Premiere: April 4, 2017
The puppets and the equipment were made in the workshops of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre.
Riding through the land in search of a bride, the King passes the home of a wealthy miller, who likes to boast that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The King, impressed by the girl's beauty and accomplishments, decides to make her his wife. She consents, and takes her friends Kasperl and Gretl with her to the palace.
The King, however, wishes to test her skills. He shuts her in a room full of straw, which she must spin into gold within one night; otherwise she must die. The girl laments her father's boast, for she really cannot do such things. Suddenly, a manikin appears and promises to spin the straw into gold – on one condition: when she is Queen, she must give him her first child. Desperate, she agrees.
The next morning, the King finds the whole room full of gold. Delighted, he marries the girl.
Two years later. The Queen is happily cradling her first child in her arms, and has quite forgotten the agreement made on that fateful night. The manikin suddenly appears and demands his tribute. The Queen, in despair, begs for a way out of the agreement. There is only one way, says the manikin: if the Queen can guess his name within three days, she may keep her child.
The Queen tells only her closest friends, Kasperl and Gretl, of the situation. Kasperl sets out in search of the manikin, to find out his name. After various mishaps, he finds him dancing around in the forest, singing: "The Queen can't guess – oh, what a shame – that Rumpelstiltskin is my name!"
Now the child is safe. When Rumpelstiltskin appears and the Queen says the correct name, Kasperl kicks him out. Gretl and Kasperl also get married and they all live happily ever after.
after Gottfried Kraus (1966)
It was the introduction to indigenous folklore that gave the marionette theatre, both in Salzburg and in Southern Germany, a tradition from which to evolve. Puppeteer Johann Baptist Hilverding, who had arrived in Salzburg in 1673, had the idea not just simply to perform to the country audiences. He wanted to capture the mentality and fantasy of the peasant tradition in order to introduce something of it into his own performances. Johann Baptist Hilverding's mother originally came from Salzburg and the folklore of her native district appealed to him more than that of Westphalia. Searching amongst his immediate surroundings he was able to study and discover characteristic material. He chose to recreate a "Sauschneider" and in doing so he found a version of the merry and much loved figure "Pulcinella" who had already appeared during his long career in so many different guises.
A Sauschneider's profession in life was to wander the countryside in order to castrate pigs for the farmers. He belonged to the lowest form of life amongst the peasant community but in spite of this he knew what it took to obtain popularity as an entertainer. It was on such a Sauschneider that Hilverding modelled his puppet character "Hanswurst". Using the same form of comical clothing, coarse humour and clever escapading, this figure became another much loved personality around the markets and drinking places.
The Sauschneider from the Pongau district lived on as an entertainer and enjoyed a successful career - not however in his native surroundings but in the royal city of Vienna. Josef Anton Stranitzky, it is said, was originally a dentist but pre-fering the life of a strolling player and puppet master, left Augsburg to join Johann Baptist Hilverding. On seeing Hans-wurst he was struck by this character's potentialities as an imaginative and original figure for the live stage. So delighted was he with the project that he wasted no time and immediately studied the character in order to create the part himself. This experiment was so successful that he became famous almost overnight. Later we come across Stranitzky again, this time as the director of the Theater am Kärntnertor, in Vienna. Undoubtedly it was his Hanswurst that lived on and became a key figure with the Austrian folk theatre, from where many versions were to form.
Inspiration from Munich: Josef Schmid and Graf Pocci
A clever move of fate was to bring together two gifted personalities who became united in the same decisive impulse to create marionette theatre. With them an exciting trend developed in Southern Germany and indeed it was this company that was responsible for stimulating the idea to found a theatre in Salzburg. Both gentlemen were artistic and idealistic; Franz Graf Pocci, born in 1807 in Munich, was then musical director at the Court. Josef Leonard Schmid, born in 1822, was the son of an organist in Amberg. With the plan to found a resident municipal marionette theatre already lodged firmly in his mind, Schmid approached the city's School Commission and dexterously sought permission. Pocci, a highly gifted man of great artistic decernment, was already known as an editor of folksongs and fairy tales and also for writing a delightful und magical series of childrens stories and puppet plays. A collaboration of two such men was certain to prove fruitful.
In November of 1858 "one Aktuar Jos. Schmid" was granted "incontestable" permission to open a marionette theatre. The theatre opened spectacularly on the 5th December. The new marionette theatre had an immediate and immense success and the prolific Count Pocci found it almost impossible to write enough material in order' to keep Kasperl Larifari provided with new adventures. Josef Leonard Schmid, who became locally known as "Papa Schmid", worked unceasingly to obtain technical perfection and by the end of the first year 18 different productions had been devised.
In a short time, Kasperl Larifari, the central figure in all these plays, became the darling of the Munich puppet audiences. Count Pocci had quite obviously taken this traditional character from the folk theatre in Vienna, that is to say that Kasperl Larifari was nothing more than an immediate successor to the Sauschneider from the Pongau.
Anton Aicher's Salzburg Kasperl
The Munich Marionette Theatre under Josef Schmid was a central source of inspiration for Anton Aicher, the founder of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre. Aicher had no desire to copy, but with the inspiration he had gained at Munich he started to build the first stage at the Pulvermühle for his children. With it he gained experience by experimenting with his own ideas and inventing ingenious methods for both making and manipulating the puppets - methods which are still used today. Anton Aicher had not felt any great attraction toward the traditional Bavarian character Kasperl Larifari and sought some other style on which to base his Kasperl figure. He could not believe that Kasperl Larifari's drunken red nose, crude costume, often bawdy dialogue in a Munich dialect, could really reflect a hero in a child's mind.
So he created yet another version which was the first of a long succession of Kasperl characters to appear in his marionette theatre. The "Salzburg Kasperl" was similar in type to his predecessor "Papageno" in Mozart's "Magic Flute", whose comedy lay in a delicate and sensitive spirit, together with a melancholy attitude and the natural cunning of an innocent child. He was well aware of life's capers and amongst his collection of philosophies, the ones "to be satisfied with eating and drinking" and "to desire no wisdom" contain more wisdom than many a more intellectual study.
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.
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