There can be no doubt that Genís Matabosch (Figueres, 1977) is a stubborn and persevering individual who is unafraid of challenges. And not only that: his ambition to fulfill his dream and above all his passion helped him become director of one of the most prestigious international circuses in the world, l’Elefant d’Or in Girona. Matabosch has also been promoting Circusland- Palau de les Arts del Circ in Besalú, one of the most important international exbibitions on the circus, and is a regular juror for the best circus festivals in the world – Moscow, Wuqiao, Wuhan, Massy, Izevsk, Minsk, Odessa or Zhuhai. Recently, for his work on initiatives like these he has been awarded the gold medal for Merit in Fine Arts.
Where does this passion come from?
Not from my family, my parents were teachers. As a kid, I used to love going to the circus. We had a geographical advantage because we lived in Figueres, a cross-border town whose local festival always included the circus; in addition, like so many people from Figueres, we spent our summers in Roses, where there was also a circus. I also had a very kind mother, and before I got my driving licence, she would often drive me to France, where there were international circuses much bigger than those in Spain. It was reading One Hundred Years of Circus in Spain, by José Mario Armero i Ramón Pernas, that opened my eyes... I thought: “I love the circus, which is now decaying but had a wonderful past, and if it is to shine in the future, it will probably have to be lean on his past.” I started collecting circus paraphernalia at the age of twelve... thirty-two years ago!
You’re a jury member for some of the world’s major circus festivals, and the director of one the best. Are you proud?
To get to this point, the first thing I did was start working with the Raluy Circus, which I discovered in Gernika in 1996, even though they were from Catalonia. They had a tendency towards romantic and belle époque circuses, in the style of the Roncalli Circus from Germany. I was their manager while I was studying art history in Girona. And they even got the National Circus Award!
After the theory, the practice?
After graduating, I was awarded a scholarship by La Caixa and I went to study at the National Institute of Heritage, in Paris, for two years – that’s where public museum directors study in France. But I soon realised that even the consecrated Circus of Monte Carlo, an absolute benchmark, could do much more. After travelling a lot and seeing lots of circuses, I had the idea of creating a circus with attractions never seen before in Europe! I was lucky enough to do it in Albacete at the Teatro Circo, but after three great editions, the terrible crisis arrived. It was a really ambitious project: two shows in competition, a capacity of 15,000 spectators, live orchestra, prestigious jury... Then, in 2012, I decided to move the project in Figueres. And finally, it’s now established in Girona.
Is there a big circus tradition in Girona?
Girona has an immense circus tradition because it’s the entry point to the Peninsula the first big city you enter from Pertús, and the first stop for circus companies. The city has always welcomed circuses of huge prestige and historical significance.
As a circus fan, which act do you like best?
Icarian games - juggling with feet and other acrobats, in Martinez Brothers style; I’m also attracted to tightrope walkers at great heights and am fascinated by horseback riding, the origin of circus.
And any shows or artists for whom you have special devotion?
I never get tired of seeing the tightrope walkers from North Korea, who we brought here a few years ago, it was an amazing attraction. The King Warriors, a troupe of unicyclists playing Icarian games on top of Chinese unicycles that disintegrate –it was a very powerful milestone for our festival. Or acts that we brought for the last Christmas Circus, such as the Vietnamese Giang Brothers, who I discovered in Hanoi in 2010 and the Cuban gymnastics duo Leovel & Diosmani, who I discovered in Mexico in 2007.
Does anything surprise you? The bar is very high ...
Yes, indeed. But there are things that continue to amaze me, because the circus is in a constant state of renewal and always aims to do the most difficult, which is like a need it has to fulfil. Challenge is the engine of the circus.
And what can you tell us in advance about the 10th edition of the Elefant d’Or?
We face a dual challenge: celebrate our 10th anniversary, which was postponed by the pandemic, and the challenge posed by the panorama of uncertainties. But because we’re persevering, everything is ready to celebrate it from February 17 to 22 .