Pupi Siciliani (Sicilian Marionettes)

The Pupi are hand-made wooden marionettes typical of the Sicilian tradition. The Opera dei Pupi is a theatrical representation featuring the traditional hand-made wooden marionettes. The Sicilian tradition of cantastorî (singers of tales) are rooted in the Provençal troubadour tradition in Sicily during the reign of Frederick II, in the first half of the 13th century. It was born in southern Italy around the end of the XIX century, even though we have some traces of this kind of representation since Xenophon and Socrates. In 2001 it was the first Italian heritage to be included in the UNESCO’s list of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The puppets, representing the Frankish romantic heroes of the Song of Roland and Orlando furioso, are dressed with real armor richly decorated and carved with a wooden structure that allows them to move freely on stage. (continued below)

The photographs above were taken in Palermo at Teatrino figli d’arte Cuticchio and in Catania at Fratelli Napoli.

(continuation of above)
The marionettes may have different features based on the schools they belong to. The Palermitanian Pupi are 80 cm (31.5 inches) tall and 10 kilos (22 lbs.). Their movements are smooth and graceful, and it may happen that pieces of their bodies, as the head and arms, can fall off during a combatment. The Catanian marionettes are 1 meter and half (59 inches) tall and 25 kilos (55 lbs) of weight. They are more stiff because of their less flexible body structure, but on the other hand, they are more decorated and elegant than the Palermitanian marionettes. Even the theathers have different shapes depending on the tradition they follow: in Palermo, the size is smaller than that one in Catania where they are built in warehouses or stables and may reach 10 m (33 ft) length and be richly decorated with real fabric.
The Puparo (puppeteer), using a particular tone of voice, creates atmospheres with suggestiveness and tense that characterize the peculiarly epic scenes. In Palermo, one person creates the voices of all the characters, while in Catania, the Pupi are animated by numerous speakers.

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