Portuguese company created in 1973 under the name Companhia de Ópera Buffa which became, in 1974, Marionetas de São Lourenço e o Diabo. Its founding members were musician José Alberto Gil, tenor Fernando Serafim, and painter and sculptor Helena Vaz, who was also in charge of set design, directing and puppet building.
The company’s principle mission was to rekindle the spirit and tradition of puppet opera – interpreted by singers, musicians and puppeteers – whose heyday was in 18th century Portugal thanks to António José da Silva, also known as “the Jew”.
The group created or reprised several genres of shows like Portuguese ópera-bufa (or ópera buffa, English: opera bouffe, a type of comic opera, typified by everyday characters and ludicrous situations) for puppets, the wagon-show (a reconstitution of travelling theatre), the cicerone-singer (a singing guide), the illustrated lecture, etc., while exploring various historical and musical forms such as traditional romancero (ballads), musical comedy and music hall revue.
The troupe performed many times throughout the country travelling in a cart which served as a stage, and also toured and participated in many national and international festivals.
Its repertoire consisted especially of recreations of António José da Silva operas such as Don Quixote, The Enchantments of Medea, Salomé, Barnum and The Soldier’s Story.
The puppeteers were completely dressed in black and manipulated the puppets with their bodies. The puppets were tied to their heads by a suspension system and the puppets’ feet were also tied to the feet of the puppeteers. The voices were spoken by singers or actors.
In 1987, the company created a puppet museum but it fell on hard times during the 1990s and eventually disappeared due to lack of support and the death of José A. Gil in 1998.