Italian ethnomusicologist and folklorist. Roberto Leydi began his career as a music critic between 1948 and 1951; in 1954 he worked with Bruno Maderna and Luciano Berio at the heart of the Phonology Studio of RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana S.p.A.), where he participated in the rediscovery of political and social songs as well as the renascence of folk music. With other researchers he launched the Il nuovo canzoniere italiano (New Italian Songbook) in 1962. He became one of the great specialists in popular and traditional music in Italy, especially in Lombardy, and, in 1981, he was appointed Chair of Ethnomusicology at the University of Bologna.

It was through his research into popular culture and oral traditions that Leydi grew interested in the world of puppetry, an art at the margins of official “high” culture, which he both defended and disclosed along parallel tracks in his principal work. He is also the author of a seminal book on puppet theatre repertoire (Marionette e burattini. Testi dal repertorio classico italiano del teatro delle marionette e dei burattini, Milano, Collana del Gallo Grande, 1958). He organized and contributed to exhibits on puppet art: Burattini Marionette Pupi, mounted in Milan in 1980; I fili della memoria. Percorsi per una storia delle marionette in Piemonte (The Threads of Memory: Journeys Through a History of Marionettes in Piedmont), a research project led by the Istituto per i beni marionettistici e il teatro populare (Institute for Puppetry Assets and Popular Theatre) in Turin in 2001. He also participated in design studios, such as the Atelier delle Figure (Atelier of Figures) by the Arrivano dal Mare! cooperative.

(See Italy.)


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