The Sicilian puppet theatre is one of Sicily’s greatest traditional art forms;
the cultural importance of this art form was recognized by Unesco
in 2001, when it was included on the World Heritage list.
The “Puppets” are not controlled by strings,
but by iron rods;
this means that they can make certain very precise gestures,
such as kneeling down or beating their breasts.
There are two branches of puppet traditions:
The Palermo tradition and the Catania tradition.
Each has different techniques,
both in making the Sicilian puppet and in the performances.
The former tradition has smaller, lighter more flexible Sicilian puppets;
the latter are larger and heavier,
as well as less flexible,
and more elaborately decorated.
Puppet theater has very ancient origins.
Some sources document the skill of Syracusan in making and
at the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The puppet theater as we know it today,
dates from the 16th-century;
the stories performed are inspired by Italian and French
epic poems of chivalry.
Subsequently, themes became simpler,
and the puppets began to represent familiar subject,
related to everyday life,
which are known and loved by Sicilian.
The performances used to take place outside in town squares;
in the 19th-century they began to be performed in theaters,
and puppets became increasingly complex and detailed,
requiring skilled workmanship by considerable numbers of
carpenters, tailors, painters and sculptors.
Sicilian puppet in Palermo and the Cuticchio family
Today many companies work to keep the puppet tradition alive:
The Cuticchio family run the ” teatro del pupo Santa Rosalia “ in Palermo,
where every evening, spectators can enjoy the magic of
the world of puppets, fighters, actors, knights and heroes.
The compagnia di Mimmo Cuticchio also organizes the
” Dream machine “, a wonderful festival for children and adults
where the streets are filled with decorations and street performers,
from afternoon to midnight in the second half of July.
Another place which is very involved with puppet theater
is the Catania Teatro Stabile.