Nieuwe Jonkerstraat 8 , 1011 CM Amsterdam



The classical marionette theatre

To understand the origins of the European classical marionette theatre, we have to go back to the classical antiquity and the Greek tragedy / comedy.
Through the ages, artists were searching for a universal form of theatre, in which several art forms come together in an ideal way. For many artists, Greek tragedy formed an inspiration in which acting, retorics, music and dance came together and enhanced each other.
Around 1600, the composer Claudio Monteverdi felt intrigued by this idea of combining music and theatre. A new theatre genre was born: the opera.

The begining..

Marionette opera's

In the 18th century – the century of Mozart and Haydn – opera was very popular. In Central Europe a new form of opera originated as a result of the search for the ‘ideal actor’ . Operasingers could sing beautifully, but their acting (and their looks!) were often less impressing. Wooden actors took their place on stage, and the singers were placed in front of the stage. The classical marionette theatre, a typical European form of marionette theatre in which music and marionettes come together, was born. Around 1770, Joseph Haydn even wrote some special ‘marionette opera’s’ (ao Philemon und Baucis) for the court theatre of Prince Nicolaus Esterházy in Austria – Hungary. Empress Maria Theresia called the marionettes of Esterházy the greatest actors of my time.
Reconstructie marionettenopera van Haydn
aan het Hof van Esterházy

New developments

In the 19th century the marionette theatre flourished, especially in Central Europa and Italy. At the end of the 19th century the theatre Carlo Colla e Figli was founded in Milano, and at the beginning of the 20th century the Salzburger Marionettentheater. Both famous marionette theatres are still run by the same families and still perform all over the world. In the Mozart Year (2006) Colla e Figli, the Salzburger Marionettentheater and the Amsterdams Marionetten Theater all presented a Mozart opera at the Festival ‘Mozart delle Marionette’ in Milano.
An important pioneer in the field of puppetry was Richard Teschner (Vienna, 1920). Up till then, puppets were often seen as miniature actors, but Teschner emphasized the specific, unique characteristics of puppetry. The puppet created a fantasy world which related to the dreams and emotion of the audience. Teschner saw puppets as methaphors. Dreams and illusions are often more powerful than reality.
At about the same time, Paul Brann also renewed the puppet theatre with his Münchner Künstler. He thougth of puppetry as a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which art, music and movement formed a unique whole.

Richard Teschner,  "Die Künstlerlegende"

Amsterdam Marionette Theatre

Hendrik Bonneur, founder of the Amsterdam Marionette Theatre, saw the Salzburger Marionettentheater (founded by Anton Aicher) in Holland when he was a boy. He was fascinated by marionettes ever since. When he was 15, he was invited by the Aicher family to stay with them in Salzburg. In their theatre and workshops he got the chance to really get to know the marionettes. Thirty years later, after a career as clinical psychologist and opera director – he founded his own marionette theatre in Amsterdam (1985). For the Amsterdam Marionette Theatre he chose his own artistic point of view. The marionette theatre should not be considered as ‘miniature opera’ but as a unique, specific form of music theatre. For the Amsterdam Marionette Theatre, the key word is naivity. A marionette has no ego and is therefore a very ‘pure’ actor. He is never troubled by his own conscience, since he simply hasn’t got one. A puppet leaves ample opportunity to the imagination of the audience.
De acteurs van het Amsterdams Marionetten Theater


The Amsterdam Marionette Theatre does not perform the big, well-known operas, but chooses those works in which the poetic intimacy of the marionette theatre can excel. In the marionette theatre emotions and humour, fantasy and poetry go hand in hand. Marionettes move with a natural ease in a naive repertoire: comedies at which everybody likes to laugh, but that also render one melancholy because they involuntarily reveal the less sunny sides of our existence. Bastien & Bastienne, an idyllic pastorale by Mozart, and The Castle in the Air (Le 66!), a naive one-act play by Offenbach are both examples of the repertoire of the Amsterdam Marionette Theatre in which the archaic, the elementary, is a distinguishing feature.
"Het Luchtkasteel" - Jacques Offenbach

An authentic sound

Because music plays such an essential part, great attention is being paid to the musical aspects of the performance. The operas / music theatre performed by the Amsterdam Marionette Theatre are specially adapted for the marionette theatre. The musicians are all specialized in playing on authentic instruments, dating from the time of the composer. Musical direction: Vaughan Schlepp or Frédérique Chauvet (Baroque Opera Amsterdam). The chamber music ensemble seamlessly connects with the intimacy of the marionette theatre. The voices of the singers fit into this palette. In our own small theatre in Amsterdam, we perform with our own CD recordings. When the marionettes go on tour (Italy, Russia, France, Germany) the opera singers and musicians usually travel with us. This intensive cooperation with singers and musicians is unique for a marionette theatre in Europe.
Opname 'De Wijde Wereld - op reis met Schubert' o.l.v. Vaughan Schlepp