Störtebeker Festspiele 2012 – Off with his head!

Last year I visited the Störtebeker Festspiele – the open-air theatre in Ralswiek on the island of Rügen – for the first time, encountering the end of a three-part story.

Since then it has been an open secret among Störtebeker fans that this year the play will complete a “cycle” of stories and see the main figure beheaded for pirate activities, although anyone not in on the “secret” may have guessed given that the title of the play this year is “Störtebekers Tod” (Störtebeker’s Death).

The stage at sunset

The stage in Ralswiek at sunset

In fact, it is his death in Hamburg that the real Klaus Störtebeker is probably most well-known for.  It is said that he asked for the lives of his men to be spared.  The Mayor of Hamburg promised him not to execute the men who he was able to walk past after his beheading, and according to legend he made it past either 7 or 11 of them.

Klaus Störtebeker (Sascha Gluth)

Klaus Störtebeker (Sascha Gluth)

But before the Festspiele get to that part of the story, they start off just after the end of the last story where Störtebeker had discovered the gold of the Knights Templar.  The gold has now been hidden and in part used to buy land.  The land is known as “Freies Friesland” (Free Frisia).  But the freedom does not last long when the north German trading partners – the Hanseatic League – send men in ships to reclaim the land and burn everything that they find.

The remains of the Frisian Church

The remains of the Frisian Church

In the first of many pyrotechnic displays, even the Frisian church is not spared.

And so the story continues, with scenes in Hamburg, Holland and Helgoland (Heligoland), as the Hanseatic representative Simon von Utrecht chases Störtebeker around the North Sea, before his eventual capture and final scene at the assizes.

Holland

Holland

For both Holland and Hamburg large permanent sets dominate the left and right sides of the stage, leaving the centre free for the the spectacular view into the Große Jasmunder Bodden where the ship-based activity takes place, including this year even a funeral pyre.

Hamburg

Hamburg

Sascha Gluth reprises his roll this year as Klaus Störtebeker, accompanied by his real-life wife Julia Horvath.  Dietmar Lahaine returns as Störtebeker’s friend Goedecke, whilst Mario Ramos takes on the role of Simon von Utrecht.  The singing bard, Abellin, is played once again by Wolfgang Lippert.

The funeral pyre departing

The funeral pyre departing

The premiere last Saturday was sold out and enjoyed fine weather.  It started with a look back at how the Festspiele started, this being their 20th year, and ended with a firework display over the Baltic Sea which was surely twice as long as on a normal evening.

Klaus Störtebeker with Nicolas (Michelson T. Rader) and Laran

Klaus Störtebeker with Nicolas (Michelson T. Rader) and Laran

The day before I had watched the dress rehearsal from the back of the audience seating, and used the opportunity to take some wide-angle shots of the stage.  With over 8,000 seats in 92 rows, that is actually quite a long way away from the action and although the dialogue was relayed through loud speakers, for whatever reason I found it easier to follow from the front rows.

Obviously the play is in German, but there are also a number of accents that play a role, such as Dutch or even Badisch, so a certain knowledge of the language is necessary to understand what’s going on.

Wolfgang Lippert as Abellin

Wolfgang Lippert as Abellin

That said, from my seat in row 4 I could not see much of the funeral pyre as it passed out into the Jasmunder Bodden, so maybe that is an argument for being slightly further back.

And perhaps the play just needs to be seen several times to appreciate not only the sets, but also the equestrian action, the fight scenes, the pyrotechnics, and even the local extras who go about their business behind the principle cast.

The Störtebeker Festspiele on Rügen run until 8th September 2012, and tickets can be ordered on www.stoertebeker.de.

Klaus Störtebeker about to be beheaded

Klaus Störtebeker about to be beheaded

History tells us that the Mayor of Hamburg did not keep his word and Störtebeker’s men were beheaded anyway.

In Ralswiek of course, the men will return with their heads intact for a new cycle of players starting in 2013.  Whether they are the same heads will probably be the subject of speculation after the current season ends.

But regardless of what he may look like, Klaus Störtebeker will return…

Once again I would like to thank the Störtebeker Festspiele GmbH & Co. KG for allowing me to publish photos taken during the dress rehearsal and the premiere.

About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

Comments

  1. Here are the larger versions of the photos: http://ow.ly/bSK99

  2. Schöner Artikel und tolle Bilder. Ich werde mir dieses Jahr auch mal vornehmen zu den Störtebeker Festspiele zu reisen!

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