Fregoli was one of the greatest quick change artists — perhaps THE greatest — of all time. So great was he, that the psychiatric community named a mental illness after him: the Fregoli Delusion, wherein the sufferer imagines everyone he encounters is the same (different) person, wearing a diabolical disguise. Fregoli sounds remarkable — not only adept at elaborate quick changes, but also a gifted mimic and opera singer (he could sing every part in Faust). In other words, unlike most Protean artists, who are silent, he augmented his shapeshifting with VOICE shifting. Sounds almost terrifying. Fregoli was an international act. An Italian national, after success in his own country, he went on to conquer Paris, London and New York (where he played Hammerstein’s Olympia in 1896 and the Victoria, in 1906). He also made a number of magical films (“Fregoligrafs”) similar to those of Melies, in the 1890s. In his later years, he is said to have influenced the Futurists. He died in 1936. The inscription on the headstone reads “His Last Transformation”.
To find out more about vaudeville and quick change artists like Fregoli, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
[…] If all the Olympia had to offer was cheese like the Cherry Sisters, Hammerstein would have been rapidly laughed out of town, or at least down to the Bowery. But, as an opera impresario, he had the rare know-how to offset his tastelessness with doses of taste. Among the class acts he imported for the Olympia Music Hall in the late 90s were French chanteuse Yvette Guilbert, England’s greatest music hall comedian Dan Leno (no relation to Jay), Italian quick-change artist Leopoldo Fregoli. […]
[…] changing hers. This kind of show has a grand old pedigree, stretching back over the years from Leopoldo Fregoli….through Ruth Draper…through Chic Sale…through Jonathan Winters…through […]
Great Post! I didn’t know anyone knew about Quick Change artists anymore. I was working on a book in the 80’s on QC in American Vaudeville. During the 2nd year of research I realized I had a prospective readership of maybe 100 people. 😉 Included chapters on The Great Lafayette, Fregoli, Owen McGiveney, etc.
Hope all is well. Thanks for the blog entries. Great stuff!
Thanks, Jim. well I for one would really want to read such a book. I especially REALLY want to know their secrets. I saw an act at Big apple circus a few years that really had me breathless. at a certain point the change happened while they were onstage, with only falling glitter to momentarily obscure them
That must have been the Russian dancers. YES..They are amazing.
MY book wasn’t really about the ‘how’ but the why. I did learn quite a few tricks along the way but they mostly had to do with techniques that no one uses anymore (due to the invention of velcro.)
Would be interested in sharing some stories with you at some point.