By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
A sixth-generation circus performer, Giovanni Zoppé is a fan of mixing up his show each year. The 2017 Zoppé: A Italian Family Circus show, which comes to the Chandler Center for the Arts from Dec. 27 to Jan. 8, is no different.
Only two elements from last year’s performances remain, the rest of them have been revamped.
“That includes the opening, closing, the ringmaster and the horse act,” Zoppé said. “The dog act has changed, but it’s still my brother-in-law and sister.”
The Zoppè Family Circus welcomes guests into the intimate 500-seat tent on the lawn at the Chandler Center for the Arts for a one-ring circus that honors the best history of the Old-World Italian tradition.
The circus is more than 160 years old, with its roots planted in 1842 when a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppè wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, he met a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda. Because Napoline was a clown, 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.
Nino the Clown has been a mainstay at the circus. This year, the audience will enjoy Raoul Gomiero, the new ringmaster. Zoppè’s longtime friend was recruited from Italy, where he worked as a ringmaster and actor.
“As the ringmaster, I introduce every act,” Gomiero said. “I’m always on stage while the show is going on. I don’t perform trapeze, contortionist or trampoline, I’m always there because I have to be ready for everything that is happening.”
Besides Gomiero’s participation, the audience will see a flying trapeze act that’s new this year.
“It’s extremely unusual to have a flying trapeze in the size of our tent,” Zoppè said. “It was hard to get somebody to do it. I haven’t been able to do this before this year. It’s one of the best flying trapeze acts I’ve ever seen and it’s inside of our tent. It takes over our whole space.”
IF YOU GO
What: Zoppé: A Italian Family Circus
When: Various times Tuesday, Dec. 27, to Sunday, Jan. 8
Where: Chandler Center for the Arts’ Lawn, 250 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler
Information: 480-782-2680, chandlercenter.org