In anticipation of Georgian puppet master Rezo Gabriadze's Ramona, a tale of two trains in love, which hits Lincoln Center Festival Monday, July 27 through Saturday, August 1 (more on that below), we look back at history's greatest puppet love stories. 

  • Kermit and Miss Piggy

    Muppets take Manhattan ends in a chapel; the priest—the only "fleshy" being in sight—proclaims, "Because you share a love so big, I now pronounce you frog and pig." It's poetry at its finest. With their vows official, Kermit turns to the audience and sings, "What better way could anything end, hand-in-hand with a friend," and plants a smooch on Miss Piggy. A marriage between puppets, yes, and at times rocky; but nonetheless, Kermit and Miss Piggy  has served as a supreme example for a generation growing up with their relationship as a model, wherein spouses could be partners, equals, and most importantly, friends. [Photo: TriStar]

    • Imoseyama Onna Teikin

      While Japan has many puppetry traditions, its most famous is Bunraku, a 16th-century-born style out of Osaka in which puppeteers dressed all in black—often three at a time—manipulate one highly sophisticated wooden puppet. For today's purposes, we will discuss Imoseyama Onna Teikin, written by one of Japan's foremost playwrights, Chikamatsu Hanji. Considered the country's own Romeo and Juliet tale, Imoseyama Onna Teikan's somewhat outdoes Shakespeare when the mother of "Juliet" (Hinadori) beheads her daughter and sends the severed skull to "Romeo" (Koganosuke), because, you know, it's not traumatizing enough that the young lovers die without direct filicide. [Photo: Courtesy of C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University]

      • The Red Balloon

        This story surrounds an atypical puppet and a flexible notion of love. But it is precisely its unique, off-kilter charm that makes Albert Lamorisse's 1955 ode to dreams and childhood, The Red Balloon, unforgettable. Somehow, a silent short starring a young boy and a barely-animated balloon (technically, a puppet operated by barely visible strings) captures the mixed emotions of post-World War II France and of life and the passage of time in general. Puppetry's most triumphant expressions bring nonliving elements to life; while watching The Red Balloon, we, the audience, become enraptured by the experiences of the balloon and react as though it were a friend: we laugh, we cry, and we feel joy. [Photo: Films Montsouris]

        • "The Lonely Goatherd"

          It doesn't get much more sickeningly sweet than Julie Andrews, yodeling, love, and puppets; and yet, just try to watch "The Lonely Goatherd" from the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music without smiling. Maria works her magic on the Captain and his family by putting on a marionette show depicting the story of a goatherd who yodels his way to true love. The film giddily takes us, the viewers, behind the curtain to watch as Maria and the kids rush about pulling the puppet strings. The joy of watching the show itself is amplified by the obvious fun they are having producing it. [Photo: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment]

          • Ramayana

            One of the oldest puppetry traditions is the Indonesian Wayang, or shadow theater. Derived from the Javanese word for shadow, bayang, Wayang uses light and figures made of perforated leather to dramatize the Hindu epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana. The latter story has it all: romance, war, and adventure. A classic tale of good besting evil, it is the story of the pure love and absolute fidelity of husband and wife Rama and Sinta. Though the Demon King of Alengka, Rahwana, abducts and tries to seduce the virtuous Sinta, our heroine remains faithful to Rama, who—with help from an army of monkeys—saves the day. [Photo: Ben Davies/ LightRocket via Getty Images]

            • Rostam and Sohrab

              With director Behrouz Gharibpour's take on Rostam and Sohrab, Iran boasts the first Asian puppet opera. Unsure just how competitive the Asian puppet opera field is? Suffice it to say, the production is a triumph, and not only in light of its premiere status: Adapted from Loris Tjeknavorian's opera—which itself took 25 years to compose—the show involves 100 marionettes and 15 puppeteers to tell the story of father and son, separated at birth, only to reunite unwittingly  in a battle to the death. Not a romantic love, but a love story nonetheless. [Photo: Hafez Puppet Opera]

              • Salzburg Marionette Theatre—The Magic Flute

                Iran is not alone in its puppet opera pride. One of Austria's major tourist attractions is its beloved Salzburg Marionette Theatre that produces a delightful take on Mozart's The Magic Flute. Founded by Anton Aicher more than 100 years ago, the theater features larger-than-life marionettes—each is at least 6 1/2 feet tall—that are mostly light enough to be manipulated with exquisite detail by only one puppeteer at a time. The result is a dance, of sorts. For The Magic Flute, the company uses a wonderful recording of the Ferenc Fricsay-conducted RIAS Symphony Orchestra to tell the story of the lovers Pamina and Tamino. What's not to love? [Photo: Salzburger Marionettentheater / Abdruck für Pressezwecke]

                • Punch and Judy

                  It might be blasphemous to include Punch and Judy among a list of love story characters, but to leave them out would be an even greater crime. The primary ingredients of the traditional Punch and Judy British puppet show format—descended from Italy's Commedia dell'arte—are husband-and wife-team Punch, an unruly, violent troublemaker, and Judy, his frustrated wife.  They entertain as they cavort through politically incorrect plot lines, which generally include Punch beating a challenger with his companion stick (and exclaiming his famous catchphrase: "That's the way to do it!" and dropping his baby). Unconvinced? Just blame it on 17th-century tastes. [Photo: Jonathan Lucas / Wikipedia]

                  • Basil Twist's La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco

                    From the moral gutter with Punch and Judy, we go now to the creative heights with renowned New York City-based puppeteer Basil Twist. All of Twist's shows are worthwhile simply for the exquisitely fine artistic design of his puppets, but for today's purposes we will focus on his take on the Sleeping Beauty story, La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco. With the gothic tone of a Tim Burton film, Twist's Beauty stars a beautiful Victorian-like figure dressed in flowing white as the title character; her fairy—whose statuesque figure is more praying mantis than human—floats through the stage with shimmering gossamer wings. It is imagination brought to life. [Photo: Richard Termine]

                    • Rezo Gabriadze's Ramona

                      And now, back to where we began. Gabriadze Theatre returns to the Lincoln Center Festival for the fourth time with a new production that tells the story of Ramona, a shunting engine confined to her station who waits for the return of her love Ermon, a heroic locomotive. The show features Rezo Gabriadze's now-famous, intricate puppets, which simultaneously appear like piles of found objects and enchanted beings, brimming with life and emotion. We asked Gabriadze how he comes up with new characters. In typical romantic form, he responded: "I am an artist and a sculptor by profession—It is my constant harbor. As for the theater and puppets, they are my fate." The artistic community would have it no other way. [Photo: Anatoliy Ruhadze]