Zoppé Italian Family Circus back in Snowmass Base Village | AspenTimes.com

Zoppé Italian Family Circus back in Snowmass Base Village

Giovanni Zoppé believes Snowmass Village is an "extra special" destination to recreate his family's 176-year-old traveling circus because its small mountain town setting is how he imagines the show's early days overseas.

"It's like a little European village," Giovanni, a sixth-generation Zoppé performer who stars as Nino the Clown in today's show, said of Snowmass. "It brings back an emotional connection to all of my father's stories" set in a mountain village in southern Italy.

The Zoppé Italian Family Circus returns to Snowmass Village for its fourth summer this weekend.

The show's origins trace back to Budapest, Hungary, circa in 1842, when a young French street performer, Napoleone Zoppé, met and fell in love with an equestrian ballerina named Ermengilda. Ermengilda's father, however, disapproved of Napoleone and the fact that he was a street performer, Giovanni said. The lovebirds fled the Hungarian capital and moved to Venice, Italy, where they created their own circus.

"It's been through so much," Giovanni said of his family's circus over the years. "It's been through two world wars, it's been through famine."

Still, the show always went on.

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"You know why? Because we have to eat," Giovanni quipped. "That's the reality of it; this is all we know."

Nearly two centuries after the circus' inception, the Zoppé family hasn't missed a beat.

The family travels and hosts shows "as much as possible," Giovanni said from the road Aug. 13, which is usually about May to January each year.

With about eight or so shows weekly for at least 30 weeks over 176 years, the Zoppés have produced and performed in more than 40,000 circuses, Colorado Tour Director Gina Hallisey estimated.

While based in history and tradition, this year's show will feature a couple of new acts, Hallisey said.

"When the show began in the 1800s is how it is today," Giovanni said. "It went through different versions, but we wanted to bring it back to the origins of what it was."

With its rich history and longevity, the circus clan has entertained on every continent.

Giovanni has traveled to Central America with Clowns Without Borders on more than one occasion. He also was one of five clowns invited to perform at the Vatican before Pope Francis for a special dedication of "artistas de viajante," or traveling artists.

"Being a traveling artist is respected in Europe more than it is here," Giovanni said. "It's a hard life that we have, and they understand the value of that."

erobbie@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO…

What: The Zoppé Italian Family Circus

When: Friday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Saturday at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Where: Base Village events lawn

Cost: $20 general admission; $50 VIP; free for children two and younger. Enter code “CIRCUS” at http://www.zoppecolorado.com for $5 off general admission tickets.