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The Sicilian Puppet Theatre

Italy, Cefalù
Von Birgit Kohl   auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Curtain for the 'pupi siciliani'
In 2001, the Sicilian Puppet Theatre was placed on UNESCO's list of Immaterial Heritages of Humanity, because of its extraordinary cultural richness. This recognition sets this traditional art form alongside other artistic expressions from all over the world that are very specific.
The Sicilian Puppet Theatre - Heritage of Humanity

The Sicilian Puppet Theatre in the Course of History
Once, and it was not so long ago, the Puppet Theatre was a daily show for the Sicilians. One evening after the other, people gathered at the little theatre to
follow the stories of Orlando, Rinaldo, Bradamante and Angelica, siding with
one or the other and hitting out at the baddies.

Today the place of those little theatres has been taken by TV and other forms of entertainment, but the puppets preserve their charm, and even though there are few puppeteers their shows do not fail to attract attention and curiosity. 

The Way towards an Immaterial Heritage of Humanity
This is probably because thanks to their absolutely original stylistic and figurative structure the Sicilian puppets succeed in representing in an excellent way the epic and chivalrous spirit, values that, in spite of all technology, still belong to Sicilian culture.

Because of the extraordinary cultural richness of the Opra, in 2001 it was
placed on UNESCO"s list of Immaterial Heritages of Humanity, a recognition that sets this traditional art form alongside other artistic expressions from all over the world that are very specific.

Gallant and mythical balladeers
The Opra dei Pupi, as a representation of the clashes between the knights of
Charlemagne and the "wicked" Moors, came into being in the second half of the nineteenth century: the chivalrous marionettes, with their typical 
characters, served to represent the thirst for justice of the less fortunate social classes.

At the same time, epic stories were told by the "cuntisti", itinerant balladeers that, day after day, performed in front of a public of fond listeners. The fortune of the genre is also strongly linked to its proximity to certain codes of behaviour rooted in the Sicilians, from the sense of honour to the struggle for justice, values that, though in the simple form of the Opra, were transmitted and consolidated in theatrical narration.

Sketch for the Puppet Theatre
The stories were mainly based on chivalrous subjects, first of all the Chansons de Geste, but there were also other themes, from that of bandits to the stories strongly tied to Catania - of the aristocratic Uzeda family.
Today, alongside these subjects there are also other more fanciful ones, for instance Greek myths, which are represented at a little theatre in Syracuse.

The Puppet Theatre - An Expression of Art
Each family of puppeteers has its own preferences and traditions, its own techniques for manoeuvring the puppets (which vary a great deal in size, depending on the area of Sicily), scenery and backdrops, which are painted by hand, religiously guarded and handed down.

The making of the marionettes and the different components of the scenery are also a form of art in themselves, with particular specialization, tricks and skills. Each puppet must be strongly characterized.

The Puppet Theatre at the Museum
Today, besides the puppeteers still active on the island, there are also some museums that preserve the old tradition of the Opra: among them there is the big Marionette Museum in Palermo (MiMa), the Museum of Sicilian Puppets in Caltagirone and the Museum of the Puppet Theatre at Sortino. At some of these museums there are also short and simple performances for a first experience of this particular theatrical form.
Battlefield Puppet Theatre


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"Italy" (Italian: "Italia") is a large country in Southern Europe. Together with Greece, it is acknowledged as the birthplace of Western culture. Not surprisingly, it is also home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage
"Italy" (; ), officially the "Italian Republic" (), a country located in south-central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia along the Alps. To the south it consts of the entirety of the
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