Count Franz von Pocci
BirthMunich, Germany (1804)
DeathMunich, Germany (1876)
Senior official at the court of Munich, a German artist, writer, scriptwriter, illustrator, musician and composer. Count Franz von Pocci became famous as a writer and illustrator of books and fairy tales for children. Although he had little success in actors’ theatre, his plays for puppet theatres have gone down to posterity. The six volumes published between 1859 and 1877 under the title Lustiges Komödienbüchlein (Jolly Booklet of Comedies) include fifty-three Kasper (Kasperl) comedies, stories of knights, fairy tale plays, and various prologues and interludes written for Josef Leonhard Schmid‘s Münchner Marionetten-Theater (Munich Marionette Theatre). They were Pocci’s personal creations or adaptations of works inspired by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and writers of the time.
The duo Schmid-Pocci was a first in the history of puppetry in Germany: a “practical man” (Schmid) worked hand in hand with a poet (Pocci). Because of Pocci and other authors, Schmid’s company had for the first time its own dramatic repertory independent of the ones for actors’ theatre. Many pieces that Pocci (nicknamed the Kasperlgraf: Kasperl Count or Count Kasperl) wrote became classics of German puppet theatre. Although written for young audiences, these pieces were far from innocent comedies but were often bitter and grotesque satires of the times. In fact, Franz von Pocci endowed the old Kasper figure of puppet shows performed at fairs new qualities: his Kasperl Larifari (Nonsense Kasperl) was no longer just a practical joker but a locally and socially rooted character. He compared the conflicts of the bourgeois or nobility to the everyday problems of ordinary people. Pocci’s Kasperl was placed into situations that highlighted the absurdity of the plot and became a sort of antihero to the usual heroic lead in plays.
Some contemporary German puppeteers such as Frieder Simon, the director of the Hallenser Handpuppenbühne (Hand/Glove Puppet Stage of Halle), have declared their explicit commitment to the influence of Count Franz von Pocci and his comic characters.