Marionette Theatre Don Giovanni and the Magic Flute
The Czech puppeteers of the National Marionette Theatre perform in Prague at the theatre Rise Loutek (the Puppet Kingdom) and stage marionette shows. These shows are ideal for an international audience as there is no spoken word. They are adaptations of classic operas, and the story unfolds in about two hours. They are very popular and you will see many puppet theatres all over the centre of Prague. When purchasing tickets, be sure it the show is in Rise Loutek, the National Marionette Theatre. Other theatres, often with the same name, have opened their doors too. Their shows can be interesting but are not authentic.
Marionette Theatre: the Puppet Repertoire
The National Marionette Theatre keeps up an historic tradition and enchants young and old with its performances. Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (in Italian, duration about two hours) and The Magic Flute (in German, duration about fifty-five minutes) are always on the repertoire. The marionettes are fifty centimetres tall, based on eighteenth-century puppets and dressed in period costumes. During the show, the strings and puppeteers are clearly visible. Performances are popular, and the theatre is small.
Marionette Theatre, an Optical Illusion
The show opens with Mozart conducting and making a few notes in the sheet score. Don Giovanni appears and greets the public. He takes out a handkerchief and dries Donna Anna’s tears. Then the story unfolds. Near the end, the chief puppeteer intervenes and demands the puppets to stop, but they do not listen. He points at his watch and hangs the puppets one by one on the wall and sweeps the floor clean.
When the puppeteer becomes fully visible, you can clearly see that the puppets are quite tall because your eye now compares them to reality. During the show, the puppeteers were hidden behind a curtain; only their arms and hands were visible. We cannot compare the puppets with the real size of the puppeteer because of the curtain. Our eyes compare the puppets to the curtain which is about one meter high which makes our eyes believe that the puppets are smaller than 50 cm. Our eyes played havoc with what we saw, a visual distortion, an optical illusion.
What are Marionettes?
Marionettes are string puppets. Puppets which are controlled by a number of strings attached to the puppet’s head, back, hands and legs. All strings come together in a control bar which looks like a cross. The puppeteer manipulates the puppet’s movements from this control bar. Marionettes are much more complex to operate than glove or rod puppets.
Marionettes are made of wood and carved by hand, painted and dressed. There represent ‘celebrities’ like Spejbl and Hrvinek, brainchild of Josef Skupa, and the brave soldier Sjvek from the comedy novel by Jaroslav Hasek. Other characters are the devils, witches, kings, princesses, clowns and more. Many souvenir shops in Prague sell marionettes. When you buy one, be sure it is a wooden marionette and not plastic.