The eternal enchantment of Moira Orfei’s Circus

by Filippo Ferretti 

Moira Orfei.JPG (13314 bytes) 

For a real comprehension of what Moira Orfei symbolizes for an Italian audience, it is enough to assist at one of her shows, and to hear the loud cheers paying homage to this noble Gipsy.

Since a terrible car accident, she cannot perform on the ring, but appears only at the end of the exhibitions, to give her smile. She is indeed the real Queen of the Circus, representing the Italian Circus, because she is in everybody’s imagination, a real symbol of a high level show.

Moira’s magic is to have been capable, in about fifty years of career, to construct an unassailable credit in all kind of spectators, and not only at a particular age or social level. For all people, she is “Moira of the Elephants”, and this for the deep artistic tie she always had with her friends the pachyderms; but she was an eclectic artist (trapeze, horses, doves...).


Moira is the most famous delegate of an important Circus family, the Orfei, that with the Togni represents in Italy the circus, as the Bouglione’s and the Gruss’ in France. This diffuse success comes on one hand, from his family of origin, but on the other, from her simplicity, from her numerous appearances in TV, from her films (47, among them some with TotÚ, Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio De Sica), and also for her famous placards, that for thirty years have always been the same, showing her smiling and unmistakeable face. Her being a personage with well marked characteristics (as make-up, hair, clothes), and also for her love for the family, for animals, and for the Circus, represent her consolidated strength of trade mark, like Coca Cola.

Moira Orfei, having at her the attentive direction of her husband, Walter Nones, had a major role in important initiatives of the Italian Circus, introducing novelties as the Russian circus, China National Circus, up to the extraordinary experience of the great circus on ice, “Holiday on Ice”.

To speak about Moira Orfei profoundly, means to speak of a great part of Italian Circus history, of the quite mythical history of Orfei’s family; it means to speak about circus elephants, to speak about shows... Moira is really all this, and more and more; she is an extraordinary artist, and unfortunately a severe car accident that brought on some health problem, took this real myth from the love of circus fans. We are waiting, Moira, to see you again in the ring with your elephants, to dream again, to be enchanted by you again.

And hoping to have Moira still on the ring, the tradition goes on; she is just nine years old, but with the promise of becoming a great artist: is Moira Jr., the daughter of Lara Nones Orfei (daughter of Moira), that with the father Micha Malachikne, takes part in the show with two hands and a free acrobatic performance, in which she demonstrates a very serious preparation, with the promise of great success.


In the last two years, Moira Orfei’s Circus has renewed its look, its image, its impact on the public. The new Circus tent, that makes its debut in Florence (Christmas and New Year 2001), changed its blue and light blue colours into black and yellow strips; cars and lorries changed their esthetical aspect, magically transformed in wonderful works of art, having painted on their wheels the different activities if circus life, animals, artists, and of course the unfailing Moira.

Moira Orfei and Walter Nones, the Director of the circus, extended the family’s performances presented by Stefano Nones Orfei (a wonderful group of tigers, with also the rare white tiger, the elephants and the high riding school), to other numbers of a very high level, as “The Jaster’s”, a duo of infallible knife throwers, and the duo “Gurriero”, tightrope walkers.


The show opens with Martine Chabry, a clever quick-change actress who, having as co-worker Pier, presents a quick, airy and musical number.

After, the Saby’s family, clowns, that with music and laughs prepare the public to welcome an exotic performance. To the great astonishment of the public, a group of African zebra and antelopes comes into the ring, presented by Freddy Perris and Stefano Nones Orfei. Poppea follows, a pygmean hippopotamus, and a wonderful choreography of Asiatic dromedaries and lama coming from Tibet. The ostrich, the buffalo, and a splendid example of giraffes, closes this number, that gained a “Silver clown” at the Montecarlo International Festival. The show go on with the Jaster’s, international artists with crossbow and knives, Giurintano’s number (three brothers on roller skates), and Hevin Huesca, a ventriloquist.

So, we arrive at the final number of the first part of the show: the high riding school. Stefano Nones Orfei, the son of the mythical Moira, with a group of superb horses acting in a Spanish atmosphere, and Gerard Koch, a German artist, that brings on six white horses, a show of extreme elegance and fascination.

The second part of the show open with a classical number in a cage: Stefano Nones Orfei with six marvellous tigers; among them the rare white tiger. It’ is a very spectacular performance, that places Stefano Nones Orfei and his father, Walter Nones (the husband of Moira), as two of the greatest tamers “in sweetness” in the artistic panorama of the Italian circus.

The Gurriero, artists of international fame, on high flex presents for the first time in Italy a great exhibition: an ancient discipline of a great tradition, however not much performed.

The great suggestion of Moira Orfei’s show ends with the elephants, that are the Circus symbol. Moira has been, and always will be “Moira of the Elephants”, an extraordinary artist that proposed an innovating performance with these great pachyderms (a group of six, also with an Indian one), giving great emotion among the public, and of whom we feel the absence.

The last scene, as the first, is one of the most dreamiest moment: lights, music, a big inflatable castle in the centre of the ring, and all the artists, up to the entry, as a real Queen, of Moira on a chariot shining of lights and colours.


This is “Moira 2003”, the show produced by Walter Nones, that makes its debut at Christmas in Naples with great success, going to important towns as Torino.

Moira Orfei’s circus is, of course, one of the finest shows in Europe; a Circus of great tradition, and the symbol in Italy, with Moira, of this kind of spectacle.

It is a little travelling town, with almost a hundred animals, and more than a hundred and fifty among artists and staff, living and working under the shade of the big top.

When Moira arrives, every town changes: posters, placards with the image that from more than thirty years represents Moira all over the world. All this, has a great impact on the public; this Circus is not in need of luring its public, to advertise its artists as exceptional: the image of Moira is enough to ensure a great performance.

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