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Musical Magic on Strings

Maria Von Trapp Marionette photoThe Sound of Music movie is celebrating a 50th Anniversay and Lady Gaga recently made a twitter worthy appearance at the Oscars paying tribute to Julie Andrews. Andrew Lloyd Webber held a world wide search to find the perfect Maria for a London production of the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music”. Perhaps he needed look no further than Salzburg, the home of the Von Trapp family story, location for the movie version, and where the perfect Maria Von Trapp can be found at the end of a handful of strings. The Salzburg Marionette Theater which has been entertaining children and adults for over 90 years with its particular kind of theatrical magic has inaugurated a very popular production of the family musical to accompany its repertoire of Mozart operas and fairy tales.

Salzburg Marionettes

Marionettes Close photoThe Salzburg Marionettes are one of many such companies around the world, but possibly the most famous. Begun in 1913 by Salzburg professor and sculptor Anton Aicher, with a debut of Mozart's “Bastien und Bastienne”, the marrionettes singing opera became a sensation, touring the world and performing in various temporary quarters around Salzburg. The Salzburg Marionette Theater settled into its own permanent theater next to the Landestheater at the edge of the Kurpark and Mirabelle Gardens in the center of Salzburg in July of 1971 with the first performance in the new theater of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”

Marionette Theater

Marionette Theater photoThe scale sets and costumes of the Salzburg Marionettes, designed by internationally renowned artists fill the black reduced proscenium of the grand theater stage with color and special effects as the voices seems to indeed come from the stringed puppets. The operas are performed in their original languages, in somewhat trimmed form, while screens in the theater walls provide English translations of the unfolding story. While awaiting the beginning of a performance in the lobby of the marionette theater one can have a close-up view of the diminutive carved characters about 27 inches tall, but once entering the theater and with the lights dark, through a particular alchemy of the mind and theatrical magic, you soon begin to accept the string bound performers as having a decidedly human quality and certain they must be much larger than life. Kids (or adults) who might fall asleep at a real life opera will be mesmerized by the miniature version of wood and string. Of all the touristy things to do in Salzburg these operatic stringed figures might be one of the most memorable.

Performance Stage photoThe origins of the Salzburg Marionettes reaches back to the baroque age. Puppet plays were used in the medieval Christian church to spread the word. The term "marionette" to describe puppets on strings seems to have come from the reformation of the early 1600s from an affectionate nickname for a puppet version of the Virgin Mary. The Austrian version of the Italian Punchinello, or the English Mr. Punch, commonly known to slapstick Judy around in a children’s stage version of wife beating, in Austria was known in various forms as Kaspar or "Kasperl". The young musical prodigy Amadeus Mozart was one of thousands of children to enjoy the antics of this character in touring marionette shows by Salzburg court artist Johann Hilverding, and later inspired to use him as the character Papageno in his “The Magic Flute”.


Salzburg Marionetten Kammerspiele Ticket Office photoThe Salzburg Marionettes perform a rotating repertiore of operas and children’s musicals ranging from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “Magic Flute” to Johann Strauss’ “Die Fleidermaus”, Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”, Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel & Gretel”, and now added Rogers and Hammerstein's “The Sound of Music”. The company goes on tour through much of the winter months, but March to October can be found at home at the theater. Tickets to the Salzburger Marrionetten Theater cost €35 and can be purchased through various ticket agencies, at the theater box office at Schwarzstraße 24, or at most hotels in Salzburg through the concierge.

Sound of Music Tours Tickets photoFor more Salzburg marionette history, the signature Salzburger Castle on the hill over-looking the city has a marionette museum in the bowels of the fortress with a collection of historical puppets, including a few locked in dungeons. Fans of the “The Sound of Music” film with Julie Andrews can visit some of the Salzburg locations (see Schloss Hellbrunn Fountains) for the movie right behind the theater. The Mirabelle Garden with its arched green arbor were backgrounds for the “Do Re Mi” song number in the movie and a “Sound of Music” sites tour can be taken from the Panorama Sightseeing Tours ticket office on the opposite side of the gardens at Mirabellplatz next to the bus station and the St Andra Church. Just look for the painted cow. © Bargain Travel Europe

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