How does a new production take shape?
When the work has been chosen, the stage director and the set designer have to familiarise themselves with the peculiarities of the marionettes and the stage. The ensuing months are devoted to detailed discussion of the staging concept, working out a version suited to marionettes, and deciding on the personality of each character. A suitable recording of the music must also be chosen. The designer sketches the stage set and the costumes according to the concept of the director. On the basis of further drawings, the sculptor carves the heads and assembles the bodies. The marionettes are carved from lime, a soft, light wood, to facilitate the work of the sculptor and the puppeteers. Gradually, the figures make their way into the theatre workshops, where they are painted and fitted with costumes. In the final stage their strings are attached and their mobility tested. The stage set and properties are also made in the theatre workshops and tried out on the stage itself until they fit perfectly.
The Salzburg Marionette Theatre is renowned for the technical perfection and faithful detail of its costumes and sets. Preparations usually take about 1½ – 2 years before the start of rehearsals, for which 5-6 weeks are allowed. At rehearsals, the director sits at the edge of the stage and communicates directly with the puppeteers, establishing the presentation and movements of the characters. Even the movements of the puppeteers behind the stage and each minute technical operation have to be co-ordinated with utmost precision, since the puppeteers themselves move the sets and the properties. On the basis of the stage version, the sound engineer has produced a sound-track specially adapted to the requirements of the auditorium. During the final days of rehearsal, the plan is fixed for the lighting, which – besides the specific rules of perspective and the essential proportions of properties to marionettes – is the most important element on the marionette stage in creating a prefect illusion for the audience.