Gianfranco Salonia, puppeteer


Testo in italiano

Artist Talk

Gianfranco Salonia, puppeteer


“The Sicilian puppet is a work of art between history and fantasy that recalls the childhood stories of every Sicilian”



As a child I have always had a passion for puppet opera.

It is a profession that is being lost.

Serena “I am a painter and I realize the faces of Gianfranco’s puppets”

It is important to approach young people to this art, once the profession was sacred, secrets were not to be revealed to anyone.

I do a lot of puppet construction courses, especially in schools and it’s great to pass on to young people.

There is my son who says I have to throw everything away, he knows how to play puppets but now he is studying engineering, he will go another path.

He tells me that if I want a hand I have to fix everything.

But if I fix everything here I don’t find anything anymore.

This is under construction is an 80cm puppet.

See the shield starts from a flat sheet and then is worked.

I do everything, everything, everything by hand.

This is a particular puppet is Bradamente.

Its peculiarity is the material: steel.

I am one of the few who work steel, because it is very hard and no one comes close to steel easily.

Copper, brass and aluminum are usually worked.

I wanted to experiment with steel because it is indestructible and does not alter, does not change color, even if it costs less than other materials.

The magic of the world of puppets for me is their creation.

I realize a puppet from scratch so their are like sons for me.

Every time I have to take off a puppet, I move away from it, because I am fond of it.

I recommend to the customer to treat him well.

Once I walked into a house and saw a puupet of mine hanging like a sack of potatoes.

I got angry, I told him: the puppet has to catch up.

The puppet in that way you destroy him.

Puppets taught the Sicilian people legality, pride, honesty.

They were Paladins, ones who did the right things, who hated bullies, protected the righteous, taught you how to be in society, taught you respect, education.

Sicilians learned everything from puppets.

For example: the puppet opera was in Italian.

At that time we only spoke in Sicilian, who spoke in Italian?

The puppets have taught the Italian language to the Sicilians.

Once someone told me: but I only heard the opera in Sicilian, and this is because the puppeteer did not say a word in Italian.

Let us remember that in 2001 the puppet opera was declared a Unesco’s.

At about 5 years my passion was born thanks to my uncle, who was a bachelor, and had a form of dwarfism.

He had a passion for opera and from an early age he took me with him.

It was the 70s.

Since he was little, they reserved the first places for him and I was fascinated with my mouth open in the front row.

Here in Sortino we went to Don Ignazio Puglisi’s theater.

Then when he died, his nephew me and another friend decided that this story had to continue and all three of us kept the theater alive.

My favorite character is Erminio della Stella d’Oro.

We look at the Saracens badly, but they are extraordinary knights and fighters, they do not know fear, one against ten.

Serenuccia is a very good painter, she comes out of the artistic school, a hard worker, a great artist and she makes me faces.

Serena: I like to give dignity to the puppets, I like to draw faces.

This is a head from the 1800s.

Serena: If you notice this is much more realistic in the eye.

These are the busts I make.

I build them from scratch.

The dress, the armor, everything.

I often recover pieces of antique puppets in the markets, thrown on the ground, I take them and restore them, I save them practically



Gianfranco on Sicilian Artisan Foundation: please, go



The creative people of Trinacria

Sicilian Artisan Foundation (S.A.F.) is a project  to sustain the Sicilian creativity, over all to support the artisans and artists.

The objective of S.A.F is both to safeguard the traditions and ancient crafts of the people of Sicily, and to sustain economically the Artisans and the Artists, both the real ethno-anthropologists of the country.

The writers transcribing down through memory to the pen; artisans use their hands and flair.

Both use their hearts.



Author: Giovanni Vallone, Cultural Department of Splendid Sicily


Translation: Giovanna Battaglia, Cultural Department of Splendid Sicily


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