Some 600 puppets are resident in the Salzburg Marionette Theatre – each one hand-crafted and unique, for the heads were made by different artists, from Salzburg and from all over the world.
Anton Aicher was born in a small village in southern Styria in 1859. His talent for wood-carving was already apparent in his early years, and he was apprenticed to a well-known altar carver and later sent to the Academy of Art in Vienna. The young sculptor was appointed to teach the sculpture class at the state vocational college in Salzburg. His interest in mobile figures took him to Munich, to learn from "Papa" Schmid, the master of puppetry at the time – and this laid the foundation for the marionettes. Aicher began to carve small heads and to make bodies. His wife Rosa made the costumes, and the first public performance of "Prof. Anton Aichers Künstler Marionettentheater" took place on 27 February 1913, with Mozart's early opera Bastien and Bastienne.
In 1926, set-designer Graf Schaffgotsch was joined by the already prominent Salzburg ceramic artist Luise Spannring. She modelled heads, hands and sometimes even whole figures for the early Mozart work Apollo et Hyazinthus. This production is still regarded as a special gem in the programme of the Marionette Theatre.
Sepp Aichberger, a talented pupil of Anton Aicher from his time in Vienna, came to Salzburg to take over the further development of the wood-carving for the demands of the Theatre.
For the 1936 guest performances in St Petersburg and Moscow, figures of 1 m in height were required for the open-air theatres with their large stages. The fine head of the dancer Anna Pavlova was made by Aichberger.
Josef Magnus joined the team in 1945, and the Salzburg figures were further developed in collaboration with Friedl Aicher. On the programme: Everyman by Kurt Nachmann, the old puppet play Doctor Faust, the Salzburg Don Juan,
La finta giardiniera and Max and Moritz. Magnus was primarily responsible for many new productions, including The Magic Flute, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Snow White and The Sleeping Beauty.
joined the ensemble as a sculptor in 1948, and created the expressive heads for Josef August Lux's Don Quixote.
sculptor, painter, graphic artist, puppeteer and set-designer, carved the heads for Shakespeare's Tempest. Many of the fairy-tale figures were created thanks to his versatility. New productions were implemented: La finta giardiniera for the 1975 Mozart Festival, The Nutcracker in 1978, both in collaboration with Josef Magnus.
a Salzburg sculptor, began his work on major new productions in 1982, including Mignon, The Bartered Bride
and Lortzing's Der Waffenschmied (The Armourer), as co-productions with ZDF (German Television). He created fantastic figures for The Tales of Hoffmann, The Marriage of Figaro, and in 1991 – the Mozart jubilee – for Così fan tutte.
Pierre Monnerat, a graduate from the Geneva Academy of Arts, has collaborated closely with the Marionette Theatre since 1996, when he made the puppets for Oberon, a co-production with the Salzburg Festival. Since then he has made all the puppets for the Theatre's new productions:
Josa with his Magic Fiddle (1997), Peter and the Wolf (1998), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2001), Hansel and Gretel (2004) and Bastien and Bastienne/The Impresario (2006).