Don't be fooled by the label; there is nothing juvenile about the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, now on its 75th anniversary tour.
Monday night at Ambassador Auditorium, the troupe presented a sparkling production of Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" that, full-size, would be welcome in any major opera house.
Though the actors are "mere" puppets one-third the size of the famous singers with whose recordings they "perform" (on a tiny stage dwarfed by the surrounding proscenium), no sense of artistic chicanery nags the viewer. Despite marionette flexibility in traditional slapstick, subtle refinement prevails.
Therein lies the rub: This sophisticated entertainment eludes children and novices. More than a few small fry dozed off before intermission, while grown-ups innocent of intimate acquaintance with the opera lamented the lack of supertitles and librettos.
But those in the know (audience reaction indicated a plurality of such present) experienced nearly unrelieved delight: the telling, if canned, vocal art of Teresa Berganza, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Fernando Corena, and a visual banquet. Stunning, airy, whimsically decorated sets by no less than Gunther Schneider-Siemssen house the superb marionette sculptures of Joseph Magnus, exquisitely costumed by Marie-Luise Walek. Roly-poly Dr. Bartolo--clearly modeled on Salvatore Baccaloni--was most endearing.
Artistic Director Gretl Aicher and colleagues demonstrated staggering virtuosity and superb timing "on the strings."