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Since 1629, when the French influenced almost all European art forms, the most spectacular puppet presentations told of the Paladins of France and the villainous Saracens during the Crusades – filled with chivalry, love, hate, and terrible battles. The puppets themselves almost come alive! Made of padded wood, they’re dressed in authentic period costumes, including family colors and crest. Knights are well-equipped: from the helmet on the head, and iron breastplate, the sword in the right hand … the shield on the left arm. Only the King, the Ladies, and the Pages are without armor.
The Puparo (or puppet speaker) sets the stage for his audience: a mortal struggle between those hated Saracens and the virtuous Paladins. Our play begins:
ACT 1, scene 1: Gano, the brother-in-law of Charlemagne (King of France and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) makes a pact with the Saracens to betray his fellow countrymen.
ACT I, scene 2: Gano returns to Charlemagne’s camp and tells of the Saracens’ wish to be baptized as Christians. Orlando, the strongest and cleverest of all Paladins, does not believe this surprising turn-about from his enemies. Yet, preferring a brave death to a cowardly life, he leads his men to the fateful ambush. The battle of Roncesvalles is here.
ACT II, scene 1: To the cry of “Long Live France!”, Orlando and the Paladins fight gallantly to the end. His homeland now safe, Orlando dies after single combat with Gano, the traitor.
The curtain falls, and the fierce warriors on stage are once again transformed into works of art.
— This information about I Pupi Macrì Acireale was taken from a brochure of a presentation sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco in 1985.