is quite cool. My character is called Chanteuse de la Rue (street singer) and I sing throughout the whole show. I sing for around 85% of the length of the show, so I’m just always somewhere – you will always hear the voice.
What’s the biggest pro and the biggest con of a touring life?
Biggest pro: at first it is quite exciting because you know you are going to experience and actually live in so many places, since we get to stay for two months in each place. I feel like I’ve really lived in most of the biggest North American cities since 2014, and that’s quite cool.
On the other hand, it’s a nonstop touring schedule and we get one annual leave (2-3 weeks), so that’s the only time we get to go home. If your home is far away, that means you only get to go back once a year.
Touring all year round can also be a little confusing in terms of practicalities, like what clothes you’re going to take with you, so for me I just have everything that I need all year round. I took three suitcases with winter clothes, summer clothes, and all the things that will allow me to have a normal life on tour – my keyboard and microphone and everything I need to get a sense of home and normalcy.
In your ideal future, where do you see your singing career going?
I would like to keep performing, so the longer I can make my living this way the better. But my dream is to at some point present my own music and my own project. So now I’m writing songs, continuing to study music, and I always try to learn and get better as a musician.
Do you get to go back to Greece? What’s your relationship like with your home country?
I grew up in Heraklion and it was wonderful – Crete is one of the most beautiful islands of Greece. Going back is always interesting, because you feel a type of comfort, with the familiar people and places and the sea. I do my best to spend some time there, though sometimes it’s not possible because of the tour schedule. But I try to keep in touch with my parents and my friends no matter what.