Two Circuses Come to Tucson

January 9, 2013 |

Zoppe Family Circus

Even in these days of rapid-fire innovation (or perhaps especially so during them), not everything needs to be “new and improved.” The groundbreaking and experimentally fast film speed – 48 frame per second shots – with which director Peter Jackson created his recent “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” certainly generated box office buzz and without a doubt modernized Tolkien’s 1937 work for the Blu-ray generation. Critics, on the other hand, were nonplussed.

By contrast, absent any digital enhancements or special effects wizardry whatsoever, the Zoppé Family Circus out of Italy amazes onlookers purely through their adept application of the old-fashioned circus arts: juggling, clowning, acrobatics. After all, some tricks are truly timeless. Classic is the new cutting edge. Any act that has pleased audiences since 1842 hardly needs enhancing.

It was that year, as legend would have it, that in a Budapest public plaza youthful French busker Napoline Zoppé stumbled upon a talented and lovely equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda. When her father forbade their relationship due to Napoline’s lowly social status as a clown, the two eloped to Venice and established a society of smiles which continues today. After 170 years in the business, the incomparable Zoppé Family Circus returns to the Old Pueblo this month with tightrope walkers and trapeze artists intact.

Using little more than a 500-seat tent and their extremely active imaginations, the Zoppés are stark traditionalists when compared with Las Vegas’ oversized Cirque de Soleil. Here one’s limbs are the tools of the trade, and broken bones come with the territory. Since a high wire misstep in 1990 nearly took him out of the ring permanently, sixth-generation performer Giovanni Zoppé has been grateful for each clap and cheer of the crowds. Filling the shoes of his late father Alberto in the role of the show’s iconic “Nino the Clown” character is merely a temporary position for Giovanni, until he inevitably passes it on to son Julien. Young Zoppés have no need to run away and join the circus; they are born into it.

Cirque D’Or, Fox Theatre, Jan 11-13

And circusing is an honorable profession indeed. “I remain just one thing, and one thing only – and that is a clown,” said the legendary Charlie Chaplin. “It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” Truer words have rarely been uttered. Nothing beats the blues like belly laughs under the big top.

The University of Arizona’s UApresents brings the one and only Zoppé Family Circus to Reid Park, 900 S. Randolph Way, on Friday January 11 at 7 pm; Saturday January 12 at 1, 4 and 7 pm; and Sunday January 13 at 1 and 4 pm. Purchase $25-$35 general admission tickets at Discounts are available for students, seniors and military. Familiarize yourself beforehand with the latest news and tour photos from the sawdust life at

Whether coincidentally or by grand design the January 11-13 weekend also sees Cirque D’Or in town, making three appearances at the Old Pueblo’s tremendous and treasured Fox Tucson Theatre, 260 S. Church Ave. With contortionists and aerial artists from across the globe presented in the modern cirque style, the D’Or shows compliment those of the Zoppé clan with little redundancy.

The Chinese Golden Acrobats of Cirque D’Or, world famous for their eye-popping displays of physical elasticity and defiance of gravity, will stack and stretch themselves into shapes you’d think unimaginable. When delivering their wow-moment, jaw-dropping spectacle the Hebei province troupe is known for balancing an unbelievable number of human bodies in seemingly impossible formations. If you like to applaud, your hands will be ready to fall off after witnessing these feats. Cirque D’Or performs Friday January 11 at 7:30 pm; Saturday January 12 at 7:30 pm; and Sunday January 13 at 3 pm. Buy $28-$106 tickets at

Two internationally acclaimed traveling circuses stopping in Tucson at the same time? To quote Dr. Seuss: stoo-pendous!

Category: Community, Entertainment