SUMMER OPENING TIMES (From 1st April to 30 September)

From Monday to Friday : 10.00 - 13.00; 15.00 – 18.00

Saturday, Sunday and Public holidays:10.00 – 18.00


WINTER OPENING TIMES (From 1st  October to 31st March)

From Monday to Friday: 10.00 - 13.00;  14.00 – 17.00

Saturday, Sunday and Public holidays: 10.00 – 17.00

25 december closed

01 genuary open 14.00-17.00 





The International Centre “VITTORIO PODRECCA-TEATRO DELLE MERAVIGLIE DI MARIA SIGNORELLI" includes a small part of the whole MARIA SIGNORELLI COLLECTION. The marionettes, the puppets and all the exhibits have been declared "of exceptional cultural interest" by the Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Tourism. They open the way to a route of knowledge and study regarding the meaning, over the centuries, of the Puppet Theatre in Italy and in the world.

The layout of the exhibition space shows both the history of the Compagnia dei Piccoli di Vittorio Podrecca, and the personality of Maria Signorelli personality, an artist and an intellectual, whose sensitivity in the 60's allowed the saving of a large part of the materials related to the Compagnia di Podrecca, subtracting them from dispersion and oblivion. Vittorio Podrecca and Maria Signorelli also exemplify the two souls of the puppet Theatre: the marionette and the puppet, which are historically one of the cultural identities of our country. The story of Podrecca intersects with that of his family and the city of Cividale and it enables us to retrace the main events in Italy between the nineteenth and twentieth century, a period dense with cultural and historical events of great importance for our nation. In fact, the entire history of marionettes and puppets is intertwined with important historical events, narrating in its own way, like in a newsreel of today, the battles and revolutions that have changed our destiny, have spread cultures and ways of living, have modified lifestyles and opinions, and have amplified the social and cultural needs of our country. Maria Signorelli's puppets, for their part, are a particular trait of the Italian figurative art in the twentieth century, as they were born from the suggestions of the artistic and theatrical avant-garde at the beginning of that period.



One of the most representative figures of the puppet theatre in the twentieth century, Maria Signorelli, Born in Rome on November 17, 1908, lived from childhood in a very culturally rich environment. When she was twenty years old, she created her first Dolls, soft sculptures born from multiple suggestions, which were exhibited in Rome, Paris and Berlin. Set designer for the Teatro degli Indipendenti of Anton Giulio Bragaglia and then for the Teatro delle Arti in Rome, in 1937 she approached Puppetry creating some puppet characters. In 1939 she married the educator Luigi Volpicelli and in 1947 she founded the company L'Opera dei Burattini that, over time enlisted famous actors, painters, designers, composers and directors. Thus came to life a repertoire of great poetry, with shows like King Deer  (Gozzi) The tale of the golden fish  (Pushkin), The Nightingale and the Rose (Wilde), The storm  (Shakespeare), Faust  (Bonneschk) Inferno  (Dante),  The French Revolution  (Ceronetti), Antigone  (Brecht). Her particular virtuosity in conceiving dancing puppets created famous ballets such as Cinderella (Prokofiev)  El retablo de Maese Pedro (De Falla) and  La Boîte à joujoux (Debussy). Along with an intensive production (159 shows) and the hundreds of puppets created with ingenious and at the same time simple and refined solutions, the artist kept a commitment to teaching: from 1972 she taught in the animation theatre course specifically set up for her by the DAMS of Bologna, and created radio and television shows. Lecturer on Puppetry in Italy and abroad, she was the author of several books, including The puppeteer game (1978), and wrote a number of articles. With her important collection (thousands of pieces dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century), she conceived and curated a number of exhibitions in Italy and abroad. Member of the World Council of UNIMA and founder of UNIMA-Italy (1980), of which she was honorary Chairwoman for a long time, Maria Signorelli died in Rome on July 9, 1992.

Vittorio Podrecca, who was born in Cividale del Friuli in 1883 and died in 1959 in Geneva, was the most important Italian impresario and director of a puppet company. He was the son of Carlo, a lawyer and writer (The Italian Slavia, 1884), and brother of  Guido, journalist and politician, known for being, along with Filippo Turat  and Andrea Costa, one of the founders of the Italian Socialist Party. Graduated in Law, Vittorio collaborated and directed various information and music magazines; later, he became secretary of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. It was here that he founded at the Palazzo Odescalchi, in 1914 , the Teatro dei Piccoli, which soon, thanks to the numerous tours abroad, became famous all over the world. His theatre, which grew to up to one thousand puppets, brought on the scene short musical works, specifically composed (for example Sleeping Beauty by Ottorino Respighi) prose or poetic adaptations, fairy tales, parodies and Italian and foreign folk dances, in a scenic setting which saw the collaboration of painters who later became very well known (among others, Enrico Prampolini). Among the most famous puppets invented by the Compagnia dei Piccoli are the soprano Sinforosa Strangolini and pianist Piccolowsky: the latter usually closed the show, performing a sonata on the piano, a veritable masterpiece of puppetry technique. The Compagnia dei Piccoli enlisted the greatest Italian puppeteers of the time (Gorno Dall'acqua, Braga, Santoro and others). The merit of Vittorio Podrecca was to have brought together tradition and innovation, taking Italian art on the stages of the world. He also knew how to graft a refined sense of art on old puppetry traditions, setting up shows on subjects taken from Shakespeare,  Gozzi and modern authors, with music by Rossini, Mozart, Donizetti and Paisiello.



Along the stairs, a breakdown of parts of the most widely used poster, advertising the performances of the Compagnia dei Piccoli, created by set designer Bruno Angoletta. 


(hall on the right) - Study of Maria Signorelli

This is a non-philological reconstruction of the environment in which Maria Signorelli conceived many of her works.  It shows the backdrop by Paolo Tommasi for the show The Song of Spain  (1954), and a special exhibition stand hosts the hand and stick controlled puppet Spanish lady.

The room is dominated by a theatrical reconstruction of the large cabinet used in Rome by Maria Signorelli as an exhibition container for her puppets.

The cabinet doors act as a "screen": with the video mapping technology, they narrate the artist's history. Inside the cabinet there are over a hundred puppets made by Maria Signorelli. Very beautiful also the Neapolitan Clown dating to the late nineteenth - early twentieth century that Maria Signorelli kept in her study.

The showcases contain the dolls created by Maria Signorelli: the couple for the Cricket on the Hearth by Dickens from 1930, the Syracusans by Teocrito from 1931 and the Tango dancers from 1929. 

(hall on the left) - Vittorio Podrecca Hall

On one wall we can see a display tribune at three levels derived from the original "step units" of the Compagnia dei Piccoli of Podrecca delivered by the Teatro Stabile of Friuli Venezia Giulia.  The staircase is equipped with transparent tops hosting reproductions of old scores, scripts, contracts, as well as some of the most famous puppets by Podrecca such as the Clowns, the Tamer of lions, the  Mexican lady, Columbine, the Stilt walker. On the other walls, the famous puppets that were part of the shows: the Viennese Orchestra, Pierrot on the moon, the Clowns (Variety 1915-1930); followed by the reproduction of Humphrey Bogart, from the forties, and the little black men from Bil Bol Bul (Les Rois du Jazz). On the fourth wall flow images of the documentary on the history of Vittorio Podrecca and La Compagnia dei Piccoli.


Hall of the Bridgeof the Compagnia dei Piccoli di Podrecca

The room is dominated by the stage bridge, donated by the Teatro Stabile of Friuli Venezia Giulia, a fundamental manoeuvring structure in puppet theatres. The backdrop, just restored, is from the show Pinocchio andrefers to the whale scene. Alonside the puppet of Pinocchio, we can admire the three doctors, the Crow, the Owland the Cricket and the Talking Cricket (this last puppet, never exhibited before, has been newly restored with the contribution of the Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Friuli Venezia Giulia). Next to the small Devil and the Carabinieri, there are the very beautiful puppets Pulcinella and Harlequin, the friends met by Pinocchio at the Theatre of Mangiafuoco in the fairytale.

Theatre workshop room

This room hosts a reconstructed restoration workshop for puppets and marionettes, with all the tools of the trade.  Tools, trunks, clothes, shoes, models, swords, carpenter's tools, tailoring equipment, scenography. At the sides we can see the original "exit turrets" (delivered by the Teatro Stabile of Friuli Venezia Giulia). This space exhibits some pieces including marionettes, dolls and puppets. One and for all, we mention the Polish rider, in cardboard and polystyrene, the puppet Rolando and the Neapolitan Pupo dating from the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

The workshop has always been a fundamental part of marionette and puppet theatres, because the characters were designed and built for the new shows by the staff of the theatre company. The same puppeteers, before the show, rearranged the costumes and checked the status of the instrumentation (e.g. the backdrop and the puppet cabin, the puppet controls), and in general made those small restorations (such as painting the heads, gilding the armours and stitching the clothes) which were needed for the freshness and effect of the staging arrangements.


(hall on the right) - Recreational and educational space

This is a space dedicated to children. It hosts a theatre and some puppets available for a moment of play and texts to be read. There are also cardboard cut-outs made by children from the Cividale schools created in 2014 to celebrate the centenary of the Compagnia dei Piccoli, based on the original ones built by Maria Signorelli for the show Pantomime Futuriste.

(hall on the left) - Posters room

 This room displays some reproductions of 500 posters of puppet shows that are part of the Maria Signorelli Collection, proving that puppet theatre is an ancient genre of art spread throughout the world.


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