Swiss puppet theatre. The oldest of Switzerland’s puppet theatre companies (in Suisse romande, the French-speaking parts of Western Switzerland) was established in 1929 under the name of Petits Tréteaux (Little Stage or Small Trestle) by Marcelle Moynier, a well-to-do resident of Geneva with a passion for puppets, student of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and a graduate of his Institute and of the Conservatory of Music in Geneva (elocution section). His very first performance was based on Mozart’s comic opera, L’Imprésario (The Impresario). Later, Marcelle Moynier produced several musical works (Paul Dukas, Igor Stravinsky, Modest Mussorgsky), adaptations from William Shakespeare, the works of the Countess of Ségur, and texts by Léon Chancerel, René Morax, Jean Anouilh, Hubert Gignoux. Moynier’s living room, transformed into a hall with eighty seats, served as the theatre for the performances. The puppeteers were, for the most part, amateurs specialized in working string puppets; but the theatre was able to call upon well-known professional artists such as Strijensky, Poncy, Bouchardy. Direction/staging was entrusted to Ingeborg Ruvina, internationally renowned dancer, while most of the texts and the original music was handled by Laure Choisy, author and musician from Geneva.
During the 1970s, under the leadership of Nicole Chevallier, the company turned professional and received support from the city and Canton of Geneva, which enabled, in 1984, the construction of the current theatre, in the heart of Plainpalais, which seats a hundred and seventy spectators and boasts all the modern technical equipment required for its performances. On the death of Marcelle Moynier in 1980, Chevallier succeeded him, and from the newly installed stage, invited other troupes to produce there (Neville Tranter, Henk Boerwinkel, Eric Bass … ). The number of spectators quadrupled and became more diversified. Designers Y. de Crousaz, I. Dumitriu and J.-M. Bouchardy; poet D. Surdez; choreographer, O. Araïz; musicians O. Russell and P. Métral; and director W. Jacques created new works that enriched the repertoire.
Director of the company from 1990 to 2002, John Lewandowski created many productions of a high artistic level principally with directors Irina Niculescu and Josef Krofta, collaborating with authors Philippe Cohen and Gérald Chevrolet, and designer Guy-Claude François. Lewandowski had a preference for “live” music, which he composed. Under his direction, the theatre regularly organized training courses in string puppetry for professional actors and introduced new techniques (shadows, rod marionettes, etc.). He endeavoured to address issues specifically concerning the child audience, finding inspiration in folklore and world literature.
Guy Jutard took charge of the theatre in 2002 and created two to three new productions each season. He broadened the audience of very young children and increased the number of shows for adult audiences. His repertoire was based on fairy tales and legends, mythological stories and contemporary literature.
Both a home to guest productions and a creative establishment, Théâtre des Marionnettes de Genève (TMG) offers each season nearly two hundred performances, plus tours.
TMG regularly engages outside collaborators: musicians, painters, designers, sculptors and choreographers. It continues to invite artists and internationally renowned companies such as Jordi Bertran, Émilie Valantin (Théâtre du Fust) Teatro Gioco Vita, and others. TMG has developed training courses in puppetry and regularly promotes the art through exhibitions of its collection of more than seven hundred puppets.
- Kotte, Andreas, Simone Gojan, Joël Aguet, and Pierre Lepori, eds. Theaterlexikon der Schweiz/Dictionnaire du théâtre en Suisse/Dizionario teatrale svizzero/Lexicon da teater svizzer [Dictionary of Swiss Theatre]. Berne: Chronos, 2005. (In German, French, Italian, Romansh)
- Moynier, Marcelle. Marionnettes de Genève. Genève: fondation Les Marionnettes de Genève, 1973.
- Vernet, Thierry. Marcelle Moynier et les marionnettes de Genève. Genève: fondation Les Marionnettes de Genève, 1983.
- L’Art de la marionnette. Cinquantenaire du Théâtre des Marionnettes de Genève, 1929-1979 [The Art of Puppetry. Fiftieth Anniversary of the Puppet Theatre of Geneva, 1929-1979]. Exhibition catalogue. Genève: Musée Rath, 1979.