From Bill's Desk

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre presents Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Do I have a personal favorite attraction of all time that I can never stop talking about? You bet!  It’s the Salzburg Marionette Theatre; there is nobody else on the planet who can approach the magic of their artistry. Forget any other puppet or marionette show you’ve ever seen — in my book, they remain one of the wonders of the world since their founding in 1913.

I first welcomed them to Lincoln Center in the 1960’s for their American debut, and I keep bringing them back to McCarter to give you and your family another chance to appreciate their unique genius. In this country, we normally think of marionette shows as designed primarily for children, but in Europe and elsewhere, they are equally regarded as adult entertainment.

Over the years, their repertoire has grown from Grimm and Andersen fairy tales to other family classics, like Rumpelstiltkskin, Hansel & Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood, to Alice in      Wonderland, Peter & the Wolf, The Nutcracker, and even The Sound of Music. And considering their hometown of Salzburg (where they have their very own theatre), it should be no surprise that they have added several Mozart operas, notably The Magic Flute, which we have brought to McCarter on more than one occasion.

My favorite still remains their very first (and still their best) family show, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (with all the songs from the Disney classic), which is why I insisted that they bring it back to McCarter, as they last did in 2000.

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre has been a family enterprise for most of its existence. It was founded by Professor Anton Aicher, then passed down to his son Herman Aicher, whom I remember well from the company’s Lincoln Center residency. Herman was still an active puppeteer until his death, as was his daughter, Gretl, who succeeded him in 1977 and came to McCarter with the company on many of its visits.

To watch their artistry from the audience is amazing enough, but to really appreciate their genius is to watch from backstage, as the team of puppeteers manipulate their characters while standing on a platform above the marionette stage. Moving in a constant symphony of motion in and around each other, they move the individual characters around on the stage below, never tangling string! The stage itself is a mini-McCarter, with its own turntable and scenic effects manipulated by the unseen technical personnel, who move lights, drops, and props not only behind-the-scenes, but above, below, to the sides, and even underneath (there are moments when somebody  has to crawl under the stage itself!)

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre is a marvel, both artistically and technically. Every opportunity to see them perform is one to treasure and share with your family. So save yourself a trip to Austria and take the kids – and yourself – to an unforgettable experience.

WW Lockwood Jr.

P.S. If you have a good pair of opera glasses or small binoculars (like the kind you might use for bird watching), it’s a good idea to bring them along, although they are not essential.