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Anton Aicher
1859 - 1930

Anton Aicher was the founding Artistic Director of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre in Austria. He founded the company in 1913 and was its leader until his death. Aicher was born in a small village in southern Styria in Austria. His talent for carving was recognised at an early age and he was sent to study with the well known maker of altar pieces. His interest in figures in motion took him to Munich to one of the masters of puppetry Papa Schmid. One of the greatest influences on Aicher was the work of Count Franz Pocci, founder of the Munich Marionette Theatre. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre company opened on 27 February 1913 with a production of Mozart's opera, Bastien and Bastienne.

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In October of the same year, Aicher hired the gymnasium of the Borromaeum seminary and installed his company there. The venue was the home to the Salzburg Marionette Theatre for 49 years. The company repertoire expanded the following year in 1914 to incorporate thirteen additional productions. Not even World War 1 interrupted the workings of the theatre company. In 1926, Aicher handed over the management of the theatre to his son, Hermann Aicher. 1927 saw the first tour of the company to HamburgGermany. This tour started a tradition that still continues today. As a sign of artistic excellence, the company was awarded the Gold Medal at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. In 1938, the year of the Anschluss, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre made an extensive tour of Germany and Sweden

During World War II, the government instructed the Salzburg Marionette Theatre to make tours of frontline areas and the troupe performed in German occupied Norway, Russia and Romania until it was forced to cease operations in 1944. When Hermann Aicher returned from the war, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre started performing again for the occupying American, British and French military forces. In 1947, the troupe marked its first German language performances in Paris. The company toured extensively throughout the 1950s and in 1950 the company began to use recorded sound for performances, instead of live actors and musicians. The troupe began its first tour of the United States in 1952 under a five-year contract.

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International touring became a permanent feature of the company, in addition to regular performances in Salzburg. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre had performed in a variety of venues until 1971 when the company acquired its own theatre in the former ballroom of the Mirabell Hotel. The first production there was Rossini's Barber of Seville. For the sixtieth anniversary of the founding, two years later, the company and its unique work was the subject of a documentary film. Sadly in 1977, the driving force behind the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, Hermann Aicher died. Artistic control passed from Hermann to his daughter Gretl Aicher.

The company revived its production of Bastien and Bastienne in 2007 and premiered a new production of The Sound of Music, directed by Richard Hamburger. Salzburg was home of the Von Trapp family and was featured heavily in the 1965 film production of the same name starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Gretl Aicher took over the position of Artistic Director of the famous Salzburg Marionette Theatre in 1977 on the death of the former director, Hermann Aicher. With her father she has been linked for a considerable time with the success of the company. Her grandfather, Anton Aicher founded the company in 1913.

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To mark the 70th birthday of Gretl Aicher and the 85th anniversary of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, a special exhibition of marionettes was opened at the Salzburg Hohensalzburg Fortress. Many of Mozart's famous operas are in the repertoire of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre Original productions featured live actors and musicians. Today soundtracks are recorded. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre performs a large repertoire of operas, ballets and productions for both children and adults, using marionettes. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre was originally founded as the Aicher Family Theatre, and has continued to this day delighting both children and adults. Over 2,600 performances have played all over the world, including Carnegie Hall.

Gretl Aicher commented on her last passion with puppetry before her passing in 2021: “What, then, is the fascination of life with marionettes? Is it the pleasure of performing? The appeal of mastering an "instrument" to the point of virtuosity? The transformation of one's own self? For me, it is the process of empathising with mind and soul, of feeling at one with music and movement that bring these much loved creatures to life. The marionette makes possible undreamt of effects of dramatic imagination, which can never be achieved on the full-size "human" stage.“

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The effects of the Corona pandemic 2020-2022 initially restricted the Theatre‘s performance and touring activities, but under the management of Susanne Tiefenbacher as managing director and Philippe Brunner as artistic director, the Theatre is receiving a variety of new impulses while maintaining its tradition. . In addition to its diverse projects, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre is strengthening itself for the future by training new puppeteers and focusing on environmentally conscious operations.

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