Interview with Michel Michelis, Ringmaster for Cirque de Bohème

The Marin County Mart in Larkspur is hosting a special performance by “Cirque de Bohème,” a 1920's Parisian-style circus on Friday, December 23. I caught up with founder and ringmaster of Le Cirque de Bohème, Michel Michelis (a.k.a. Michael Saga) to learn more about this amazing old fashion circus.

When did you come to the US?

I was born and raised in the south of France. The first time I came to San Francisco was in 1997. I travelled between California and France because I work with different circuses that travel around Europe and The Bay Area. I am working three months with Cirque du Soleil as ringmaster, as well as touring in France with Cirque Plume, Cirque Bulle and Le Cirque d’Hiver in Paris, the oldest circus building in the world.

Can you tell me about the upcoming Le Petit Cirque de Noël?

We created this special performance for the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur. It’s a 1920’s style Circus based on the French tradition. For over a century, all the circus’ open in Paris and families from all over make a special trip to see the circus during winter break. This is why we create "Le Petit Cirque de Noël" which means “The Little Circus of Christmas,” to recreate this special tradition in the Bay Area. This year we present our new show “Somewhere” an original story with fun, poetry, and magical trick !!

These stories are part of an old-fashion French circus. It’s not you just sit and see a set of artists perform and that’s it. Our circus goes back to the roots of the 18th century Europe where the Gypsies create the music, set and story.

I read that you are the voice of Tomber in Cars 2. 

Yes, I did the voice-over for Tomber. My first job in Paris was with the Arts Conservatory as an actor. After that I became a singer, speaker on the radio in Paris, and ringmaster in the circus. I also write the circus show and novels.

And you are a blues singer as well. What does singing the blues mean to you?

People in France know me as a blues singer more then anything else. I grew up in the South of France and at ten I heard John Lee Hooker on the radio. I was shocked by his voice because I never heard blues until then. I wanted to hear more so my dad bought me one of his albums. I immediately thought this is great. I started writing songs when I was 15 and met some blues musicians. I came to America to learn about blues music. It was my passion. Then I went back to France to record my first blues album. Since I have a very unique singing voice it was an immediate success. My voice is described as a combo of Tom Waites and John Lee Hooker. I love that!

Is it difficult to write French blues music? 

It’s so easy. The French language is very appropriate to sing the blues because it is the language of the soul and my soul speaks French so my music is in French. French has more words to describe a situation then English. One word can mean four different things. In English, the words are very specific. It’s a treasure to write the blues in French.

What advice would you give to a kid who is interested in performing in the circus or become a musician?

What ever you choose to do, just follow your dreams. If you want to be a circus artist go ahead. In the Bay Area you have access to so many great circus schools, camps and talented artists. It’s a great job to bring happiness to people every night with what you do. 

Tickets for Le Petit Cirque de Noël on sale now at the Marin County Mart in Larkspur. Only two performances on December 23 at 5:15pm & 7:30pm. Seating is very limited. To reserve tickets, call 415-448-5043 or order online. Special treats with a French flavor will be available for purchase at the circus from Rustic Bakery, Belcampo, El Huarache Loco and Farmshop including crêpes, roasted chestnuts, organic hot dogs, and French hot chocolate.