CULTURE

Famed burattini puppets in Volos

Tonight, at the theater of the Palia Ilektriki (Old Electricity Plant) in Volos, as part of the Volos International Festival of music and performing arts, an old legend from the 1200s will come back to life. In an atmosphere reminiscent of the Commedia dell’arte, one of the most well-known puppet-theater companies in the world, the Teatro del Drago from Ravenna will give its second performance of «The Abduction of Charles,» just one of the shows in the company’s rich repertoire. The Teatro del Drago consists of two brothers, Mauro and Andrea Monticelli, descendants of the legendary family that has been giving performances with wooden puppets – burattini – since 1820. Over the past 30 years, the brothers have revived this type of puppet theater, striking a balance between the traditional and contemporary elements based on their family’s long history in theater. They have traveled across Europe and into Israel, Libya, Tunisia, Taiwan and Japan. On the occasion of their two Greek performances, they spoke to Kathimerini. «Our family, the Monticellis, is inextricably linked to the city of Ravenna, where it first performed in the early 1900s. Today we are one of the oldest companies still active in Europe. We have been constantly active for five generations, starting in the mid-18th century,» they said jointly. The two brothers went on to explain what the burattini puppets are. «They are puppets with a carved wooden body that come to life through the artist’s hand hidden in their clothes. The term ‘burattini’ is probably derived from ‘buratto,’ the hard piece of cloth used to sieve flour. It is possible that the puppets’ clothing was once made out of some tough and resistant material of a similar texture. The face is carved from beech or pine wood with the eyes engraved straight on to it. Each puppet’s personality is seen in its face, which is why each puppet has to be particularly resistant, because it receives all the stick blows, something that traditionally happens in all folk performances. Fagiolino is the most important character in the burattini theater. He is poor but has a rich appetite. He knows how to be generous with the weak and strict with the bad. He disperses justice with his stick, which he always carries with him and he is also the main character in ‘The Abduction of Charles.’ He is something like your own Karagiozis.» One cannot help but wonder how difficult this profession is today. «Being a puppet-theater artist has never been easy, let alone today. Perhaps because we live at a time of advanced technology, puppet theater can be seen as old fashioned and out of date. But we have been through difficult periods in the past and times of great poverty and hunger – the puppet artist Otello, for instance, was active in the years between the two world wars, he lived a nomadic life and performed all by himself. We, as the new generation of puppet theater performers, were lucky to take over the puppets professionally at a time when almost all of the great artists were still alive. Our dream is to see puppet theater continue to grow.» After the Teatro del Drago, the Volos International Festival will continue its program tomorrow with a performance combining painting and live music on stage, by artist Angeliki Kourkoulou and composer Panayiotis Berlis, founders of the PanAngel8Arts music and art company. On Saturday and Sunday, the Athemitos theater company, made up of a number of Volos lawyers and notaries, will present a film-noir take on Robert Thomas’s black comedy «8 Women.» In a powerful finale, the festival will come to a close on January 12 with Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera «Atys,» based on Ovid’s version of the story of the ancient hero Attis, presented by the Greek-French Petit Opera du Monde. The production is scheduled to travel to Paris in February. For information, www.volosfestival.gr