Exhibition: Oct. 28, 2022 to April 29, 2023

All just theater? Of paper dolls, marionette stages and living room operas

The current exhibition at Haus Appenzell focuses on miniature theaters of various styles, which nevertheless have one thing in common: a great love of play and attention to detail.

On the one hand, the public can expect a private collection of historical paper theaters, which enjoyed great popularity in the 19th century in middle-class families as toys and educational instruments. The printed theater picture sheets for cutting out, assembling and playing were often modeled on the productions of the great stages and ranged from opera to drama to fairy tales. In addition to classics from the German publishers J. F. Schreiber, Joseph Scholz and the French Imagerie d'Épinal, the exhibition also presents rarities from Denmark and England, some of which are revived by collector Peter Mäder with tin figures and marionettes.

The second part of the exhibition is devoted to Tobler's Marionette Theater – a home puppet stage from the late 19th century that was technically quite sophisticated for its time. It was constructed and performed by the sons of the painter and illustrator Victor Tobler, who emigrated from Trogen in Appenzell to Munich. The young brothers Georg and Justus faithfully recreated knights' halls and robbers' parlors in miniature format and brought them to life using marionette figures and stage technology. In addition to the original stage, various backdrops, director's books, theater posters and figures with all kinds of accessories from the rich fund are on display.

The dollhouse-sized opera sets by Bernhard Vogelsanger (1920–1995), a Zurich decorator and original, take visitors into the big wide world of musical theater. For almost 50 years he ran what was probably the world's smallest opera house in his cooperative apartment in Zurich-Schwamendingen. Act after act, he staged the stirring stories of love, passion and death that only a "Carmen", "Aida" or "Magic Flute" can offer, with his lovingly and meticulously designed sets and cardboard figures.

28th October 2022 – 29th April 2023, opened Wed–Fri 1pm–5pm and Sat 11am–5pm.


The exhibition catalogue (in German) can be ordered here.


A video report on Bernhard Vogelsanger's operas in our exhibition "All just theater?" (TV report dated 2.4.2023).


Download the exhibition flyer and poster here.


Impressions of the exhibition opening on 26 October 2022.