We met up with master Adriano Ferraiolo, owner of the Puppet Theatre together with his sons Fabio and Simone, the latest 4th generation puppeteer Cav. Adriano Ferraiolo, and asked him a few questions…
You represent the fourth generation, tell us when this art was born in your family
This art was born in 1860, by my great-grandfather Filippo Ferraiolo. He had a small amusement park and created the first mechanical puppets of the carillon type. After him came my grandfather Pasquale, my father Francesco and, finally, my brothers Pasquale junior, Vittorio and I, who represent the fourth generation. This is how our long Campana cultural family history was born.
Do you remember any advice or anecdote told to you by your father?
I have so much advice and anecdotes from my father in my mind, first and foremost he would always advise me to go ahead loving our business. I remember him telling me: it is tiring work and you need patience and love. And he was right, in fact I have always shared this and passed it on to my children; I always tell them to be serious and polite professionals, to respect everyone and to get up and fight to improve in life.
And when was your first show? Do you remember?
It was 1957, we were in Piazza Cavour in Ancona. The play was Pulcinella Pittore di un morto vivo (Punchinello Painter of the Living Dead). My brother Pasquale had a sore throat, he wasn’t well, and my father asked me to stand in for him. I was only 13 yo but I had already been able to manoeuvre for 8 years. At that time the shows were all live and I had never acted live. I remember well that I was scared, bewildered, but also proud and happy when my father announced me to the large audience present. I made my debut a little, but it was the beginning of my career, and I have never stopped since. I remember my father smiling as he gave me courage with a pat on the back; this memory is priceless to me and a triumph of emotions. I will always thank him.
Is there a show that you consider to have been important for you and your career more than others?
The most important show for me is undoubtedly ‘A Night of Trouble‘. My brothers Pasquale and Vittorio told me to take part in the Marionette and Puppet Festival at the Reggio Theatre in Parma, it was 1973. I only performed on stage with two puppets: Pulcinella and Felice Sciosciammocca. It was an hour and twenty minute show, I was impeccable on that occasion and I acted without gaps, without ever losing the thread. It was fantastic, I remember the applause from the entire audience of more than seven hundred people. I received compliments from everyone and the prestigious award as the best puppeteer in the world from the Councillor at the time, Dr. Belleri.
What is your favourite story/show?
Una camera affittata a tre (a room rented to three). It is a hilarious comedy, a crescendo of emotions that are acknowledged with applause from the people sitting in the audience. The audience is won over by the many jokes and twists of the protagonists who are looking for a room for the village festival.
What is the thing you love most about your job?
The thing I love most are the children, to see them attentive in large numbers and happy during my shows is priceless. For a few hours they forget the internet, mobile phones, tablets, video games, sometimes even dangerous ones. At the end of the show, the parents thank me for having taken them away from the virtual world and dragged them into popular culture and traditions.
I would like to point out, however, that the performances are for a heterogeneous audience, for the whole family. Many people love Pulcinella (Punchinello), he is my shadow and he also represents me as a character: he is humble, generous but a joker, cheerful and likeable just like me.
Tell us for a moment about the stories your puppets enact. Did you write them or did you take them from some authors?
Many comedies were created by my grandfather and my father Francesco. We have a vast repertoire of around 100 comedies, and we are unique in representing them with farces and comedies also by great Italian and Neapolitan authors. Many of our comedies are by Goldoni, Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo, Antonio Petito, Eduardo Scarpetta and Totò.
Our audience recognises this great art.
Which character is closest to your heart and why?
My favourite character is undoubtedly Pulcinella (Punchinello) because he reflects the Neapolitan character: the clever not bad guy who manages to live by expedients. He is very much like me, he is a good guy, even if sometimes he has to use the stick to spread himself. In fact, at the end of the show Pulcinella always asks for the audience’s forgiveness and pity.
You create the puppets, don't you? Tell us a little about how the new characters are created
In my workshops in Salerno, together with my staff, children, grandchildren and collaborators, I have an antique theatre and all the technical equipment to create scenes, puppets and new adventures. We are masters for this, I remember when with my brothers Pasquale and Vittorio we created the show on Sandokan in a few hours, it was 1973. The director of the Sancarluccio theatre, Franco Nico, stormed the whole of Naples with posters for the one-off event scheduled for Sunday morning. It was sold out and we could not say no, we had to defend our reputation and our good name. It was a great success, in fact it was resounding because it lasted for years and is still the most requested show by our supporters in the piazza today.
How long does it take to create a puppet?
I succeed in 15 days, because I am a perfectionist. Each puppet I create is a creature, it is sculpted scratched, modified, painted and coated with passion and dedication.
How many puppets have you created so far for your shows?
Personally, about a hundred. Then I keep the antique ones from the 1700s’ of my grandfather Pasquale, Papa Francesco, but also those of my sons Fabio and Simone, who fortunately love the family art. In total, there are 500/600 puppets.
You have known and met important personalities throughout your wonderful career, do you have any anecdotes to tell us about anyone in particular?
To tell the truth, there have been many meetings over many years. I have received many merits, certificates of merit, honorary citizenships, but I will always remember two important people.
The first was the President of the Italian Republic, Giovanni Leone, at EUR in 1973, who wanted to see the whole of one of our shows, he was impressed by the story and skill. At the end of the show, he and his wife entered the theatre, congratulating us very much, asking the journalists to photograph us, and told us never to leave this noble and popular art.
The second was in 2019 when I handed a Pulcinella (Punchinello) to the Pope in St Peter’s Square. What emotions to see him smiling like a wonderful child. Pope Francis even thanked me by giving me a kiss on the cheek, my heart was pounding.
How would you describe your audience today? Are there differences from the past?
Today, my audience is a bit peculiar and distracted; the new generations, immersed in the internet and mobile phones, show some indifference at first. Then, following the show, they literally get involved and captured by the fascination of the puppets.
Once, on the other hand, there was more participation; children were encouraged and enticed by their families to approach traditional theatre culture.
But I am confident that culture in all its forms will never die.
And is the fifth generation working with you now?
Pasquale, Vittorio and I represent the fourth generation, then there are our sons Fabio, Simone, Mario and Mauro. All puppeteers, each has his own theatre company run by their children, sixth generation, Carla, Enza, Asia, Vittorio, Ludovica, Antonio, Edoardo, Samuel. A great and wonderful Ferraiolo Dynasty.
Where can we see your shows?
We are ready to start the 2022 summer tour. From 20 April we will be in Crotone for a month, then Battipaglia, Eboli, Cava de’Tirreni, Vasto, Tropea, Avellino, Campobasso, Cassino and many other beautiful Italian cities.
Where there is Ferraiolo Puppet Theatre, there is ART, CULTURE AND TRADITIONS FROM CAMPANIA.