Compagnia Marionettistica Colla and Napoleon’s boots
When Charles Dickens watched a marionette show, “The Death of Napoleon”, in Milan in the early 1840s, he was greatly impressed by the emperor’s boots, which were “wonderfully beyond control, and did such marvelous things of their own accord, doubling themselves up, and getting under tables, and dangling in the air, […] out of all human knowledge”. The British writer even noticed that the “settled melancholy” depicted on the amazing wood and fabric character did not undermine in any way the absurd misadventures taking place on the stage: “it was the finest spectacle I ever beheld to see [Napoleon’s] body bending over the volume, […] and his sentimental eyes glaring obstinately into the pit”.
Those were the years in which the Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla e Figli was officially established: “officially”, we say, because the illustrious Milanese family’s artistic inclinations started much further back in time.
In 1906, the Compagnia turned into “Teatro Stabile delle Marionette”, taking on the management of the famous Teatro Gerolamo in Piazza Beccaria, where the operas, ballets, comedies and dramas brought to life by the wonderful puppets on strings would enchant Gordon Craig, Luchino Visconti, Igor Stravinsky, Simon Weil, and many other prominent figures in the world of European culture.
Today, the story of the Compagnia’s glorious activity is told by some 30,000 objects – marionettes and set elements – kept in the Atelier Carlo Colla e Figli, which is a unique and unrivalled archive of wonders in the world. The Atelier also houses the Compagnia’s workshops, where old assets are restored, and new ones created.
Because, of course, the show goes on.