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

Just Posted

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led a late-game comeback against the Packers, but San Francisco lost, 30-28, on a late field goal. (Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers)
The Packers beat the Niners in a heartbreaker: Don’t panic

San Francisco is no better and no worse than you thought they were.

Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver-based vendor, is under contract to supply voting machines for elections in San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/Examiner file)
Is San Francisco’s elections director impeding voting machine progress?

Open source technology could break up existing monopoly

Health experts praised Salesforce for keeping its Dreamforce conference at Moscone Center outdoors and on a small scale. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Happy birthday, Marc Benioff. Your company did the right thing

Salesforce kept Dreamforce small, which made all kinds of sense

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved to be too much for the Niners in a Week 3 loss to Green Bay. It was San Francisco’s home opener for the 2021 season. (Courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers.)
Week 3 NFL roundup: Packers victory over 49ers caps off a stellar Sunday

By Tyler Dunne New York Times Here’s the Week 3 roundup of… Continue reading

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, pictured with Rose Pak in 2014, says the late Chinatown activist was “helping to guide the community away from the divisions, politically.”
Willie and Rose: How an alliance for the ages shaped SF

How the Mayor and Chinatown activist shaped San Francisco, then and now

Most Read