Itinerant puppeteering family of Dutch origin active in the 17th and 18th centuries. Johann Peter Hilverding, artist and itinerant vendor of alcohol, was a “Pulcinella player”. It is not known if the name referred generically to performers of glove puppets – thus so named because of the success received in Europe by the character of Pulcinella since the middle of the 17th century – or more precisely to those showmen featuring the character itself.
Johann Peter also had a cousin Joris, known in the Jewish quarter of Vienna as a puppeteer, but it is his son Johann Baptist (Salzburg, c.1670 or 1677 – Vienna, 1721) for whom definite traces have been found. In fact, Johann Baptist turned up in Prague and Gdansk in 1698, in Stockholm in 1700, in Lübeck, Lüneburg and Basel the following two years, and eventually in Salzburg in 1711.
Johann Baptist Hilverding presented elaborate shows in a technically complex and expensive castelet (puppet stage), involving frequent changes of stage settings. His string puppets, which he called “statues”, measured more than 1 metre (“une aune de Brabant et demi”) and their number was large enough for him to be able to present “about fifty comedies and operas”. The puppets were mechanized, with the actors providing the voices and the singing. His repertoire included mythological pieces (Hercules and Alcestis, Jason and Medea, Perseus and Andromeda, Aurora and Cephalus) derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a taste acquired perhaps from close acquaintance with a master of Italian origin. We also know that he teamed up with Joseph Anton Stranitzky (1676-1726), the principal interpreter of his day of the character Hanswurst.