Liana Orfei

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Circus Director, Circus Performer, Singer, Actress

By Raffaele De Ritis

Liana Orfei
Born in 1937, in Italy, the daughter of clown and circus owner, Paride "Pippo" Orfei, and Alba Furini, Liana Orfei began her circus career as a clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team., at age two. Later, she became a trapeze artist, acrobat, dancer, juggler, lion and horse trainer. In 1954 she married the juggler Angelo Piccinelli, and five years later, in 1959, without ever leaving the circus, she embarked onto a long movie career—appearing in 37 films, including Fellini's I Clowns (1972), and dozens of peplum and adventure movies, alongside with Steve Reeves or Orson Welles. She also acted in the theater with the legendary playwright and director, Eduardo De Filippo.

In 1962, with her brothers Nando and Rinaldo, she created her own circus, one of the first three-ring shows in Italy, titled Circo a 3 piste Orfei. This became in 1970 Circorama, whose show included movie projections on a cinemascope screen between the acts—or as a background to them—and sumptuous parades. For their productions, Liana booked personally some of the finest acts in the world. Their circus at the time included almost 20 elephants, three rings of liberty"Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. horses, and a remarkable menagerie of wild and exotics animals.

Its success led to the production Il Circo delle Mille e una Notte (The Circus of the 1001 Arabian Nights) (1973-1975), an oriental circus revue with 500 costumes designed by Danilo Donati (the costume designer of Federico Fellini's and Pierpaolo Pasolini's movies). This was followed in 1976 by Il Circo delle Amazzoni, an all-female circus show inspired by ancient mythology.

In 1977, the Orfei siblings split into two circuses: Nando Orfei with his own Circo Nando Orfei, and Liana and Rinaldo with a smaller but excellent version of their Circorama (with which Liana was involved until 1984).

By 1978 Liana began touring in theaters as a singer with her one-woman show, did a few recordings, and hosted several TV shows. In 1975, she had met her second husband, producer Paolo Pristipino. Together they founded the Tendastrice concert hall, in Rome, in the late 1970s. There, in 1982, they hosted the world's premiere of a company from the State Circus of North Korea. In 1984, they created the Golden Circus Festival, which has been held each winter in Rome, and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008.

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