Story of a Master Puppeteer

The “Opera” of the Sicilian puppets, along with the legendary “Carretto”, have always been ambassadors of the island’s culture in Italy and around the world. This noble art of making puppets is an ancient tradition, handed down from father to son.

This art is alive today more than ever and it is recognized by UNESCO as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. In the “Opera” of Sicilian puppets epic battles are staged for honor and for love; knights and kings with powerful armors, swishing swords with no holds barred, entertaining all ages and encouraging the audience to take sides, to support Charlemagne or the evil, Ferraù. The history of the craftmanship is very important in Sicily as is the story of the Catania “Master Puppeteer” Francesco (Franco) Salamanca.

Francesco Salamanca

Franco, born in 1955, worked as an apprentice from a very young age in the best craftsmen workshops of the city, learning all their skills and secrets. Catania’s young “master puppeteer” was only ten years old when he saw his father and uncle make the first Sicilian tin puppet. From this time Franco became fascinated by this ancient art.

Emilio Musumeci,an old master puppetter from Catania also played a key role in Franco’s career. Emilio welcomed Franco in his workshop, teaching him many construction techniques of the characters, also telling Franco the story of the epic deeds of the french paladins. Since that moment Franco devoted himself entirely to the creation of the puppets. He started to build armors and swords, working with rudimentary tools for his early characters with waste materials found at the market. In the 70s’ tourism in Sicily increased exponentially as did Sicilian handicraft. This was the perfect time to introduce the art of the puppeteers to other countries.

The Salamanca family worked tirelessly in their puppeteering and subsequently earnings started to increase, allowing Franco to use more and more expensive quality materials such as shiny brass fittings and beautiful fabrics for the character’s clothing.

I Pupi di Franco Salamanca

At this point Franco decided to establish the “Salamanca Company” with his wife, Angioletta Cavallaro. It was not long before their company became recognized and well known. In 2004, thanks to the idea of his son Emanuele, Franco created a further collection of 65 theatre puppets for the cruiseship “Costa Magica” of Costa Cruise. This entire collection has been published in a prestigious book by Franco Maria Ricci (a famous Italian writer and editor, designer and collector of art). In 2010, Pupi Salamanca has been selected to be one of the exhibitors of the Italian Expo in Houston, (Texas, USA). On August 5th 2011, Francesco Salamanca won the Knight Award Isidoro Platania 2011, in recognition of his contribution as a wonderful Master Craftsman and his overall contribution to Sicilian culture and heritage.

Get a puppet character “Opera dei Pupi” from the exclusive collection of Pupi Salamanca with any order over 150 Euros on www.etnashire.com!

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