Lindau/Germany: Why Opera-goers adore Puppets on Strings


When these shapely legs are swung high during the rehearsal for the Swan Lake performance, they are not made of flesh and blood. Nor, in fact, are any of the lissome corporal parts belonging to the remarkable cast acting on the miniature stage of the Lindau Marionette Opera (House): they are puppets on strings choreographed and directed with an expertise and finesse that leaves any audience open-mouthed with bafflement. And that doesn’t just account for the ballet troupe bobbing their tutus in tune with Tchaikovsky’s legendary Swan Lake ballet: there are works by Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Strauss, Bizet and Humperdinck on the programme as well. But, how is it accomplished to elicit credible emotions from actors sculpted from wood? Carving features to augment the illusion of changing mien is the craftsmanship their creators are excelling at!

A Can-Can scene in "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss.

Ooh là là! Hot stuff! Exposed legs and hoisted skirts generate a sizzling atmosphere during the Can-Can scene in Johann Strauss’ “The Flittermouse”.

Additionally, the absence of facial flexibility is compensated by gestures authentically transmitted by talented puppeteers. Joy or happiness, sadness or pain on their faces or arrogance or humility in their „body language“ seem physically present. Enhanced by the works of great composers, whose unique music has been fascinating the world over centuries, the protagonists’ not being human is readily forgotten well beyond the final curtain.

Bernhard Leismüller founded the Lindau Marionette Opera

Meet Bernhard Leismüller: It is he who founded the Marionette Opera back in 2000 and who today acts as its artistic director. All of the approx. 400 puppets built were/are released from his workshop, as are the costumes. Bernhard Leismüller studied construction of puppetry with Oskar Paul, a renowned puppet-maker in the Bavarian town of Bad Tölz.

The puppeteer team of the Lindau Marionette Opera

Backstage magicians: The Lindau Marionette Opera’s fixed ensemble (this picture does not show the entire team) works both full- or part-time. All of them were taught their technique here in Lindau during a substantial three-year training. Puppeteers need to be musical, possess a strong back physically and a reliable set of sturdy nerves mentally. Plus a wholesome deal of passion!

The Lindau puppets predominantly address adults

When inaugurated in 2000, the Lindau Marionette Opera played for as few as ten guests. Over time, well over 100,000 visitors have been welcomed – with numbers climbing. The utilised capacity of the theatre lies around 90 per cent and – the predominantly adult – audience willingly travels a hundred kilometers and more to enjoy one of the memorable performances.

A scene from the Barber from Seville at the Lindau Marionette Opera

Presently, the repertoire sports seven operas, two operettas, one ballet and one comedy:
The Magic Flute, Cosi fan tutte, The Abduction from the Seraglio/Mozart – The Barber from Seville/Giacchino Rossini – Hansel & Gretel/Engelbert Humperdinck – Carmen/Georges Bizet – The Flittermouse/Johann Strauss – La Traviata/Giuseppe Verdi – Swan Lake/Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – The White Horse Inn/Ralph Benatzky and The Brandner Kaspar and eternal life/Franz von Kobell.
The image shows a lively scene from The Barber from Seville.

Capacities and booking options The Lindau Marionette Opera’s seats 98 (plus two spaces for wheel-chairs and 10 jump seats). Exclusive performances for private/corporate groups are an option, so are backstage tours and special catering arrangements.
Thanks to a mobile stage in operation since 2010, guest performances at a client’s venue have become an attractive opportunity. Distances are secondary – as long as a minimum of three performances is being booked to warrant the effort.  The criteria to be fulfilled are stated on the website link indicated in the introduction.
All images courtesy of Lindauer Marionetten Oper.

Photo credit: ©Christian Flemming