Hungarian puppet theatre director, dramatist, and essayist. Dezső Szilágyi first studied Law at the Péter Pázmány University in Budapest. After graduation, he was editor of a newspaper and, until 1958, was active at the Institute of Folk Arts. From 1958 to 1992, he was the director of the Állami Bábszínház (State Puppet Theatre) in Budapest.

Dezső Szilágyi shaped the character of the Állami Bábszínház, which became in the 1960s and 1970s a very contemporary theatre based on popular and fairground puppetry arts. His aesthetic choice was “pure” puppetry – that is, classic, illusionist, a carrier of beauty and harmony – without visible manipulation or distancing (“alienation”) effect.

Among his puppetry adaptations are Jancsi és Juliska (Hansel and Gretel, 1955) by the Brothers Grimm; A bűvös tűzszerszám (The Tinderbox, 1957) by Hans Christian Andersen; János Vitéz (János the Brave, 1958) by Sándor Petőfi; Szentivánéji álom (1964), based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; A fából faragott királyfi (The Wooden Prince, 1965) by Béla Bartók; Petruska (Petrushka, 1965) by Igor Stravinsky; A csodálatos mandarin (The Miraculous Mandarin, 1969) by Béla Bartók; A pagodák hercege (The Prince of the Pagodas, 1970) by Benjamin Britten; Háry János (1972) by Zoltán Kodály; Aventures (Adventures, 1972) by György Ligeti; Csongor és Tünde (Csongor and Tünde, 1974) by Mihály Vörösmarty; La Valse (The Waltz, 1976) by Maurice Ravel; Klasszikus szimfónia (Classical Symphony, 1976) by Sergei Prokofiev; A katona története (The Soldier’s Tale, 1976) by Stravinsky; Diótörő (The Nutcracker, 1978) by Tchaikovsky; Cantata Profana (1981) by Béla Bartók; Vihar (1988) based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

A member of the UNIMA Presidium/Executive Committee (1964 to 1989) and president of the national centre, UNIMA-Hungary (1962-2004), Dezső Szilágyi received several distinctions and awards, including “Outstanding Artist” in 1973, a Kossuth Prize in 1980, and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary in 1992.

Dezső Szilágyi has published Bábjáték az iskolában (Puppetry in the School, Budapest, Tankönyvkiadó, 1954); A bábjáték műfaji sajátosságai (The Art of Puppetry as a Genre – Its Characteristics, Budapest, Népmúvélesi Kiadó, 1960); Zene és bábszínpad (Music and Puppet Theatre, Budapest, Zenemúkiadó, 1971); A mai magyar bábszínház (Hungarian Puppet Theatre Today, Budapest, Corvina Kiadó, 1978).

Dezső Szilágyi also edited the following UNIMA publications: Figur und Spiel im Puppentheater der Welt (Character and Play in the Puppet Theatre of the World, 1977), Die Welt des Puppenspiels (The World of Puppetry, Berlin, Hanschelverlag, 1989).

(See Hungary.)


  • Balogh, Géza, ed. Bábszínház, 1949-1999 [Puppet Theatre, 1949-1999]. With a study of Péter Molnár Gál. Budapest, 2000.
  • Jurkowski, Henryk, Métamorphoses. La marionnette au XXe siècle [Metamorphoses. The Puppet in the Twentieth Century]. Charleville-Mézières: Éditions de l’Institut international de la marionnette, 2000. 2nd ed. revised and enlarged. In “La main qui parle” [The Hand that Speaks] series. Montpellier: L’Entretemps/Éditions de l’Institut international de la marionnette, 2008.
  • Selmeczi, Elek. Világhódító bábok [Puppets Conquering the World]. Budapest, 1986.