For families like the Zoppes, the circus isn’t just a way to make a living. It is part of their identities.
The Zoppe family’s circus, in its 177th year, will make its annual visit to Chandler from Thursday, Dec. 26, to Sunday, Jan. 5.
Seven generations of the family have been part of Zoppe: An Italian Family Circus.
The family circus was started in Italy in 1842 by French clown Napoline and Hungarian equestrian ballerina Ermenegilda and was moved to the United States by equestrian Alberto Zoppe in the 1940s.
Throughout the circus’ history, matriarchs have played a strong role in keeping the family tradition alive. Emma Zoppe was especially instrumental in making sure the circus survived through tough times of famine and war.
In honor of Emma Zoppe, the family circus will be presenting a new show entitled “La Nonna,” a term used for a grandmother in Italian.
Giovanni Zoppe, a sixth-generation circus performer and family circus’ director, said the new show is centered around and showcases the talent of female performers. Around 80% of the cast is made up of female performers from around the globe.
In each generation, one family member has really taken the reigns of leading the family circus. Emma was this person during the 1920s to the 1940s, and her son Alberto took over after her.
“This truly is a celebration of her life. This show is about the strength, power and beauty of all women, the Zoppe women in particular,” Giovanni said.
Giovanni hopes the show will empower women and promote tolerance of others and equal treatment of people from different backgrounds.
“The circus has always been an equal-opportunity employer because we’ve always accepted everybody,” he said. “No matter what country you are from, what color you are, what race you are, what religion you are, everybody’s always accepted.”…
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