Chronicle of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre
27 February 1913
The sculptor Professor Anton Aicher made his début with his marionette theatre, performing Mozart’s opera Bastien und Bastienne. In October 1913, he hired the gymnasium of the archiepiscopal Borromaeum seminary in the Dreifaltigkeitsgasse and installed his Salzburg Marionette Theatre, which was to remain there for 49 years.
The Salzburg marionettes expanded their repertoire. Fairy stories were put on for children, the focus of over 130 different productions up to 1950 being Hanswurst, the “Kasperl” (roughly equivalent to Mr. Punch). For the first time, the Theatre included the oldest German puppet play, Doctor Johannis Faustus, in its repertoire, which in 1914 already consisted of 14 works. The start of World War I brought considerable problems.
Despite World War I, the Marionette Theatre developed into a cultural focus in Salzburg.
In 1926, Anton Aicher’s son Hermann married the young soprano Elfriede Eschenlohr. As a wedding present, Anton Aicher handed over to his son the management of the Theatre. Hermann Aicher used his technical knowledge to renovate the stage, focusing primarily on the potential of lighting technology. He concentrated increasingly on the musical repertoire, and rehearsed further operas in collaboration with teachers and students from the Mozarteum Academy.
First guest appearance by the Salzburg marionettes in the Hamburg Kunsthalle.
Despite major successes in Salzburg and on tours abroad, the Theatre found itself in financial straits. Since tours required not only puppeteers and technicians but also singers, musicians and conductors, they were not cost-effective.
First grand Balkan tour – to Athens, Sofia and Istanbul. Guest appearances in Holland and Belgium. Repertoire was expanded with smaller Mozart operas.
Guest appearances in Moscow and Leningrad, before audiences of up to 2,500. A new travelling stage and marionettes almost a metre in height were made for this tour. The special attraction was the marionette of the ballerina Anna Pavlova as the “dying swan”.
The Salzburg marionettes were awarded the gold medal at the World Fair in Paris.
The Salzburg Marionette Theatre gave guest performances in Sweden, as well as their first Berlin performance in the course of a major tour of Germany.
The Salzburg marionettes were sent to the front, first to Norway, later to Poland, Russia and Romania. The Theatre closed in 1944.
After Hermann Aicher’s return at the end of the war, the Salzburg marionettes immediately resumed their activities. First performance for American soldiers. Guest performances in Innsbruck and Styria, for the French and English occupying troops.
Invitation to the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées – the Salzburg Marionette Theatre gave the first post-war German-language guest performance in France.
Production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Guest performance in Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, for English army officers. For the next 33 years, the Salzburg marionettes were in the charge of music manager Martin Taubmann, who guided them to world fame.
Start of a decade of major tours. During this year, the Salzburg marionettes played in Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. They began working with tape recordings instead of actors, singers and musicians.
An American film company made twelve colour fairytale films with the Salzburg marionette Theatre. Production of Mozart’s Magic Flute with stage direction by Géza Rech, décor by Günther Schneider-Siemssen and costumes by Friedl Aicher. Major tour of England in the autumn, with the main focus on London.
In the autumn, as part of a five-year contract with the USA, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre travelled overseas. The Magic Flute had its première in Boston – the first performance of a major opera in a puppet theatre. Its success was repeated in all the cities, especially New York. Today, The Magic Flute is still in the repertoire, virtually unchanged, and is the most frequently performed and most successful production in the history of the Salzburg marionettes.
A revolving stage was developed for the production of the operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat). The première was given in New York during the second US tour.
The Salzburg marionettes presented a complete ballet: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. This third major production was premièred in Montreal, together with a new choreography of the “dying swan”. The Theatre continued its tour through North and Central America down to Columbia, Peru, Venezuela and Cuba.
Guest performance in Japan. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre opened the first Osaka Festival with The Magic Flute, which had ten subsequent performances in Tokyo. The Theatre performed at the May Festival in Ludwigsburg and at the World Fair in Brussels.
The dilapidated state of the theatre in the Dreifaltigkeitsgasse led to its closure. Between international tours, the Theatre gave “guest” performances in the main concert hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum.
On 26 May, the Salzburg marionettes opened their season in the archdiocesan Kapitelsaal on the Kapitelplatz. These alternative premises, with workshops, storerooms and costume department, was to remain the marionettes’ home for almost ten years.
Special performances in the famous Teatro la Fenice in Venice and at the Christmas Festival in New York. European tour, and in autumn 1964 a further tour of the US and Canada. Guest performances at the Versailles Festival and in the Cuvilliés Theatre in Munich. Production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Grand tour of Italy, with performances in the Piccola Scala, Milan, and the Aula Magna, Rome. Guest performances in South Africa and ten weeks in Australia at the Adelaide Festival.
The Salzburg marionettes acquired their very own theatre. The conversion of the former Mirabell Hotel between the Mozarteum and the Landestheater made it possible to adapt a building specifically to the requirements of the marionettes. The new theatre was opened on 11 July, with Rossini’s Barber of Seville.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the Salzburg Marionette Thetre, a documentary film was made about the history and the development of the Theatre.
After a gap of 25 years, another visit to London: three weeks in the Sadlers Wells Theatre. This was followed by a season in the opera house at Piraeus, near Athens.
The Salzburg marionettes performed at the Mozart Festival in the International Mozarteum Foundation, with a new production, Apollo et Hyacinthus.
New production of Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, premièred at the Mozart Festival in January. Guest performances in Spain. A further, four-week run at Sadlers Wells, followed by North America, with the Christmas season in the Lincoln Center, New York.
11 June: Gala to mark Hermann Aicher’s 75th birthday, attended by President Rudolf Kirchschläger. Hermann Aicher was made a freeman of the Town of Salzburg. He died on 1 July, and Gretl Aicher took over the management of the Theatre.
Completely revised production of The Nutcracker as a full-length ballet; Christmas première.
Guest appearance at the International Festival in Hong Kong. Besides the season in Salzburg and tours to France, Italy and Germany, opera films were made by ZDF (German television) of the productions Mignon, The Bartered Bride and Lortzing’s Der Waffenschmied. Production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Autumn guest performance in Paris. Grand tour of Italy, including the Piccolo Teatro, Milan, and Teatro Maliban, Venice, as well as Florence, Rome and Naples. Guest performances in Berlin, Brussels and Luxembourg.
200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. Première of Così fan tutte, staged by Götz Friedrich. The repertoire of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre now included all five major Mozart operas.
Co-production with the Salzburg Landestheater of Mozart’s Entführung for children.
TV and video recording of all five major Mozart operas, in collaboration with 3Sat Television, with Sir Peter Ustinov as narrator.
First collaboration with the Salzburg Festival, in the Small Festival Hall. The marionettes performed together with singers, actors, chorus and orchestra, in Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Oberon.
Co-production with the Salzburg Landestheater of Janos’ Der Josa mit der Zauberfiedel, a musical fairytale for children, set to music by Wilfried Hiller.
Production of Ein Fall für Mozart, in which a narrator takes children through the five great Mozart operas.
Tours and guest appearances, including USA, Argentina, Japan, Taiwan, Athens, Venice, Paris, England, Germany, Beirut and Switzerland.
First collaboration with the Salzburg Easter Festival, in Sergey Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, with Tobias Moretti as narrator. To mark the 70th birthday of Gretl Aicher and the 85th anniversary of the Marionette Theatre, the “World of Marionettes” museum was opened in Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Première of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Salzburg Marionette Theatre celebrated its 90th anniversary in February. Restoration of the foyer. Première of Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel in December.
February/March: five-week US tour. In the autumn the marionettes went to Japan and Hong Kong. Since 1913, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre has undertaken 240 tours at home and abroad. The society “Friends of the Salzburg Marionettes” is founded.
In July: Premiere of “Best of Mozart”. Guest appearances in Switzerland, France and Hungary. A tour takes the theatre to the US in November and December for six weeks.
The theatres Mozart-Repertoire is presented at Paris’ Théâtre Déjazet for five weeks in March. Performances follow in Strassburg and Milan. In July and August the theatre takes part in the Salzburg Festival’s cycle of all 22 Mozart operas and will premiere “Bastien and Bastienne” and “The Impresario”. In autumn tour to Costa Mesa/California. Subsequently performances in France for three weeks in December.
Revival of the co-production with Salzburg Festival “Bastien and Bastienne” and “The Impresario”. Rehearsals for the Broadway Musical “The Sound of Music” which is premiered on November 2, 2007 in Dallas, Texas in the course of a 5-weeks US tour.
“Sound of Music” premiere in Salzburg. Tours to Athens, Madrid. Three weeks stay in Paris with a French version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in December.
Performances in Essen and Leverkusen. A tour leads the theatre for the first time to Arabia to the “Spring of Culture”-Festival in Bahrain. Further performances in Turkey, Greece and Finland.
Again invitations to Bahrain, Algeria and Abu Dhabi. New production of Claude Debussy’s „La boîte à joujoux“ (The Toy Box) for pianist András Schiff’s “Ittinger Pfingsttage”- Festival. András Schiff accompanied with the piano. Production of a French version of „The Sound of Music“ for a four-week- Paris-tour at Christmas.
Guest appearances in Taiwan, the „Wiener Konzerthaus“ (again with András Schiff) and Palermo
Gretl Aicher, the long-time-principal of the theatre, dies unexpectedly on March14th. Coproduction with the Salzburg Landestheater: Der Ring des Nibelungen. Guest appearance with András Schiff at New York Carnegie Hall. In autumn tour to Switzerland and France.
Guest appearances in Muscat/Oman.
February 27th: The Salzburg Marionette Theatre is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a revival of the 1957 production of „Snow White“. In September premiere of the anniversary-production of „Alice in Wonderland”. Throughout November and December a big USA-tour with 5 different productions follows.
Cooperation with Salzburg Festival “The Barber of Seville” according to a CD with Cecilia Bartoli. Tour to the USA with “The Toy Shop” and “Les Papillons”, accompanied by Orion Weiss on the piano. Tour to Qatar.
Recreation of „Peter and the Wolf/Little Red Riding Hood“. Guest appearance in Brussels „The Ring of the Nibelung“, in autumn: first tour to China.
Premiere of „The Little Prince“, new production of „The Magic Flute“ and „Rumpelstiltskin“. Folk music production „A journey with Mozart“. Tours to USA and China.
Inclusion in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Guest appearences in Germany and France, tour to Mexico.
Since 1913, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre has undertaken 270 tours at home and abroad.