Pupi is the Sicilian word for the puppets used in the Opera dei Pupi. Puppets are moved by skilled hands inside a specific setting. The narrative is called ‘u cuntu and is mostly improvised on the stories of the epics of chivalry, the lives of the saints and the poems of the Renaissance. The puppets follow the actions narrated by ‘u cuntu with their movements. Each puppet has its own recognisable features in its appearance, in the clothes it wears and in its armour. Puppets were moved by some mechanisms: a rod tied to the bust and reaching up to the head allowed to keep the puppet in an upright position and another rod allowed to move the right arm (movement very useful for representations with chivalrous improvisations and duels).

In many Sicilian towns, theatres and puppeteers dedicated their show to these representations which, until the 1950s, attracted many people who used to enjoy their free time in the evening. The Opera dei Pupi became an important social event. Even if representations were referring to defined themes they did not have rigid scripts so they were often hinting at contemporary events and elements of criticism.

The Opera dei Pupi was born in the nineteenth century. Performances were held either in adapted spaces, as in Palermo, or in specially designed places with a larger audience, as in Catania. The differences between the two Sicilian towns do not concern only the spaces: the puppets in Palermo are lighter, those in Catania are heavier and need more space and more people to  handle them. In both cases, the puppets require great skill on the part of the puppeteers to make them and to handle them on stage. In many Sicilian towns there are theatres with puppeteers who adapt the opera according to their specific territory: Syracuse, for example, stands out with its own interpretation of the Opera dei Pupi. Some puppeteers worked in a travelling way, reaching non-Italian locations which were hosting Sicilian communities wishing to remember their land through the Opera.

Buttitta I., I pupi siciliani: memoria, tradizione e innovazione di un patrimonio artistico e culturale, Móin-Móin - Revista de Estudos sobre Teatro de Formas Animadas, Florianópolis, v. 1, n. 15, p. 177-195, 2018
Cuticchio M., Alle armi, cavalieri! Le storie dei paladini di Francia raccontate da Mimmo Cuticchio, Donzelli, Roma, 2017
Isgrò G., Sulle origini dell’Opra dei pupi, Dialoghi Mediterranei - Periodico bimestrale dell'Istituto Euroarabo di Mazara del Vallo, numero 60, marzo 2023
Pasqualino A., Come si costruisce un pupo in La cultura materiale in Sicilia, Quaderni del Circolo Semiologico Siciliano 12-13, Stampatori Tipolitografi Associati, Palermo, 1980
Perricone, R. (a cura di), Piano delle misure di salvaguardia dell’opera dei pupi siciliani, Associazione per la conservazione delle tradizioni popolari,, Ed. Museo Pasqualino, Palermo, 2021
Antologia dedicata a Mimmo Cuticchio disponibile al link https://www.raiplay.it/programmi/mimmocuticchio-loperadeipupi (last visited 20/06/2023)
Museo Internazionale delle Marionette “Antonino Pasqualino” https://www.museodellemarionette.it/ (last visited 10/06/2022)
Associazione Figli d’Arte Cuticchio https://www.figlidartecuticchio.com/ (last visited 20/06/2023)
Mancuso Pupi - Figli d’Arte Mancuso - L’origine dei Pupi a Palermo e Catania https://www.mancusopupi.it/la-compagnia-carlo-magno/opera_pupi_storia/ (last visited 04/01/2022)
Saitta U., I pupi siciliani, Documentario (1955), disponibile alla pagina https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4davTbvFaY (last visited 04/01/2022)
Inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity UNESCO since 2008 (3.COM) - Opera dei Pupi, Sicilian puppet theater https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/opera-dei-pupi-sicilian-puppet-theatre-00011