Come for the architecture, stay for the puppets! I vaguely knew of the Czech Republic’s propensity for puppetry, which dates back to the Middle Ages, but I wasn’t expecting marionettes to lurk around every corner. USA Today quotes puppeteer Vlad Brodsky saying, “Puppets are to Prague what pizza is to Rome.”
(I haven’t been to Rome- is there really pizza everywhere?)
Walking across Charles Bridge, the tour guides each hold aloft a garishly-colored umbrella to keep their hordes together. Except this one, who goes for a bit of local flavor.
On my first afternoon in the city, I spotted a poster for a puppet performance of “Don Giovanni.” Clearly I would be attending this show at some point- why not right away?
A couple dozen of us, including a few children, slid onto the creaky wooden benches in the small theater. A pre-recorded track of the opera began to play, and the first characters appeared.
I was expecting marionettes, but the performers used a mixture of stringed puppets and hand puppets, which gave them a greater range of movement. Lucky thing, since the mischievous main character spends a lot of time prancing around, peeking through windows, and engaging in sexual shenanigans. Actually, I’m not entirely sure what was going on: the libretto was sung in Italian, I had no previous knowledge of the plot, and my early morning was starting to catch up with me.
The audience appreciated the clever moments, with puppets breaking into sword fights and set pieces flipping around to portray alternate locations. Overall, the show got a little long, and we patrons of the arts darted out of the theater immediately after the curtain call.
One possible explanation for this artistic shortfall was that I may have seen the wrong “Don Giovanni.” Relying on websites listed in the guidebook, it wasn’t clear if the National Marionette Theatre (the one mentioned in USA Today) and its adjoining museum still existed. Take it from me: if you’re headed to Prague, don’t rely on puppetart.com or marionettemuseum.com, both of which are for sale (one in Japanese).
Better to surf to mozart.cz, which promises a dazzling puppetary display.
What I couldn’t miss were the marionettes populating numerous storefronts. Most were a bit creepy.
Which made it all the more delightful when I came across this shop, offering truly fun and artistic designs.
I was tempted to take one home with me, though I was wary of damage on the flight home and the high price tags. Then again, working on this blog post made me go to their website, where they accept online orders.
Are you listening, Santa?