Premiere: June 15, 2023
The little elephant Babar enjoys a carefree childhood in the jungle until his mother is shot by a hunter. Left to his own devices, he flees and arrives in a town. Thanks to an old lady who gives him a home, he participates in the life of the humans: he visits a shopping mall, does gymnastics and drives a car. Still, he often feels nostalgic when he thinks of the jungle. Two years later, during a walk, he accidentally meets Arthur and Celeste, his cousins.
Babar shows them his new life. One day, however, when they are picked up by their mothers, he decides to come along and says goodbye to the old lady with a heavy heart. Back in the jungle, the three are welcomed with jubilation. Babar and Celeste, who got engaged on the car, are chosen by the elephants as the new royal couple.
Ferdinand is no ordinary young bull. While his peers fight with each other all day in the meadow, he prefers to sit alone under a cork oak and enjoy the scent of the flowers. Even when one day Spanish men come by to find a bull for their fights, he is hardly interested. But things turn out differently than expected: Ferdinand accidentally sits down on a bumblebee, is stung and rages in pain - and thus it is he whom the men choose and take to the bullfight. In the arena, the situation becomes grotesque when Ferdinand shows his true nature, only smelling the flowers in the Spanish women's hair and completely disregarding the matador. So in the end they have to bring him back home.
The classroom is bored, and the teacher's experiments don't really want to succeed either.
So, without further ado, a trip to the zoo is undertaken, during which the schoolchildren experience various things: Some make wondrous discoveries at a pond, others dress up as birds or dream themselves into another world. The schoolmaster himself makes a lady elephant dance with his double bass and receives a flower from her - but not all the animals enjoy the musical performances as much ... Back in the classroom, the children make music together with a skeleton from biology class. After everyone has left, the schoolmaster begins to dance obliviously. In the end, they all come together in a gymnastics lesson and put on a big ballet.
In 1913 the sculptor Anton Aicher founded the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, opening with a performance of Mozart's Bastien und Bastienne. His performances were such a success that in the autumn of that very first year he went on tour. The repertoire was expanded to include children's fairy-tales, with the "Kasperl" (perhaps equivalent to Mr. Punch) as the main figure.
In 1926, Hermann Aicher received the Marionette Theatre from his father Anton as a wedding present, and used his technical knowledge to create a real miniature stage. In collaboration with the Mozarteum Academy, he rehearsed increasingly ambitious operas, and soon the repertoire included Mozart's smaller operas, such as Apollo et Hyacinthus or Der Schauspieldirektor [The Impresario].
During the period 1927–34, the theatre gave guest performances in Hamburg, Vienna and Holland, and visited Istanbul, Sofia and Athens. Moscow and Leningrad followed in 1936, in venues seating 2,500 – which necessitated new, larger marionettes. The special attraction was the marionette of the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova, dancing the "dying swan".
From 1940-44 the Salzburg marionettes were sent to the front. Hermann Aicher was summoned to military service in 1944, and the Theatre was closed. After the end of the war, the marionettes immediately resumed their activities, first of all for the occupying troops. In 1947, they gave the first post-war German-language guest performance in the famous Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. There followed a busy period with tours, guest performances, and new productions including Mozart's five major operas.
In 1971 the present theatre, adapted specifically to the requirements of the marionettes, was opened with Rossini's Barber of Seville.
Hermann Aicher died shortly after his 75th birthday, and his daughter Gretl took over the theatre. The marionettes toured Europe, America and Asia, in New York, Paris, Italy, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Japan.
In 1991, to mark the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death, Götz Friedrich staged Mozart's Così fan tutte.
1994/95 brought TV and video recordings of all five major Mozart operas, with Sir Peter Ustinov as narrator, and from 1992–97 several productions were staged in co-operation with the Salzburg Landestheater. In 1996, the Salzburg marionettes collaborated with the Salzburg Festival in Carl Maria von Weber's opera Oberon, in the Small Festival Hall.
1998 saw the first collaboration with the Salzburg Easter Festival, in Sergey Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. To mark the 85th anniversary of the Marionette Theatre, the "World of Marionettes" museum was opened in Hohensalzburg Fortress.
In 2001, the theatre premièred the first spoken play for many years, with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This was followed in December 2003 by the première of Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel.
The 2006 Salzburg Festival marked the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth with performances of all 22 operas; Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schauspieldirektor were staged in collaboration with the Marionette Theatre – a collaboration continued in 2007.
The world-famous Broadway musical The Sound of Music was premiered on November 2, 2007 in Dallas, Texas.
In 2010 the Salzburg Marionette Theatre staged Claude Debussy's puppet ballet La boîte à joujoux (The Toy Box). The world-famous pianist Andràs Schiff initiated the project which was premiered at the Ittinger Pfingsttage (Switzerland). 2011 and 2012 The Little Prince
and a short version of The Ring of the Nibelung in cooperation with Salzburg State Theatre were brought on stage.
The death of Gretl Aicher in 2012 marks the end of the Aicher family's ownership after three generations.
2013 the Salzburg Marionette Theatre celebrates its 100th anniversary with the production Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
and Alice in Wonderland.
In 2016, the Austrian UNESCO commission designated the operating technique developed by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre a "most highly developed form of puppet and figure theatre" and declared this sophisticated, fine-tuned method Intangible UNESCO Cultural Heritage (Austrian List). With new productions such as Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven, new scenic approaches are taken and the technique of puppetry is refined.
Since 1913 the Salzburg Marionette Theatre made 270 tours throughout the world.
Since 1971, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre has been housed the historic building at Schwarzstrasse 24
– on the right side of Salzburg's Old Town, between the Landestheater and the International Mozarteum Foundation, and between the River Salzach on the one side and the Mirabell Palace with its world-famous garden on the other.
After it was founded in a studio in the Künstlerhaus in 1913, then moved to the gymnasium of the old Borromäum, and spent ten years in the temporary premises of the Kapitelsaal, the Marionette Theatre settled in Schwarzstrasse 24. This building has its own chequered history: between the Villa Lasser (now the Mozarteum Foundation) and the municipal theatre, Count Arco-Zinneberg's Kaltenhausen brewery had a restaurant and function-rooms built in 1893. The architect was Carl Demel, the master builder Valentin Ceconi. In 1897, the function-rooms were converted into the Hotel Mirabell.
Until 1968, the Mirabell Casino was part of the hotel. In 1970 reconstruction work was begun, in order to give the Marionette Theatre a new home. The former dining-room of the hotel was converted into the auditorium with the stage. It is still impressive, with its elaborate stucco-work and opulent painting. In the course of repairs to the foyer in 2000, the original stucco-work was discovered, and since 2003 the foyer ceiling can be admired in its former splendour.
In the Society of Friends of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, you belong to our circle of close friends – who come backstage to get to know the puppeteers and their marionettes in person, and meet in special places. With our newsletter, you will be among the first to find out what's on the programme. You'll have exclusive access to rehearsals and you can take look behind the scenes with us, to see just who is pulling the strings.
Come and be part of this circle – you'll find inspiration and good company, besides contributing with you membership fee to the care and maintenance of this unique UNESCO cultural heritage. Rest assured that your membership fee goes 100% to the Salzburg Marionette Theatre.
Join the Friends of the Salzburg Marionettes.
Membership fee – friend: € 50.– per year
Membership fee – patron: € 100.– per year
Become a member now.
Committee: Harald Labbow, Julia Heuberger-Denkstein, Barbara Ortner, Nina Eisenberger, Julia Skadarasy, Katharina Schneider, Eva Rutmann
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