Melchior, Dreikönigspiel Silz
11 January 2024
Post originally written in: Deutsch Information An automatic machine translation. Super fast and almost perfect.

It is a spectacular folk spectacle in what is probably the world's largest nativity scene, which takes place in Silz every four years. The "Silzer Dreikönigspiel " with around 100 actors as 'nativity figures', at least 30 'good spirits' behind the scenes and countless animals has become part of Tyrolean tradition since 2004. This year's seventh performance of the entry of the 'Three Kings', directed by Emanuel Bachnetzer, revives the good old Tyrolean folk theater tradition in grand style. It has become an integral part of the Tyrolean theater calendar.

Every four years, an entire village prepares for this spectacle. The play Pepi Sonnweber and first staged in 2004, the Dreikönigspiel has since become an integral part of village life in Silz and Tyrolean cultural life. The 'Pepi von Silz' pursued his goal of creating a spiritual folk play with tireless dedication. Knowing that Silz had once been a venue for passion plays, he looked for new ways to fill the cultural gap between Christmas and carnival. He found this in the idea of a Dreikönigspiels, which was created and performed in the Baroque period in Gmunden. He took up the pen himself to create the ‚Silzer Dreikönigspiel‘ based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. I described the development of the play four years ago HERE )

The crib as a giant stage

What fascinates me so much about it is the initial idea of inspiring many people from Silz for a joint action. Almost 150 people are directly or indirectly involved in preparing and staging the performance. In addition, there is a stage with a playing area of 2,000 square meters and a height of more than six meters. The 'theater nativity scene' created by enthusiastic nativity scene builder Peter Neurauter is therefore probably also the largest nativity scene in the world.

The professionalism with which Silz goes about its work is evident from the fact that the first organizational work begins a year before the performance, as Lukas Kocher tells me. He is the chairman of the 'Dreikönigspielverein', which was founded in 2015. "Once again this year, we only had to hold the 17 rehearsals on stage shortly before the performance date , as the Josef-Tiefentaler square has to be closed to all traffic for this." The Tiroler Wirtschaftskammer employee and event organizer is effectively the 'general organizer' of the play and is therefore fully occupied during the Christmas vacations. Which his wife and three children are obviously happy to accept, as they themselves enjoy their appearances as actors at Dreikönigspiel.

A hairdressing salon becomes an artist's dressing room

As a layman, you are not very familiar with the problems that a performance with more than 100 actors entails. After all, they have to get dressed somewhere before the performance. And where are the artists' dressing rooms where they can do their make-up? "We have plenty of space in Silz for changing rooms, mixing desks and lighting control rooms in the elementary and music school and the day nursery," says Lukas Kocher. "Thankfully, our hairdressing salon 'Haargenau' provides the make-up work Hairdressing salon 'Haargenau' with its employees." I didn't want to miss out on this event.

In the salon ‚Haargenau‘, the main protagonists of the game sit completely relaxed on the hairdresser's chairs to have their make-up altered. The herald of the game, the bloodthirsty King Herodes and his executioner, the Three Kings and the angelic 'good conscience' are peacefully gathered there. It's clear that the banter is on. Incidentally, it is the same cast as in the 2019 performance, which once again has a lot of color and deep wrinkles smeared on its face.

The elementary school as a clothing and prop room

A large room in the elementary school is transformed into a dressing room for the short playtime. Here hang the brocade robes of the Three Kings, props such as crowns and spears, Roman legionary helmets and also the colorful golden clothing of the 'scribe', who is of course played by Pepi Sonnweber.

The participating animals are looked after by professionals. The horses for the Three Kings, some chickens, two llamas and two donkeys as well as a small herd of sheep have to be looked after and calmed down before their appearance. This year, the llamas were basically 'stand-ins' for the two camels who were unable to attend due to illness.

A 'spiritual' spectacle as a feast for the eyes

The Silz filmmaker and director Emanuel Bachnetzer has been responsible for the direction and thus the success of the Silz 'spiritual spectacle' since 2009. This year's new production is certainly a perfect success. The costumes are beautiful, the colorful hustle and bustle on stage is indeed reminiscent of an oriental bazaar. And at 50 minutes, the duration of the performance is ideal for young and old alike.

There are no 'idle moments' in the play. There is always something going on, sometimes a funny, colorful chaos. It even seems to me that Bachnetzer would have staged the play especially for children. The little spectators follow what is happening on stage with excitement and concentration, sometimes even commenting on it.

The Three Kings amidst the hustle and bustle of the market

The opening already promises an extremely varied play about the birth of Christ, the visit of the 'Three Wise Men from the East' and the murderous King Herod with his soldiers and henchmen. Two fire-eaters open the play with spectacular fireballs in an oriental market, accompanied by the sound of fanfares from a watchtower. Everything you can imagine can be found there. Market women offer live chickens, children run around, a graceful dancer turns men's heads. A flock of sheep crosses the stage along with those shepherds who then almost sleep through the Holy Night. The appearance of the kings is the climax of the play, watched suspiciously by King Herodes and his henchmen. The play ends with the flight to Egypt on a donkey.

Sold-out performances

In this production and performance, Silzer Dreikönigspiel offers exactly what is expected of a 'spiritual folk play': teaching people about the events of Christmas Eve. With all the trimmings. Even 200 or 300 years ago, there was no better way to bring the contents of the Bible closer to the people. The great demand for tickets this year once again confirms how interested people are in the play. The subject matter and staging also motivate 'modern' people to attend the play. Sold-out performances are good proof of this.

The core artistic team

Director: Emanuel Bachnetzer
Music: Florian Walser
Scenery: Peter Neurauter
Sound: Christian Falch, Markus Zoller
Make-up Salon Haargenau, Silz
Wardrobe: Carolin Grabner, Maria Wammes, Andrea Bachnetzer
Poster: Karl Zauner
Assistance: Caroline Heinz, Alexandra Hirn.

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