Piccolo Zoppé

Piccolo Zoppé

In 1842, a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppé wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, his eyes glanced upon a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda. Since Napoline was a clown, Ermenegilda's father saw him as beneath her and disapproved of their relationship. The two ran away to Venice, Italy, and founded the circus that still bears their name.

Alberto Zoppé, along with his siblings, Napoline's great-great-grandchildren, inherited the circus almost 100 years later. A grand equestrian in his own right, Alberto forged many unique friendships, including one with famed actor/director Orson Welles. Welles persuaded Alberto to take a role in a small film about the circus being shot in London. Orsen then brought John Ringling North of Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey Circus, to meet the family.

He asked Alberto to bring his family to America, as he was putting together circus acts for Cecil B. Demille's epic film “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Alberto was hesitant to leave his family's circus. After World War II, the show had already lost so much to the war, including their animals, due to the bombing. If he and his sister, Tosca, and other family members were to leave, the show would lose even more. Alberto recalled hearing that the American circus giant had 52 elephants touring with them. He knew that if the family show had an elephant as an attraction, then it would prosper while they were gone.

He suggested that Mr. Ringling-North provide an elephant to the family show during the Zoppé's tour in the United States, to be returned at the end of the Zoppé contract. The response was, “If I sent an elephant to replace every act, I would not have any elephants left.” Alberto replied, "Then we can't leave our family."

The next day, Alberto received a telegram to meet Mr. Ringling-North at the train station. They came to an agreement to loan the family circus an elephant for the show as long as Alberto worked for him. He obliged and was prominently featured in the film.

Alberto would remain in America, starting his own family. His children Tino, Delilah, Carla, Giovanni, and Tosca, along with their spouses, are all active in the family business. Although the circus travels extensively, the Zoppé family has been proud to call Arkansas their home for over 30 years.

Region: Central
Discipline: Celebration Arts
Fees: $15,000 - $35,000 (depending on size of show). The AOT program will only reimburse $2,000 per presenter.
Availability: Year-round
Requirements: A performance lot measuring 120’ x 150’ is best, with 150 amp electrical service; water supply (garden hose bib), and a way to dispose of refuse and horse waste


Tosca Zoppé
Greenbrier, AR 72058
(501) 733-3069
[email protected]

Piccolo Zoppé