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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2024

Jo Ann Cavallo
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

Although puppetry arts have existed since ancient times and can be found throughout the world from Southeast Asia to Northern Europe, Sicilian opera dei pupi has very distinct characteristics that set it apart from other forms of puppet theater. Large wooden puppets with full metal armor, swords, and shields bring to life primarily epic narratives based on masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance Italian literature. This tradition of prose theater was the predominant form of nightly entertainment among working-class Sicilians from the early 1800s until the proliferation of television in the late 1950s. Opera dei pupi also developed outside Italy among diasporic communities, especially in North and South America as well as North Africa, bringing Italian immigrants across the globe together each evening to witness dramatizations of the same epic stories they knew and loved.

Virtually all Sicilian puppeteers from the 1860s to the present have based their chivalric repertory on the prose compilation Storia dei paladini di Francia, first adapted from twenty Renaissance chivalric poems by Giusto Lodico in 1858–1860 and subsequently expanded by Giuseppe Leggio in an 1895–1896 edition. This monumental work provided puppeteers with the narrative material for a Paladins of France cycle consisting of well over 300 consecutive plays. The expanded fictional cycle stretched from before the birth of Charlemagne (740s) to the aftermath of the battle of Roncevaux (778). In addition, many puppeteers extended their chronological range even further by staging stories going back to the time of the emperor Constantine (reigned 306–337) and forward to the First Crusade (1096–1099) and beyond. These stories, especially those concerning the Frankish paladins, were experienced as part of a shared history. After all, as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charlemagne had presided over an extensive Christian realm to which the various Italian states had belonged. Some of the cycle's action, moreover, took place in Italy, such as Orlando's birth and childhood in Sutri, outside Rome, the invasion of Calabria by the North African king Agolante, and the epic battle of three-against-three on the island of Lampedusa that brought to a conclusion King Agramante of Biserta's invasion of France.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
The Paladins of France in America
, pp. xxi - xxiv
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Introduction
  • Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
  • Online publication: 28 February 2024
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  • Introduction
  • Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
  • Online publication: 28 February 2024
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
  • Online publication: 28 February 2024
Available formats
×