Italian puppeteer. Natale Napoli was the son of Gaetano Napoli, the head of the lineage, who opened his first theatre in 1921 in Catania (Sicily). He followed his father as the head of the company, which he successfully brought to a high artistic level.

After a hiatus due to World War II, Napoli reopened the theatre with his two brothers, Pippo and Rosario (the latter, a skilful painter of posters, died very young). Pippo stayed on as a builder and handyman; he collaborated with Natale for many years. In 1945, Natale married Italia Chiesa, the daughter of another family of pupari (puppeteers).

In 2005, Italia Chiesa still worked with Natale and Pippo and their sons and grandsons. The company no longer has a permanent site theatre, but it works a great deal abroad and with schools. In 1975, it received the Erasmus Prize along with three other companies: Bread and Puppet Theater (USA), the Théâtre de Papier of Yves Joly (France), and Ţăndărică (Romania).

The family still owns the large traditional pupi (puppets), measuring approximately 1.3 metres tall, which have all been restored and are preserved as museum pieces. The pupi that the company uses, however, measure only 0.8 metres. With attention to the proportions of the stage and clever use of lighting, the Napoli family has succeeded in creating an optical illusion so that this difference is imperceptible: the pupi of reduced size seem quite large.

(See Italy.)


  • McCormick, John, with Alfonso Cipolla and Alessandro Napoli. The Italian Puppet Theater – A History. Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Co., 2010.