Daniel Polydor

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Leopoldo Fregoli

Leopoldo Fregoli, singer and quick change artist, was born in Rome in the Via Della Stamperia (Printing House Road) in 1867. From his early adolescent years, he supported himself by doing a variety of jobs until he discovered the erstwhile variety shows, in which he performed as a comic, singer and illusionist.
In 1887 Leopoldo left for military service in Africa. In Massaua he became a celebrity, thanks to the shows to which he gave life. His return to Rome gave him the chance to debut at the singers-café "Esedra", resulting in huge success. In 1893, he formed the "Compagnia di Varieta Internazionale" (The International Variety Company) and the "Compagnia fin di secolo" (The End of the Century Company), with which he toured Italy, singing, acting and making the most of his gift as a great quick-change artist. Leopoldo’s solo act followed a storyline and had him changing voices, changing costumes and moving frenetically, building up a series of irresistible and seemingly endless situations. His shows met with exceptional success, also internationally, to the point that the term "Fregolism" was coined and then immortalised in the vocabulary of the "Accademia della Crusca" (an institution responsible for upholding the Italian language) as a synonym for fast and lavish transformation.
Domenico Oliva writes of him, "Fregoli is one of those artists that don’t know how to resign themselves to the same path, with all of their study revolving around surpassing and exceeding and transforming; always, and always better" (taken from the "Story of Roman Songs, compiled by Giuseppe Micheli, Rome 1966).
Between 1896 and 1898, Leopoldo performed at the Olympia in New York, at the Alhambra in London, and even in St. Petersburg, Berlin and Vienna. In 1900, he starred at the "Trianon" and the "Olympia" in Paris. Between 1914 and 1915 he toured Latin America. In 1925, still at the height of his success, he decided to abandon the stage and retired to Viareggio, where he died in 1936.

Autograph of Leopoldo Fregoli, dated 6/12/1902-  
(From the Private colletion of  Daniel Polydor)

" Non si può vivere senza trasformarsi....."


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