The Opera dei Pupi


The Opera dei Pupi is a special puppet theatre that became popular in southern Italy, particularly in Sicily, in the early 1800s and has now been declared aUNESCO masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage.

It is the theatrical representation of the poems of medieval French literature of the Chanson de Roland or the Orlando Furioso, of the clashes between knights and Moors, in which the puppets are the expression and symbol of the desire for redemption and justice of a social class.

The Opera dei Pupi (Puppet Theatre) is closely linked to other forms of expression such as those of the Cantastorie – storytellers and the Cantàri who spread the adventures of chivalry through the cuntu (the tale). The adventures of these chivalric heroes are told in episodes.
Whereas the contastorie deals with epic themes through recitation, the Cantàri narrates in song.

The Opera dei Pupi is characterised by the transmission of a series of rather ancient codes of conduct that include a sense of honour, chivalry, the defence of justice and faith and the need to excel.

Fundamental to the staging of the opera is the Puparo, who, using a particular timbre of voice, creates atmospheres that are suggestive and full of tension, which are characteristic of epic scenes. The puppeteer acts according to the plot, i.e. he performs an improvised recitation, following a trace of the plot.
In the past, the performance ended with a farce: a puppet show in which the tones used by the characters were licentious and cheerful, as in the Sicilian fairytale tradition. On occasion, the puppeteers divulged content that the authorities did not like, using baccagghiu (mouthwash), a slang familiar to the underworld.

The Sicilian puppet originates from the classical European puppet but differs from the latter: the classical European puppet is moved by long strings of rope, while the Sicilian puppet is manoeuvred by means of two iron rods, one of which is attached to the hand and the other passes through the inside of the head. There are also four strings to allow the puppet to unsheathe his sword, move his left hand and raise the visor of his helmet.

The puppets have finely chiselled wooden frames and are fitted with real metal armour whose plates are individually created and machined, then welded and finally adorned. The final stage of workmanship involves mounting the puppet, which is made up of nine parts, including hands, fists, legs, torso, etc.

The puppets of the Palermo school are light and articulated, measuring approximately eighty centimetres in height and have an iron rod inside that passes through the torso and the head to support them.

There is another iron rod in the right arm that allows movement and a wire that runs through the closed hand that enables the puppet to pull out and replace the sword.

A wire connected to the left knee allows the puppet to genuflect, articulate steps and so on.

The pupi of the Catania school have fixed limbs, are around one metre twenty to thirty centimetres tall and can weigh up to 16 kg. A main and a secondary iron rod enable the right arm with the sword to be moved.

Catania puppeteers manoeuvre the scenes on boards called the “ponte di manovra”, which is positioned behind the backdrop.


Associazione Culturale e Teatrale “Carlo Magno” di E. Mancuso

Via Collegio di Santa Maria, 17 – Palermo

Tel. +39 091814 6971 – +39 03475792257

Associazione “I Pupi di Nino Canino”

presso Real Cantina Borbonica – Partinico

Tel. 334 1484944 email:

Figli D’Arte Cuticchio

Via Bara All’Olivella 95 – 90133 Palermo

Tel. +39 091323400 – Fax 091335922

Museo Internazionale delle Marionette A. Pasqualino

Via Butera 1 – 90133 Palermo

Tel. +39 091328060 / Fax 091328276

Opera dei Pupi di Vincenzo Argento e figli

Via Vittorio Emanuele, 445 – Palermo

Tel. +39 0916113680 – +39 03332935028

Teatro Kemonia di Franco Cuticchio

Via Dei Benedettini n 9 Palermo

Tel. +39 3515490399

Marionettistica Fratelli Napoli

Via Reitano, 55 – 95121 – Catania

Tel. +39 095341052

Opera dei pupi di Turi Grasso

Via Nazionale per Catania, 195 – 95024 Acireale (CT)

Tel. +39 0957648035 – +39 3478061464 – +39 3291189522 –

Mostra Permanente dell’Opera dei Pupi

Via Alessi, 5 – 95024 Acireale (CT)

Tel. +39 095 7685611

Teatro Museo dei Pupi Siciliani

Locali Pro-Loco Giarre, Mons. Alessi, 8 – 95014 – Giarre (CT)

Tel. +39 095 9704257 – fax 095 7798557

Compagnia Marionette Don Ignazio Puglisi

Via Catullo 2 – Sortino – Siracusa

Tel. +39 0931956163

Compagnia dei Pupari Vaccaro Mauceri

Ernesto Puzzo – Via Giudecca, 5 – Siracusa

Tel/fax +39 0931465540

Opera dei Pupi di G. Canino

Via S. Ippolito, 16/c – 91011 Alcamo (TP)

Tel. +39 0924506354

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