MARCH 8 TO MAY 10, 2024


2024 is the year in which the Corniani family celebrates its 80th year as Puppeteers. To this important anniversary, an exhibition dedicated to this very long

period of theatrical activity. An exhibition that will be a moment of historical, cultural, recreational meeting in which will retrace and learn how, the Corniani family has characterized the figure theater and the

puppet theater, in Mantua, Italy and many European countries. The theatrical activity began in 1944 with Augusto Corniani. In 1974 due to an accident to Augusto's wrists, his son Maurizio began

to be the main character in the shack, and, since then, he has not stopped puppeteering, collecting successes, gaining recognition and awards all over Europe, even in faraway

Siberia, invited by Mantua professor Mario Pavesi, where he won first prize at the festival international festival in Omks. And the tradition continues; today the puppets pass "From hand to hand," as the title also indicates to Augusto's grandson, Cesare.

Augustus in 1944, began performing in the bunkers in which Mantuan families found refuge

to escape the bombings. He skillfully entertained people with his puppets, giving

them moments of serenity and smiles. And so the artistic story begins ,and reaches the present day in which his son Maurizio, after leaving his job, embarks on the path of puppeteer,

first with his father and then on his own inventing stories and characters, telling the tradition but

also rereading stories from children's and adult books, aided and abetted by his wife Elisa Gemini, until the present day in which he debuts, at only 11 years old, his son Cesare, with an opera written,

set to music and performed by Cesare himself, under the artistic direction of his father Maurizio.

The exhibition is dedicated to school students from all over Italy, but also to adults who can remember their childhood through the characters and stories and, for those who do not know

this art, understand the importance of puppet theater their morals still relevant today.

The art of Puppet Theater grew out of a desire to always speak with sincerity and

simplicity. In all plays and performances there is always a moral, combined with the

maintenance of dialect language traditions, an example of so-called poor but true culture

and effective, The puppeteers have always had the license and freedom to mock the flaws of the world, to sarcastically poke at politics and to lash out at scoundrels, liars, sneaks and

even the powerful. In short, engaging adults and children alike with language that is histrionic and biting but understandable. And this is the philosophy that has always distinguished the theatrical work of the

Corniani family. This spirit can be found in all their shows and in the characters that the family

has been representing for eighty years.In a recent interview James Bradburne, former director of the Brera Art Gallery, said:

"Not everyone has thought about the role that puppets have played and continue to play

in the history of theater, or to their importance as instruments of social change.

In the early twentieth century, avant-garde writers and directors used marionettes and puppets, the

puppets, to transform theater from a performance dominated by actors to a total art form total created by directors."

The exhibition will feature numerous puppets from the Corniani family's private collection,

handcrafted over the years, acquired and donated, such as those bequeathed by Mario Pavesi, or from private collections that have enriched the already prestigious collection. From a

Beans from the early 20th century to more recent ones, such as Maria Callas of 2024, a play

performed to great critical and public acclaim on the stage of the Bibiena Theater

of Mantua, with a unique and original script that combined the art of figure theater

of puppets with the acting of actors with live music and singing.

The exhibition will be curated for the historical aspect by Professor Remo Melloni who, in addition to framing the

historical and cultural period, will give explanations of the origin, dialects, dressings of the

puppets of their birth and evolution. It will be an exhibition that will also feature

some precious stage sets and period curtains, of places in Mantua partially modified

by urban evolution; the first bicycle of Augustus and the later hemostat, the first shacks

that served as stages.

The exhibition will have an itinerary in which the stage mutation, the diversity of language and

the evolution of puppets, there will be times when the Corniani family with short workshops

will illustrate how, even at home, puppets can be created from poor or found materials.

There will be a video section in which documentaries, videos, interviews made during the

course of the long artistic journey of Augusto and Maurizio.

For its long and important activity, the Corniani family was awarded, in 2023, the prestigious

recognition of "historical family of tradition" by the Ministry of Culture, with a

accurate census and cataloging of the puppets with the Soprintendenza archeologica belle arti e

landscape, of Mantua included in the list of the very few families of theatrical tradition in Italy,

as an intangible asset of the Italian cultural heritage and the Corniani puppets as a tangible asset


During the opening period of the exhibition, there will also be the theatrical review "Animando

Mantua" replicated in the city for more than 30 years, with performances, the original voice of Augustus and

the animation of Maurizio and Cesare in the neighborhoods of Castelletto Borgo and Pompilio, where Augustus

lived, Angeli, San Leonardo and Virgiliana.

The design and layout of the exhibition is curated by

Maurizio together with his wife Elisa Gemelli, an integral and indispensable part of the company's

theater. Visitors will take a visual and temporal journey in which they can interact with the puppets

on display and at the same time acquire the artistic evolutions of the company and the projects carried out over the

80 years of activity. There will also be an opportunity for all visitors from schools and for

all children who will visit the exhibition, upon request and limited number, to participate in short

workshops for the construction of puppets with scrap or recycled materials. The theater company

has been, for the past few years, an environmentally conscious "Green Theatre Company" and uses

green and recycled materials, both for the sets and for the technical equipment, consistent with the

type of performance and the facilities to be planted.


Spesa oggetto del contributo nell'ambito del bando PNRR, Missione 1 – Digitalizzazione, innovazione, competitività e cultura, Componente 3 – Cultura 4.0 (M1C3), Misura 1 “Patrimonio culturale per la prossima generazione”, Investimento 1.2: “Rimozione delle barriere fisiche e cognitive in musei, biblioteche e archivi per consentire un più ampio accesso e partecipazione alla cultura” finanziato dall’Unione europea – NextGenerationEU“ – CUP: C64H22001410004.