Italian puppeteer. Orphaned following the earthquake of 1908, Emanuele Macrì was adopted by Pennisi, founder of the Acireale opera dei pupi. Soon afterward, young Macrì rallied his adoptive father’s company in the Via Alessi theatre in Acireale. Upon Pennisi’s death in 1934, Macrì succeeded him as director of the troupe, though he had the pupi armour constructed elsewhere. Pennisi had designed scenery fittings that were more versatile than those in traditional theatres in Catania. Their manoeuvres were executed from a higher bridge; thus the pupi had a larger range of motion and could move forward from the background. Then, to simplify the manoeuvres as much as possible, Macrì constructed slightly smaller pupi with lighter armour than they traditionally wore in Catania.
During the winter seasons Macrì produced for local audiences a cycle of shows drawn from the Storia dei paladini di Francia (History of the Paladins of France) by Giusto Lodico. In contrast, for his company’s numerous participations in prestigious international festivals and for tourists, he developed a series of shows drawn directly from the original sources, such as La rotta di Roncisvalle (The Defeat at Roncesvalles) drawn from La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), and several episodes taken from Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered). Macrì himself elaborated all the scenarios along with his son Salvatore. The latter relocated to the United States in 1960, where he opened a museum of Sicilian pupi in Gordon Creek, Massachusetts.
The personality of maestro Macrì (his enthusiasm and gravitas, his unique voice) and his life story (his miraculous survival of the earthquake; the story of his son who fell in love with an American heiress and emigrated with a theatre; his premature death) have compellingly romantic qualities. Since 1976, the Cooperativa Macrì has been constituted under the direction of Vincenzo Abbate, curating the legacy of Don Emanuele. It has carried out numerous tours.
Turi Grasso, another puparo (puppeteer) inspired by the work of Macrì, practises in the neighbouring town of Capo Mulini. Other people who had been Macrì’s assistants occasionally formed themselves into companies that claimed to follow him, but without continuity or any particular artistic worth. All of this, however, bears witness to the important influence that Macrì had on the pupi theatre in Arcireale.
- McCormick, John, with Alfonso Cipolla and Alessandro Napoli. The Italian Puppet Theater – A History. Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Co., 2010.