RONCALLI – the first circus in the world with animal welfare in mind
A poetic show with holographic animals, childhood dreams come true, and a touch of magic
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” What Charlie Chaplin was preaching many years ago has been lived out by Circus Roncalli for more than 40 years: unique circus poetry which bewitches audiences across Europe with each new show and whisks them away on a journey to a land of dreams, color, and imagination.
The magic starts as soon as you enter the circus grounds with its nostalgic atmosphere. The original, renovated circus carriages and the imposing circus tent immerse you in a fairytale landscape. Founder Bernhard Paul had a keen eye for every last detail of his Roncalli circus world. You won’t find any plastic seats here. Those who have booked a box can make themselves comfortable in chairs upholstered with real mohair fabric. In the stalls, wide wooden benches provide a comfortable place to sit. There are around 100 historical circus carriages – decorated with precious gold leaf, and each of which is a work of art in its own right. The red and blue circus tents are covered in thousands of lightbulbs, which emit a magical light into the night sky. At the center of it all is the great show tent, which accommodates an audience of around 1500. The circus ring at the center is surrounded by an auditorium constructed in the style of La Scala in Milan.
„…for the beauty and sweetness in life…“
Bernhard Paul always wants to make a statement with his shows: “Against the crisis and the greed of the banks. For the beauty that makes life sweeter. For the circus.”
The father of three speaks from experience, because the past decades haven’t always been easy for the head of Roncalli. “Time and again, there have been moments when things looked hopeless, and it was even uncertain that the circus would be able to go on at all.”
He finds the inspiration and artists for his show, of which there is a new one every three years, all over the world. “Fashion shows and rock concerts, street artists – I can’t get the circus out of my head. Everything I see makes me think about how I could use it and adapt it for Roncalli. Mr Paul’s own experiences, such as images and dreams from his childhood in his home town of Willhelmsburg in Austria, also feed into the images within the circus, which gives the show an even more personal touch. The choice of artists is as diverse as it is select. Whether their background is circus school, competitive sport or television, all Roncalli artists have one thing in common: they are poetic masters of their art in the ring, and are part of the crème de la crème of the circus scene.
And it’s not just Roncalli’s artists who are world-famous – it’s also his clowns, who manage to combine poetry with the highest level of performance. The masters of “big emotions and small gestures” are quite simply in a class of their own, and Bernhard Paul – in his legendary starring role as Zippo – is famous well beyond the limits of the Roncalli circus ring.
first animal protection circus in the world
The only animals which appear in the “first animal protection circus in the world” are holograms, because Roncalli has made a conscious decision not to use real animals. It has used neither plastic nor animals since 2018. Instead, the circus ring is graced by the dancing of virtual horses, hovering fish, and an impressive elephant. Roncalli is the first circus in the world to have transitioned to using such 3D holograms, and has “roncallized” the way the circus treats animals. The news of this change was reported in 150 countries worldwide. With eleven laser projectors and an approach worked on by 15 designers and software developers over two years, Roncalli shows what it means to be a modern circus, making it ahead of its time once again. A love of animals can also be felt during the intervals at Roncalli, because you can choose not to consume any animal products during your trip to the circus. The audience are spoilt for choice by a large selection of vegan and vegetarian snacks during the interval, meaning that you can treat yourself to a guilt-free savory snack. Animal lover Bernhard Paul made the very conscious decision not to use wild animals or shy exotic animals right at the beginning, when he founded Roncalli. “At the time, the decision had a huge effect on audience numbers, as many people only went to the circus to see the animals. But I never went back on my decision. Large wild animals do not belong in small circus cages. Roncalli’s poetry and uniqueness lie elsewhere. We can’t be compared to other circus acts,” he says. And his decades of success bear witness to his words. “The worst enemies of the circus are bad circuses and bureaucracy,” he explains. “The only thing you can do about bad circuses is to make your circus good. Unfortunately I still haven’t found a panacea for dealing with bureaucracy.”
It is very important to the head of the Roncalli team that the circus should have a future. It becomes clear to anyone who meets him that everyone in the team is listened to, and that the team is one big, happy and impressively creative circus family: “The Prix Roncalli has existed for several years now. It’s awarded to those exceptional artists who are able to envision the innovative circuses of the future.” In keeping with the original idea of the prize, the trophy was designed by famous German designer Luigi Colani. “Over the past decades, he reinvented the image of the world like no other,” says Paul. And so, the Prix Roncalli has the honor of joining the ranks of Luigi’s designs, which include high speed trains, pianos and police uniforms. “The prize is a token of appreciation for the artists, and a living, powerful sign that circus will always have a future,” says Bernhard Paul.
circus fever, talent, love of animals and creativity
The future of his life’s work is already in safe hands. Eliana and Bernhard Paul, who have been happily married for many years, have passed on their circus fever to their beautiful, ambitious children Vivian, Adrian and Lilian, who have also inherited their parents’ talent, creativity and love for animals.
This year, too, it will be possible to experience the poetry of Roncalli in the flesh in a handful of towns, and to be whisked away on a wonderful journey. The current show, entitled “All for ART for All”, is a multimedia spectacle which combines all of the arts in the circus tent for the very first time. Theater, movies, painting, music and of course the art of the circus blend together to create a unique overall piece of art. Breathtaking costumes inspired by artists from Mondrian to Warhol, the tunes of the greatest stars of rock, pop and classical music, Roncalli’s one-of-a-kind, newly staged 360-degree holograms, world-class artists and lovable clowns: all of these come together to create an exhilarating experience for all the senses which combines nostalgia with modern aspects.