Celebrated Salzburg Marionettes to perform Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


Image: Peter and the Wolf

Austria's beloved Salzburg Marionette Theater will perform Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" on Sunday, March 7, at 1 and 3 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, as part of its first U.S tour in eight years. The tour includes just 10 cities across the country.

Under the direction of Gretl Aicher, granddaughter of founder Anton Aicher, the Salzburg Marionette Theater is known for performing timeless 18th- and 19th-century operas to recordings of some of the world's leading orchestras and singers. Founded in 1913, the company is particularly associated with the works of Salzburg's most celebrated son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but is equally at home with other time-honored tales, including Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" and Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf."

The band of 12 skilled puppeteers manipulate elaborately costumed marionettes - each more than two feet tall - in stunning, often hilarious physical feats with an amazingly life-like range of expression. The puppet format is especially suited to "Peter and the Wolf," a symphonic tale, in which each instrument represents a different animal in the story of an adventurous boy hoping to catch a wily wolf.

"Watching the marionettes evoked a complex, dynamic pleasure," wrote Chris Pasles of the Los Angeles Times. "Unhampered by gravity, the marionettes can offer more stage action than human singing actors do, and so enhance the hair-trigger emotions of the characters."

The Salzburg Marionettes were born in 1913, when sculptor Anton Aicher presented them in Mozart's "Bastien and Bastienne," a singspiel, or comic opera with spoken dialogue. In 1926, Aicher gave the Marionettes as a wedding present to his son, Herman, who expanded the Theater's repertoire, bringing it international acclaim in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1936, guest performances were given in Moscow and Leningrad before audiences numbering 2,500. Of particular interest to Soviet audiences was the marionette based on the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova.

In 1944, Herman Aicher was called up to the army and the Theater was closed for a time. At the war's end, the following year, the marionettes started performing again, initially for the occupying forces. In 1947, they gave their first performance in German in Paris' renowned Théâtre des Champs Elysees.

In future decades, the company traveled to six continents, making its United States debut in 1952 with sold-out runs of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" in Boston and New York. Since then the Salzburg Marionettes have delighted audiences in such far-flung locales as Canada, Cuba, Italy, Lebanon, Japan and Argentina.

Gretl Aicher took over the Theater after her father died at 75. During her tenure, the company has recorded productions of the five Mozart operas with narration by Sir Peter Ustinov for television and video. In 1998, the company co-produced "Peter and the Wolf" for the Salzburg Easter Festival, the same year it commemorated its 85th birthday with the opening of the museum "World of Marionettes" at Fortress Hohensalzburg.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for children. Birthday party packages are not available for this production. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 5, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 173