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The Zoppé Family Circus welcomes guests into an intimate, 500 seat tent for a one-ring circus that honors the history of their old-world Italian circus tradition. Starring Nino the clown, the circus is propelled by a central story (as opposed to individual acts) that features acrobatic feats, equestrian showmanship, canine capers, clowning and plenty of audience participation.
Giovanni Zoppé, the director of the circus and a sixth-generation performer, says the show aims higher than what passes for circuses these days. “We try to touch every emotion during the show,” he says. “They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, and they’ll feel for the characters. It’s more of an event than a show.”
The Zoppé Family Circus emerged from humble beginnings more than 175 years ago to become one of the legendary circuses of Europe. Like many good legends, it begins with a boy and a girl falling in love.
In 1842, a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppé wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, his eyes glanced upon a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda, who captured the hearts and minds of the crowd with her grace and showmanship. More important, this talented beauty captured Napoline’s heart.
Unfortunately, Napoline was a clown, and Ermenegilda’s father saw him as beneath her and disapproved of their relationship. The two ran away to Venice, Italy, and founded the circus that still bears their name. Over the generations, the circus survived wars and political upheaval in Italy and the rest of Europe.
Alberto Zoppé, Napoline’s great-grandson, inherited the circus almost 100 years later. A grand equestrian in his own right, Alberto first toured Europe with the circus as a youth, forging many unique friendships along the way, including one with famed actor/director Orson Welles.
Welles, who was working in Rome at the time, persuaded Alberto to take a role in a small film about the circus being shot in London. Alberto was then offered a job by John Ringling North of Ringling Brothers fame, who was putting together the circus acts for Cecil B. Demille’s Oscar-winning film, The Greatest Show on Earth. Alberto was hesitant to leave his family circus in Italy for America, but North was persistent and offered to loan the family circus an elephant for the show as long as Alberto worked for him. He obliged and was prominently featured in the film.
Alberto would remain in America, producing circuses for Ringling and starting his own family. Together with his wife Sandra, Alberto has ushered in a new generation to continue the family tradition. Their children, Giovanni, Tosca and Carla, along with their spouses, have all been active at one time or another in the family business.
Giovanni credits his family with helping to maintain the grand traditions. He is especially grateful to his father, who was the patriarch of the Zoppé Circus until his death in 2009.
Come experience the history of Zoppé – An Italian Family Circus!