/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on December 23, 2009 at 10:55 am

Not Just Another One-Ring Circus

Ever feel like your life is just a circus?  Giovanni Zoppe, a sixth-generation circus performer who plays Nino the clown, can tell you about circus life when he and his family, the Zoppe Family Circus perform in Chandler, Arizona through the New Year.

zoppe_clownThe Zoppe’s put on what they refer to as an Old-World Italian traditional circus performance with acrobats, equestrians, canine trainers and general clowning around.  They’ve been performing since 1842 and even bring their own tent which will be set up on the West Lawn of the Chandler Center for the Arts.

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of seeing a European circus troupe perform; you’re in for a treat.  Forget the elephants, flashy showgirls and over-the-top lion tamers of the extravaganzas that we all saw as kids.  European circuses are more intimate, have fewer performers and less theatrics which allows them to connect better with their audience.  They still have amazing, death defying entertainers they just seem more real.

Pratfalls, broom gags and audience participation keep everyone enthralled.  It’s fair to say that if you come to the Zoppé circus, be prepared to become a part of the act.  It’s what makes them unique.  And it’s not just for kids it’s for everyone in your family.

zoppe_tentThe history of the family chronicles their meager beginnings over 160 years ago to become one of Europe’s legendary circuses.  And like many good stories, it began with a boy and a girl falling in love.

In 1842, a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppè wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, he saw a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda, who captured the hearts and minds of the crowd with her grace and showmanship. More importantly, she captured Napoline’s heart.

Ermenegilda’s father disapproved of their relationship which prompted the two to run away to Venice to start the circus that still bears their name.

Alberto Zoppè, Napoline’s great-grandson, inherited the circus almost 100 years later. A grand equestrian in his own right, Alberto toured Europe with the circus and took a chance on America when he took a role in Cecil B. Demille’s Oscar-winning film, The Greatest Show on Earth about The Ringling Brothers Circus. Alberto remained in America, and together with his wife Sandra, 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.

zoppe_horseGiovanni credits his family with helping to maintain the grand traditions. Alberto, who at 82 years old, still manages to wow the crowd every time he steps into the ring.

At the end of each show the performers position themselves outside of the tent and thank patrons for coming, shaking their hands. Just another example of the intimacy they feel for their patrons.  It’s a high-energy show from start to finish.

The Zoppe Family Circus
Chandler Center for the Arts (map)
250 N. Arizona Avenue
Chandler, Arizona


Box Office:
Monday – Friday: 10am-5pm
Saturdays: Noon-5pm
One Hour prior to all ticketed events.

Show Dates:
Saturday, December 26 through Sunday, January 3
Adults $20 & $25
Children 12 and under $15 & $20
Purchase tickets online

Photos courtesy of Zoppe Family Circus

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