Italian puppet family. Among the numerous puppet families of central Italy, the Campogalliani kept alive for longest the theatrical tradition of puppet theatre. The dynasty goes back to Luigi Rimini (1775-1839) and continued up to Ugo and Francesco Campogalliani. For about two and a half centuries, the art and profession of puppetry was handed down to all the members of the family, including collateral branches.

Luigi Rimini, who got his surname from one of his protectors after his conversion from Judaism to Christianity, devoted himself to puppet theatre, creating the “mask” (maschera, stock character) of Sandrone, an uneducated peasant from the countryside around Modena, to join the other characters in his farces.

He also exercised the profession of surgeon and itinerant dentist, as was common on the piazzas of Italy, where puppeteers often performed alongside cerretani, or ciarlatani (charlatans).

In 1830, one of his daughters married Giulio Preti, who also belonged to a well-known puppet family and who invented the “mask” of Pulonia, Sandrone’s wife.

Ugo Campogalliani (1862-1951), a grandson of Luigi, travelled more widely as a puppeteer, going beyond the boundaries of Romagna and travelling with great success throughout Italy. In 1914, he was in Rome at the Odescalchi palace, home of Vittorio Podrecca’s recently inaugurated Teatro dei Piccoli, where he remained for two months attracting large audiences and good reviews. One member of his audience was the great actress Eleonora Duse. Ugo Campogalliani was thrilled to be able to give two performances at court before the king, queen Elena and the young princes of Savoy.

During his long career as an actor and puppeteer, Francesco Campogalliani (1870-1931), another grandson of Luigi, enriched and gave a new status to the tradition preferring to perform for middle-class audiences in theatres rather than on public squares. He set out to endow puppet theatre with the dignity of hard work and meticulous attention to detail, and allowed only limited space for improvisation. He knew regional dialects well and displayed his knowledge of them in his shows. He wrote and staged comedies in the dialect of Modena.

(See Italy.)


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