Obituaries: Guido Muntwyler
Wednesday 01 September 1999
He created a small circus full of atmosphere, charm and originality. Yet he spent his early working days as a schoolteacher in Wohlen, where he had been born in 1932. His love of children and of the circus combined to change the direction of his life when, in 1980, with his wife Hildegard, he went full-time into the circus world, quitting teaching to become a clown. For three years they worked as a clown family, the Montis, at the Circus Olympia, followed by a year at the Circus Medrano.
Switzerland had several long- established circuses run by dynasties going back for generations, among them the Knies, Gassers and Nocks. But, working at Medrano, Muntwyler found that its owners Urs and Romina Strasser were first-generation circus proprietors, the first "private" people in Switzerland who in 1978 had started up their own circus. Muntwyler was thus inspired to start his own travelling circus in 1985.
Each year, Muntwyler himself appeared in the ring as its principal clown, a friendly character with long-flowing grey hair, loved by the children. He and his wife presided over the company as benign benefactors, but also controlled the business side as their children gradually took over more of the running of the show. Their three sons, Johannes, Nikolaus and Andi, also became talented performers, developing skills as animal trainers, jugglers, acrobats, aerialists and wire walkers.
Despite the ever-growing popularity of his circus, Muntwyler remained a simple and lovable man. He was a popular attender at the annual Festival du Cirque de Demain in Paris, where he established his own award for promising young acts, and where he always could find fresh talent to feature in his own show. Thus, although the show was considered small, its quality was never in doubt and it was presented with a showman's flair stronger than any of its rivals.
Circus Monti began to feature some of the circus world's top acts, among them the Zoppi-Laribles Troops; the Galaxys aerial act from Czechoslovakia; the Korean trapeze star Nguyen Qyang Minh; Duo Mazotti from Hungary; the Chinese cycling star Guo Ping; the aerial duo Robinson; the 4 Kings' bar act; the Casablanca Troupe; the diabolo star Hans Joachim Schell; the wire-walker Samoa; the Jemiola Troupe of trampolinists; Britain's BMX champion Rob Alton; the outstanding Russian comedy team Legostaev and Bougaitsov; Pascal Angelier's trapeze act; and a number of leading Russian and Chinese attractions. The Taekinis' aerial act is now being featured by Circus Knie; the Popovs' trampoline act is now one of the big successes in the "Eclipse" circballet at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach; the remarkable slackwire comedian Ivachenko is now a top star with Circus Roncalli in Germany; and the juggler Eddy Carello is now with the rival Circus Royal in Switzerland. Many young artistes were given their first break in show business by Muntwyler.
In 1998, Circus Monti reached a new artistic high when Muntwyler teamed up with the famous Swiss mime artiste Dimitri, who came from the mime school of Etienne Decroux and the great Marcel Marceau, and who had himself become a big star at the Circus Knie, where he was featured three times.
Dimitri had founded his own circus and mime school in 1978 and last year brought his talented group to Circus Monti to create a totally new style of travelling circus entertainment which proved so successful that it was retained by Muntwyler for the 1999 season.
Guido Muntwyler, circus director: born Wohlen, Switzerland 1932; married Hildegard Wulser (three sons, one daughter); died Schaan, Switzerland 19 June 1999.
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 3 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 4 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
- 5 Paracetamol Challenge: Mother of girl killed by overdose pleads with teenagers not to take part
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
'I was raped as a child, and only now can I tell my story': How James Rhodes fought the law courts in a battle to be heard
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'