The foundation and popular theaters
( 1921-1973 )
In 1921 Don Gaetano Napoli inaugurated the Etna Theater in via Cantone in Cibali. Since then and until 1973 the Napoli family carries out an intense activity in the popular neighborhood theaters. We work with the historical craft , the puppets 1.30 meters high and heavy up to 35 kg.
All the stories of the Catania repertoire are staged in cyclical evening episodes. The representations of the cycle, addressed to an "initiated" public, who already knows characters and plots in advance, have the function of a real "liturgy", a rite, in the course of which the audience and puppeteers symbolically reconfirm the culture of group they belong to and find in the heroes the models of shared codes of behavior to conform to. Over the years the craft is continuously enriched with puppets, scenes and signs . At the same time, the rules and techniques of staging are acquired and refined, in their respective specializations, by the sons of Don Gaetano: Pippo, Rosario and Natale. This wealth of skills is subsequently passed on to Fiorenzo, Giuseppe, Salvatore and Gaetano, sons of Natale and Italia Chiesa Napoli. In 1931 the Marionettistica dei Fratelli Napoli receives, ex aequo with the puppeteer Nino Insanguine, the highest recognition in the First regional challenge of Sicilian puppets. In 1958, participating in the Universal Expo in Brussels, the Napoli obtained their first success in the international arena.
Tradition and innovation
( 1973 - present )
In these years the Napoli family, while remaining faithful to the codes and rules of traditional staging, worked to adapt the Catania Opira to the needs of a new audience. In fact, in the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century, the popular audience of the Opera dei Pupi began to desert the theaters. The era of evening shows was over. It was necessary to make a breach in an unpopular audience, in uninitiated people who knew little about the intertwining of chivalric stories and who in any case would not return to the theater the day after. The difficulties in adapting the puppet show were mainly of two kinds. First of all, it was necessary to build shows that presented an already concluded story in a single evening, giving up the traditional cyclical enjoyment, or in any case keeping it only for rare and special occasions. Then it was necessary to "calibrate" the traditional codes of staging with the taste of an audience other than the popular one. Another difficulty was added to these: it became less and less easy to find spaces that allowed the "big puppets" to act, since it was not always possible to find suitable rooms to set up their stage and proscenium. In order to solve the problem and bring the Catania puppets into confined spaces, such as gyms and school theaters, parish halls, conference rooms of clubs and cultural associations, Natale Napoli, adopting the suggestions of Nino Amico, came up with the idea in 1973 of the "small puppets" of cm. 80, which, reduced in size, allowed the Catania tradition to deal with a much greater number of audiences than the “big puppets” would have allowed.
The "puppets" marked a real "epochal transition": they, by keeping the codes, rules and techniques of the traditional staging absolutely intact, ensured the possibility of affecting a new audience of young people of school age and students to the Catania Opira university students, professionals, bourgeois, and men of culture.
In 1978 the Napoli brothers received the prestigious Praemium Erasmianum from the Dutch Royals, which “crowns people and institutions that have enriched European culture through their activity”. The official motivation with which the prize was awarded recognized the Naples for their commitment to adapt the ancient tales of chivalry of the Sicilian tradition to the needs and tastes of the contemporary public: "Quia secundum priscum morem Siciliae antiquas fabulas populares incorrupte nec tamen sine cura atque respectu spectatorum huius temporis exprimunt. "
Also in these years, on the death of his father Natale, Fiorenzo became the artistic director of the company and his sons Davide, Dario and Marco also learned the job, ensuring the continuity of the Catania tradition of the Opera dei Pupi.