Opera dei Pupi

People of Sicily are proud of their puppet theatre known as Opera dei Pupi or in Sicilian Opira dî Pupi. It includes beautiful handmade marionette puppets. These puppets are made of wood.

Two centres of the Sicilian puppetry are Palermo and Catania. Puppets from Catania are twice the size of those from Palermo. There are some differences in shape of puppets. Operating techniques used during plays also differ a bit. Puppets similar to those Sicilian ones exist in Naples and in the Italian province of Puglia (Apulia).

Opera dei Pupi
Opera dei Pupi

Characters and themes of plays are based on the Sicilian history, medieval literature and local folklore. Opera dei Pupi includes two groups of characters – heroes and villains. Roger (Ruggiero) and Tancred (Tancredi) are two heroes of the Norman conquest. Godfrey (Goffredo) and Reynald (Rinaldo) are fictional characters based on legends about the Crusades. Still the most popular hero of the Opera dei pupi is Orlando.

Villains are based on legends about Saracens who used ruled Sicily many centuries ago. Agricane is the villain who has the title of King of Mongolia. He fights with Orlando for the love of princess. A sorceress called Alcina is another enemy of Orlando. Argante is a mighty warrior. There are plays in which he fights with Tancred in Jerusalem.

Opera dei Pupi includes lot of improvisations. Person handling the puppet is both skilled puppeteer and great improviser. There are numerous fights between characters. Nowadays tourists can buy simplified versions of Sicilian puppets as souvenirs.