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Puppet Opera: discover the Sicilian theatrical tradition

Listed among UNESCO's intangible heritage, the Puppet Opera is a craftsmanship that has its roots in traditional Sicilian culture. The art of puppet theater, Opera dei Pupi in Sicilian ("pupo" in Sicilian means in fact marionette, or child), is passed down orally from generation to generation. Stories of kings, princesses and paladins have been told for decades, amid intrigue and romance.

I tradizionali Pupi siciliani
Traditional Sicilian Puppets

The history of Sicilian Puppets

Established in Sicily between the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the Puppets Opera is a theatrical performance with ancient origins, based on the stories of characters inspired by the songs and poems of the Carolingian cycle.

It was initially born as a small street theater performance, taking direct inspiration from the performances of storytellers. It soon became one of the most iconic Sicilian performances, in which the Puppeteers (Pupari in Sicilian) also engaged in staging the puppet show.

The Sicilian Pupi theater differs from other puppet theaters, however, not only in the way it works, but also in terms of the performances, which are based on a repertoire of chivalric narratives. Among the most recurrent themes are clashes between Charlemagne's paladins and Muslim warriors, but also moral themes, centered on the principles of justice and freedom.

How Sicilian Puppets are made

Sicilian puppets were constructed with great skill by artisans, known as “Pupari”. They present, to this day, a wooden frame and are adorned with cloth clothes and metal armor. Stage costumes have always held great importance, as they allow the audience to immediately recognize the various characters: the king is characterized by sumptuous robes and a crown, the knights by the armor, and the Saracens by turbans and sabers.

Voices also hold great importance in Puppet Theater, allowing for immediate characterization of the characters: the knights traditionally had gentler voices, while the enemies, the Saracens, were portrayed with darker voices.

Unlike puppets, which were controlled by wires, the Pupi were soon equipped with iron rods, which allowed the characters to make more precise and deliberate movements. In fact, the movements of the puppets were especially important during performances of duels and fights, which were very frequent in Carolingian fiction.

Il Teatro dei Pupi di Siracusa
Discover the Puppets Theatre of Syracuse

The Puppet Theater of Syracuse

Syracuse, too, follows the regional tradition, staging the ancient exploits of kings and knights for more than 40 years in the famous Puppet Theater. The city has always been at the center of Sicilian puppet art, with ancient evidence of the mastery of Syracuse's puppeteers. Located on the island of Ortigia, not far from the Duomo, the theater offers the opportunity to watch puppet shows and so much more, with a cultural offer capable of integrating tradition and innovation.

The Puppet Museum allows visitors to delve into the history of Syracuse and, in particular, of the island of Ortigia, with a tour characterized by the display of puppets, props and scenic material.

Participate in a Puppet workshop

Learn all the secrets of the Puppets of Syracuse by taking part in the Puppet Workshop. Follow the teachings of Master Puppeteer Daniel Mauceri: make your own puppet and learn how to operate it. Contact us for information and reservations.


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