Family circus

Giovanni Zoppé, who has been a clown since he was 2, has a special definition of his art.

“Circus is family — those two are almost the same,” says the performer, who plays Nino in the 168-year-old Zoppé Family Circus, which opens in Redwood City on Friday.

He adds, “It’s magic that touches your heart, that you can feel.”

He doesn’t have anything against Ringling Bros. (although he says, “There’s no focus on one thing”) or Cirque du Soleil (“It’s an amazing show, but it’s not circus”), but he thinks they miss the joy, history and spirit that characterize the Zoppé presentation, which tells a real tale in every performance.

“The theme goes back to my family history, when a French clown met a Hungarian ballerina in 1842 in Budapest, and they fell in love,” Zoppé says.

While a concrete, central story runs through each show, the amazing stunts and animal acts (featuring about 26 artists this year) change every season in the extravaganza, which is set in his new, custom-made, antique-style tent.

For Zoppé, the tent represents a dream come true.

“It’s a masterpiece,” he says. “It’s taken my life to build it. It’s the most beautiful tent in America.” Based on a structure first created by his father in the 1950s, the new tent was designed by Zoppé and partially built by his brother-in-law. Engineered in Italy, with materials imported from France and Mexico, it has a release hatch at the top and a fan that sucks out hot air. 

It even has a name, Veneto, the same as Zoppé’s young son, who recently celebrated his first birthday.

Little Giovanni Julien Veneto Zoppé, in fact, was born last year at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City; he arrived about four weeks early, before the show was about to begin its Peninsula engagement.

“Redwood City was the first town he performed in,” says Zoppé, who doesn’t remember his own first public appearance, though his family tells the story about how, when he was 2, he was in the trailer with the babysitter and broke away to be onstage.

“I was completely naked,” he says. “They don’t let me do that anymore.”

Except for a short stint building trusses for houses once — “It lasted about two weeks,” Zoppé says — circus always has been his career. He has no hesitation about life on the road or about sharing his art with audiences throughout Europe and North America.

Happy to be with his own family “24-7,” Zoppé enjoys witnessing the reactions of families, and people of all ages, who come to the performances.

He says, “Circus is good for everybody. All are amazed, with big eyes, watching the show. That’s what circus is about.”

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

IF YOU GO

Zoppé Family Circus

Where: 1044 Middlefield Road, Redwood City

When: 4 and 7 p.m. Friday and Oct. 22; noon, 3 and 7 p.m. Oct. 16 and Oct. 23; noon, 3 and 6 p.m. Oct. 17; noon and 3 p.m. Oct. 24

Tickets: $10 to $20

Contact: (650) 780.7586; www.redwoodcity.org/events/Zoppe.html

artsentertainmentNEPOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Currey (30) tallied 26 points and seven assists at Monday night’s game against the Lakers. (Chris Victorio for the S.F. Examiner).
Warriors overcome 19-point deficit to stun defending-champion Lakers 115-113

Ladies and gentlemen, the Golden State Warriors are officially back. Stephen Curry… Continue reading

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

Most Read