Puppet Opera

Puppet Opera is a specific type of puppet theatre that was developed in southern Italy and Sicily in the early 1800s. It is Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The Opera of the Puppets was traditionally a theatrical performance of Frankish romantic poems like The Song of Roland Orlando furioso. The puppets were used as symbols of the desire to retaliate and seek justice for a particular social class.

Pupi siciliani – ph. Paolo Barone

The Opera dei Pupi has a close relationship with other forms, such as the ” Cantastorie“, and the ” Cantari“, which are singers of tales. Episodes tell the stories of these heroic, chivalrous characters. The Storyteller focuses on themes of epic nature through acting, while the Singers of Tales tells the story through song.

Il Puparo – ph. Paolo Barone

Opera dei Pupi’s mission is to transmit a set of ancient codes of conduct, including sense of honour, chivalry and defense of justice, faith and the need for excellence.

The puppeteer is the person responsible for the puppet show. A puppeteer who uses a specific tone of voice creates an atmosphere that is filled with tension and suggestiveness, which is what characterises epic scenes.

A puppeteer recites a canovaccio (vague outline of the plot) or performs a drama that is based on improvisation. In the past, the performance ended in a farce. This was a show where the characters used cheerful and bawdy tones. These tones are derived from the Sicilian folktale tradition. Sometimes, the puppeteers communicated content that was not popular with authorities using the Baccagghiu (baccaglio), a slang well-known to criminals.

Duello nell’Opera dei Pupi – ph. Paolo Barone

Although the Sicilian puppet takes its origins from the classic European marionette, it is different in that the former uses long strings to move the puppet. The classical European puppet moves with two strings while the Sicilian puppet uses two rods. One goes inside the head and the other connects to the hand.

Four pieces of string are used to allow the puppet to draw the sword and move its left hand to lift the helmet’s visor. They are made of finely chiselled wood and have real armour. Armour is made from metal plates, from which parts can be cut. Then these parts are wrought and welded to create the ornament. The frame of the puppets is the final part. It consists of nine pieces: hands, fists and legs.

Opera dei Pupi – ph. Paolo Barone

The puppets from Palermo, which are lightweight, measure around eighty centimetres in height and have an iron rod inside their bodies, running through their head and torso, to support them.

The right arm is fitted with an additional iron rod. This allows for movement. A wire runs through the hand and allows the puppet to draw or replace the sword.

The left knee is connected to a wire that allows the puppet to kneel, take a step, and so forth.

The puppets from the Catania school are heavier and have fixed limbs. They can reach up to 16kg and can stand around one metre and twenty, thirty, or thirty centimetres tall. Catania’s puppeteers use an axe called bridge for maneuvering, which is hidden 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

Figli D’Arte Cuticchio

Via Bara all’olivella 95 – 90133 Palermo

Tel. Tel.

Museo Internazionale delle Marionette A. Pasqualino

Via Butera 1 – 90133 Palermo

Tel. Tel.

Opera dei Pupi di Vincenzo Argento e figli

Via Vittorio Emanuele, 445 – Palermo

Tel. +39 0916113680 – +39 03332935028

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 – [email protected]

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, p.za Mons. Alessi, 8 – 95014 – Giarre (CT)

Tel. Tel.

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

UNESCO List of Intangible World Heritage

Sicilian Puppet Opera

Fondazione Patrimonio UNESCO Sicilia

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