Italian puppet family from Bologna. The dynasty started with Filippo (1806-1872) in 1831 when he first presented his witty farces with the character of Sandrone on the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. Nearly all of his activity was in Bologna and usually in the open on the Piazza Maggiore where the audiences were so large that they even sat on the steps of the basilica of San Petronio. His famous renderings of Balanzone, the Bolognese “mask” (maschera, stock character) of the Dottore (Doctor) introduced Carnival festivities. Brighella and Arlecchino also figured in his company but attributed to the freedom of speech of the uneducated peasant when talking about established authority. In practice, even if he was bolder than the Sandrone of Preti (another puppeteer family), Cuccoli’s character never went beyond a few mischievous allusions, mainly where the clergy were concerned.
Filippo’s son Angelo (1834-1905) was even more successful with Fagiolino (Little Bean), a character created at the end of the 18th century by Cavallazzi, a puppeteer known only for his performances which were much enjoyed in the Corte de’ Galluzzi. Fagiolino, whose name may come from a Zanni (characters from the Italian puppet theatre) of the same name in the 17th century, is probably a completely native Bolognese character. It is certainly true that instead of being as tiny as a little bean he is a robust and very lively character, always armed with a stick which he uses to sort out every problem. He wears a long white cap with a tassel which he shakes in every direction and has an enormous beauty spot on his cheek. From the little stage of his booth (1.5 metres across), Angelo Cuccoli revived the lazzi of Fagiolino and made him into the hero of the dialect theatre of Bologna. He composed some 250 scenarios and comedies which are similar to the scenarios of the commedia dell’arte: simple sketches that came to life and developed on the spot in the course of the performance.
Following the example of the commedia dell’arte actors, Angelo Cuccoli created another “mask” to accompany Fagiolino. Called Flemma, he had a distraught expression with teeth wide apart, wore a large envelope-shaped cap on his head, and was stupid, a cry-baby and, like all the other Zanni, perpetually starving.
Nothing remains of this dynasty of puppeteers. Even the Cuccoli puppets were lost in a shipwreck when sailing to America.
- Cervellati, Alessandro. Storia dei burattini e burattinai bolognesi [History of the Bolognese Puppets and Puppeteers]. Bologna, 1964.
- McCormick, John, with Alfonso Cipolla and Alessandro Napoli. The Italian Puppet Theater – A History. Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Co., 2010. (See chapter on puppets and the Commedia dell’Arte.)
- Pandolfini Barberi, Antonio. Burattini e burattinai bolognesi [Bolognese Puppets and Puppeteers]. Bologna, 1923.