ORIGINS OF THE OPERA DEI PUPI

The puppets of the eighteenth century were animated from above a thin metal rod connected to the head through a joint and by several wires, which allowed the movements of the arms and legs. In Sicily, in the 1830s, a brilliant architect whose name we do not know came up with the effective technical devices that transformed the puppets into puppets. He made sure that the metal rod for the movement of the head was no longer connected to it by a joint, but passed through it from the inside and - more importantly - replaced the thin wire for the animation of the right arm with the sturdy metal rod, characteristic of the Sicilian puppet. These technical innovations made it possible to give the animated figures faster, more direct and decisive movements, and therefore particularly effective for “imitating” on the scene duels and fights, which played so much part in chivalric stories.

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STYLES

There are two different traditions, or "styles", of the Opera dei Pupi in Sicily: the Opra Palermitana , established in the capital and widespread in the western part of the island, and the Opira Catanese , established in the Etnean city and widespread, broadly , in the eastern part of the island and also in Calabria. The chronicles tell that the initiator of Opira in Catania was Don Gaetano Crimi, who opened his first theater in 1835. The two traditions differ in size and weight of the puppets, in some aspects of the mechanics and of the maneuvering system, but above all for a different theatrical and show conception, which has meant that in the Catania area a much wider chivalrous repertoire than the one in Palermo and in many respects different.

OPRA PALERMITANA

OPIRA CATANESE

Dimensions of the puppets : From cm. 80 to one meter high.

Weight : Up to about 8 kg.

Mechanics features : Legs with knee joint; if the puppet is a warrior, the sword can be unsheathed and placed in the scabbard.

Maneuvering system : From the sides, with outstretched arms: the maneuvers are positioned behind the side wings of the stage and place their feet on the same floor as the puppets.

Scenic space : Action area of the puppets deeper than wide: the width of the stage is limited by the ability of the operators to lean out of the wings without being seen from the sides.

Theatrical and entertainment concept : More stylized .

Dimensions of the puppets : From cm. 80 to m. 1.30 in height.

Weight : Up to approx. 35 kg.

Mechanical characteristics : Stiff legs, without knee joint; if the puppet is a warrior, the sword is almost always held in the right hand.

Maneuvering system : From the top of a bridge behind the seabed ( 'u scannappoggiu ): the manianti , that is the animators, support the puppets by placing their feet on a thick wooden board suspended about a meter from the ground ( ' a faddacca ).

Scenic space :   Action area of the puppets wider than deep: the animators, walking on the animation bridge, can easily follow the puppet across the entire width of the scene.

Theatrical and show conception : More tragic, sentimental and realistic.

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GLOSSARY

In the glossary you can find all the definitions, technical terms and names relating to the world of Opera dei Pupi present on the site. To facilitate the search, the aforementioned terms have been arranged in alphabetical order.