Cultural spectacle: “The Diplomat”: Nibelungen Festival about war and peace

Cultural spectacle: “The Diplomat”: Nibelungen Festival about war and peace
Cultural spectacle: “The Diplomat”: Nibelungen Festival about war and peace

Since 2002, the spectacle of Siegfried and his murderer Hagen has been told in Worms on a par with pressing issues of the present. This year, the focus is on a war-weary hero.

Imagine there is a war and nobody wants it. This could be a variation of a popular quote from the peace movement, written in large letters above the play “The Diplomat”, which will premiere on Friday (July 12) at the opening of this year’s Nibelungen Festival in Worms. In the midst of real geopolitical crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, for example, the question is how to prevent a bloody war that nobody wants – but which nevertheless seems inevitable.

“The play is more relevant than ever,” says artistic director Nico Hofmann to the German Press Agency. The first version by the author duo Feridun Zaimoğlu and Günter Senkel was written several years ago. “Since then, things have become more politically tense in a way that I would never have imagined.”

The play, directed by Roger Vontobel, is a “smart inventory” and stirring. “I therefore expect a strong discourse – but also an evening that is worthwhile from an entertainment point of view,” says Hofmann.

“These are crazy times”

The ensemble is experienced. Jasna Fritzi Bauer, known from the Bremen “Tatort”, plays Kriemhild. “She is no longer the young girl who idolizes the dragon slayer,” says Bauer about her role. “Siegfried is dead. Everything is a bit run down. There has been a war for a long time and she is hardened. She is also no longer so keen on her family,” says the actress.

She thinks it’s good that the play is topical. “We are living in crazy times,” says Bauer. “A play called ‘The Diplomat’ is absurd, of course, but somehow also beautiful. Because this person is trying to create peace and says ‘All this fighting is pointless.’ Hopefully the play will stimulate thought and discussion.”

King without a crown

The focus of “The Diplomat” is the disillusioned hero Dietrich von Bern as a mediator between hostile fronts. He is sent to the Burgundians as a messenger of peace to ask for Kriemhild’s hand on behalf of the Hun King Etzel. At the same time, he wants to prevent a war. And so Dietrich finds himself in the dilemma of his personal history and the impending escalation.

In Worms, Franz Pätzold (“Werk ohne Autor”) plays the legendary figure of the German High and Late Middle Ages. “Playing a play about war at a time when war is almost imminent – that can of course drive you crazy,” says Pätzold. “This brings us back to theater, which can be an alternative and show the tension between reality and possibility.”

Dietrich von Bern is a king without a crown. “He renounces power so that the violence stops. And that’s where it gets interesting: is he doing this out of higher intentions or does he have personal motives?”

It could be that the audience realizes at the end that the supposed hero is not doing so well. “But I don’t want to depend on expectations in the first place,” stresses Pätzold. “Otherwise I might as well just do surveys to see what the character should be like.”

“Dark like the Winnetou killer”

Hagen actor Thomas Loibl (“Toni Erdmann”) also doesn’t want to make it easy for the audience to think Siegfried’s murderer is bad. “With Hagen, there are many moments when you can say: ‘Wait a minute, maybe that’s the better way,'” he says. “I try to use that.” The audience can then argue with the person sitting next to them: Hagen is right, isn’t he? – No, Dietrich was a great guy. “That’s my goal. This discourse: I find that valuable in the theater,” Loibl emphasizes.

He even sees his Hagen as a villain like Rollins, who killed Winnetou in the Karl May film adaptation. “My Hagen will be as dark as the Winnetou killer,” says the actor. “Without a dark counterpart, there are no shining heroes. I really enjoy analyzing and playing such characters. Almost my favorite thing.”

100 liters of fake blood

The Nibelungenlied, one of the Germans’ favorite legends, is full of violence and drowns in hatred. Does the heroic epic, full of intrigue, have to end like this? The festival is asking this fateful question again this year. Since 2002, the organizers in one of Germany’s oldest cities have been telling the story of Siegfried and his murderer Hagen in different ways and always on a par with pressing issues of the present.

Last year, Worms had 21,000 visitors, an occupancy rate of 90 percent. Around 1,400 spectators fit on the grandstand in front of the Imperial Cathedral every evening, and tickets cost between 29 and 139 euros. The festival is on historical ground: a key scene in the legend, the dispute between the queens, takes place on the north side of the cathedral. The festival on an open-air stage runs until July 28.

Speaking of running: In “The Diplomat,” blood flows almost incessantly from Siegfried’s corpse, which lies in front of the cathedral during the play. In total, around 100 liters of fake blood are to be distributed over a part of the stage covered with earth using a pump system per performance.

Source: Stern

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