Roll up! Roll up! From death-defying acrobats to hilarious clowns that’ll have you in stitches, the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo will be bringing awe, light-heartedness and a few surprises to audiences this winter. Not only will the biggest Circus festival on the planet be celebrating its 50th anniversary in January, it will also be closing the centenary commemorations for Prince Rainier III, founder of the Festival.
Over 150 artists from around the world are expected to perform for a chance to win awards that will boost their careers on the international stage. The 46th International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo and the 11th New Generation will be held from 19 to 28 January under the big top at Espace Fontvieille.
A Princely tradition
Prince Rainier III loved gathering people together for fun-filled events and decided to create a festival to support circus traditions and circus families. For the 25th anniversary of his reign, Prince Rainier III decided to put the circus in the spotlight. The 1st International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo was born in 1974, in a big top installed on what was then the Esplanade de Fontvieille at the foot of the Prince’s palace. It was the very first circus festival of its kind ever presented in the Western world. Prince Rainier himself wrote the foreword for the festival’s first program.
“This International Circus Festival was created thinking of the circus community, of this family of underestimated people, so that you, attentive spectators of their efforts and of their work, could know them better, and celebrate them better,” wrote Prince Rainier III in 1974.
Charlie Rivel receives the First Golden Clown
Prince Rainier III presented the first Golden Clown award to Spanish circus clown Charlie Rivel during the inaugural festival. Rivel’s parents were both clowns themselves and he debuted at the age of three with his two brothers. His name was inspired by Charlie Chaplin, whom he met in 1910. It is rumoured that Charlie Chaplin once said to Rivel: “Is it you who imitate me or I who imitate you?”
Princess Stéphanie inherits a love of the circus
President of the festival since 2005, Princess Stéphanie oversees the planning of the competitions and gala shows. She is fully involved in selecting the best international acts, designing and organizing the shows and bringing an atmosphere of respect for the traditions of the circus. The Princess personally led rehearsals during the 43rd International Circus Festival.
Ten years ago, Princess Stéphanie demonstrated her unwavering love for circus animals when, after a long administrative battle with opposing forces at Tête d’Or Park in Lyon, she rescued two circus elephants from euthanasia. In 2013, the two elephants were moved to a special oasis created by the Princess in Fontbonne, not far from the Principality.
In 2012, Princess Stéphanie and her eldest daughter, Pauline Ducruet, created New Generation, a Festival for Young Artists. On 1st February 2020, Princess Stéphanie celebrated her 55th birthday at the New Generation Festival. Pauline Ducruet is now the Jury President for the competition.
Running away with the circus
Princess Stéphanie and her three children, Louis, Pauline and Camille took off on a family adventure from 2001 to 2002, when they travelled with the Knie’s Circus caravan, Switzerland’s oldest circus. Princess Stéphanie met Franco Knie during Monaco’s International Circus Festival, where she presented him with the award for the Best Animal Tamer and the couple began a romantic relationship. When the relationship ended in 2002, Stéphanie and her family returned to the Principality. On 12 September 2003, Stéphanie married Portuguese acrobat Adans Lopez Peres, a member of Knie’s circus ensemble. The couple divorced in 2004. Knie’s highly skilled circus regularly wins awards at Monaco’s festival.
Prince Albert II and Princess Stéphanie witness a World Record at the Circus Festival!
Last January’s International Circus Festival de Monte-Carlo kicked off with a historic bang when death-defying unicyclist Wesley Williams broke a world-record during opening night. The performer pedalled around the big top on a 10.6 metre tall unicycle! Princess Stéphanie, Prince Albert II, Louis and Marie Ducruet and Camille Gottlieb were all at the Chapiteau de Fontvieille on 20 January 2023 to witness the momentous feat.
“This moment means more than words could ever describe. A lifetime dream. Full standing ovation. Thank you to each and every one of you that has helped me along the way in this journey to the world’s stage,” said Wesley Williams after breaking the world record in Monaco.
Concert celebrates Prince Rainier’s love of the circus
Two days before the circus festival begins, a special concert for children, dedicated to Prince Rainier’s love of the circus, will be taking place at the Auditorium Rainier III. Nine musicians will perform works by Nino Rota (the Godfather composer), Alfred Schnittke, Charlie Chaplin, Aram Khachaturian and Dmitri Shostakovich. Actor Joan Mompart and sand artist Marina Sosnina will help tell the sweet story of a circus artist who lived one of the most beautiful circus adventures in the world.
Tribute to the festival’s creator
The 46th Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival will feature special heartfelt tributes to its creator, Prince Rainier III. The Prince’s legacy continues to live on with the much-loved festival that has become an unparalleled staple in the international circus community for five decades.
What better way to close the Prince’s centenary year of celebrations than with the most important circus festival in the world?