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Life on a String: The Yale Puppeteers and the Turnabout Theatre Audio Tour


11. Harry Burnett, Haydn Trio Violinist, Ca. 1933


Here we have what I consider to be the two most special pieces in the entire collection.


The two musicians, in their red velvet jackets, white wigs and satiny breeches, were part of an entire puppet orchestra which Harry had made in the late 1920 for a production of Bluebird, a collaboration with the noted theatrical designer Norman Bel Geddes. After the play closed, he retired the 100-member orchestra, except for the cellist, violinist, and pianist. Named the 'Haydn Trio' in honor of the 18th century Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn, whose late piano trios Harry admired, they went on to open nearly every performance of the Yale Puppeteers.

Unfortunately, at some point, the cellist was stolen while the group was on tour, and the Haydn Trio has been this delightful duo ever since.


In addition to the puppets, Harry would also construct many of the props that were used. In this case, our pianist couldn't be so without a piano, and so Harry also constructed the piano […] I think it's extraordinary that these puppets still remain in our collection.


The two musicians – and the 'Opera Singer' and 'Pianist' which you'll see in the next gallery – are among the oldest Harry Burnett puppets in the Library's collection. Specialists have painstakingly cleaned and conserved them for this exhibition.