Revel in visions of sugar plums dancing in your mind after a captivating family performance of The Nutcracker by the world famous, UNESCO-protected Salzburg Marionette Theatre at Flushing Town Hall. The Theatre is traveling all the way from Austria to entertain Queens audiences of all ages on Wednesday, December 4.
Salzburg Marionette Theatre was founded in 1913 by Anton Aicher and has been devoted to the art of puppetry ever since. Showcasing the artistic skills and craftsmanship required to carve, paint, and manipulate the puppets, this Austrian company has charmed countless children and adults for over one century, making it one of the oldest continuing marionette theatres in the world.
The performance technique of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre has been deemed a cultural asset worthy of preservation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which called the Salzburg Marionette Theatre the “most highly developed form of puppet and figure theatre,” and granting it membership to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2016.
Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s puppeteers are experts in manipulation, costuming, painting, and carving, and it is the only puppetry company worldwide to offer opera performances. The Theatre has performed across Europe, Asia, and the United States, and its repertoire includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Peter and The Wolf, Little Prince, and The Sound of Music.
The Nutcracker is about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil “Mouse King.” The Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s 60-minute performance of the holiday tale features the classic music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and all of the ballet’s beloved characters in marionette form. You can watch a preview here.
Tell us about the Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s history?
The Salzburg Marionette Theatre was founded in 1913 by the sculptor Professor Anton Aicher, performing Mozart’s opera Bastien und Bastienne. In 1926 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.
From 1927-1934 First grand Balkan tour — to Athens, Sofia, and Istanbul. Guest performances in Holland and Belgium. Repertoire expanded with smaller Mozart operas. In 1936 they were guest performances in Moscow and Leningrad, before audiences of up to 2500. In 1937 The Salzburg marionettes were awarded the gold medal at the World Fair in Paris. In 1950 the Salzburg marionettes played in Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.
In the autumn of 1952, as part of a five-year contract with theaters in the United States, the Salzburg marionettes traveled 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.
In 1954 The Salzburg marionettes presented a complete ballet: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. This third major production was premièred in Montreal, then continued its tour through North and Central America down to Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, and Cuba. In 1971 The SMT acquired their very own theatre was opened in July, with Rossini’s Barber of Seville.
In 1976 traveled to North America, with the Christmas season in the Lincoln Center, NY, since then The Salzburg Marionette Theatre has returned to the United States more than 10 times, with different repertoire and visiting different cities. In 2016 the SMT was awarded as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Last year (2018) guest appearances in Germany and France, tour in Mexico.
The Salzburg Marionette Theatre stages some 170 performances annually at home, and further 60–100 on tours worldwide. There is a traveling stage especially for tours; the puppets, properties, sets, and scenery, together with sound and lighting equipment, make up some 4–5 tons of freight to be transported by road, air or sea.
What makes your presentation of the Nutcracker appealing to audiences?
We employ 12 puppeteers, trained in a wide variety of trades and professions. Qualities common to all of them are musicality, manual skill, and the ability to empathize with the various characters of The Nutcracker in order to bring alive the marionettes on the stage.
The SMT has evolved its own technique, which is used as a model by many marionette theatres worldwide. The puppeteers’ training, which takes place exclusively in the theatre itself, demands just as much time and perseverance as learning to play a musical instrument.
They can be entertained and be inspired by these “small actors” that brings every character alive. We believe that marionettes are not only wooden pieces but are instruments like a violin. A violin has strings as well as the marionette. The performer brings the emotion in the instrument and is able to transmit to the audiences different feelings and wishes. The puppets evoke through there movements an additional level of wishes, remembrances, and illusion.
How often have you presented in the U.S., and in NYC?
We have performed since 1913 over 13 in the United States, making every performance unique for us. We can’t wait to perform at audiences in Queens.
What does it mean to perform/present in Queens at Flushing Town Hall?
For a marionette theatre company with more than 100 years of history, it’s incredible to perform for new audiences and other countries. This presentation at Flushing Town Hall is and will be part of our cultural legacy and history.