Cesare Togni

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Circus Owner, Director, and Performer

By Raffaele De Ritis


When he passed away on October 1, 2008, Cesare Togni was the oldest member of the Togni family, one of Italy's foremost circus dynasties. He was a beloved circus director who made his mark on the history of the Italian and European circus.

Born in 1924, Cesare was the son of Ugo Togni (1897-1981) and Ugo's wife, a former acrobat, tumbler, and animal trainer. As an artist, Cesare is best remembered as the principal flyer in his family's flying-trapeze act: in 1956, he became the first flyer ever to execute a triple return pirouette from the catcher to the trapeze.

In the mid-1950s, Cesare founded his own circus with his brother Oscar. Originally called Circo Massimo, it was the largest three-ring circus ever seen in Europe; eventually it became the celebrated, albeit more modest, [[The Togni Family|Circo Cesare Togni]. For decades, Cesare's circus was the Italian destination for some of the world's finest circus acts, including trapeze legends Tony Steele, Enzo Cardona, the Palacios, and the Jimenez.

It was at Circo Cesare Togni that David Larible was given the opportunity to do his first steps as a clown. The elegant and classy Circo Cesare Togni toured extensively in Europe. In 1983, Cesare returned to the three-ring format, with a circus that was transported entirely in containers; he later reverted to the classic one-ring format.

Cesare trained his sons—Elvio, Alex, Italo, and Viviana—in all classic equestrian and acrobatic disciplines, as well as in elephant training. His circus ceased operation in the early 1990s, although its name was sometimes revived in associations between Cesare and other Italian families.

Cesare spent his last years at Circo Americano, led by his cousin Enis, where he supervised his sons' elephant acts and pyramids-on-horseback.

See Also