Posted by Centre québécois des Mariages Internationaux on February 11th, 2021
HISTORY OF PUPPET THEATER IN RUSSIA
At the beginning of the 18th century during the reign of Anna Ioanovna (1730-1740) a new kind of entertainment appeared in Russia - puppet shows, usually performed by puppeteers from Italy, England, Belgium and other European countries. At first, wooden artists in Russia are referred to as "alumni", but very soon a new word "marionette" appears in the Russian language. If you carefully study the posters, preserved from those distant times, you can note three main points: first - puppet shows until the middle of the 19th century were presented by foreigners; second - conversational genre with small dancing elements prevailed in the basis of performances; third - theater or home halls were rented for puppet performances. Modern theater researchers can only speculate about the pace at which foreign puppet shows penetrated into Russian culture and traditions, because almost no detailed descriptions of those times have survived.
At the end of the nineteenth century marionette performances were sure to be seen at all the popular festivities and the history of puppet theater, children's puppet theater, performances for children, theater in kindergarten, puppet theater for small, puppet theater at home or at the fair, but now the Russian actors amused the audience. One of the brightest representatives of the artists-puppeteers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Ivan Afinogenovich Zaitsev, whose stories have preserved some of the details of the final period of the puppet Russian theater. Ivan Afinogenovich was a very gifted man, and in addition to his acting skills, he mastered the techniques of making the puppets himself. Zaitsev's wife Anna Dmitrievna Triganova was a faithful companion of her husband, she created costumes for the puppets and also drove them to performances. Zaitsev was the first puppeteer actor to receive the title of Honored Artist of the Russian Republic. He had been working at the Central Puppet Theatre for more than four years, appearing in the new wave of theater performances, even though he sometimes presented his own programme of traditional marionettes performing all sorts of funny circus acts. These amazing puppets are still kept in the Central Puppet Theater and today's young spectators have the opportunity to see them, thanks to the exhibition composition, to get acquainted with the history of puppet theater. Sergey Obraztsov, an outstanding director and artist of the Puppet Theater, described his meetings with Zaitsev with great warmth and appreciation: "The more I got acquainted with Zaitsev's work, the more my respect for his creative work grew. Next to him, I felt like an amateur, and he was a true professional in his amazing profession.
In the twentieth century marionette puppets had been almost completely ousted from the theatrical history of the puppet theater, children's puppet theater, plays for children, theater in kindergartens, puppet theater for young children, puppet theater at home, by the same puppeteers, but only Petrushka - the central character of the Russian square theater, kept the charisma of his image and even transformed from a rag doll into a wooden one. In the 1920s, marionette puppet shows almost completely disappeared, starting from the 30s, the Soviet period children's theaters were already ruled by reed puppets driven by actors from behind a screen from below with the help of canes to which the expressive arms of the puppets were attached. Nowadays there are still puppeteer-enthusiasts who in spite of everything try to revive the puppet theater and try to achieve perfection in puppet control and maybe one day this theater will revive and find its former glory and audience love.
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