Mysterien: Ein Salzburger großes Welttheater
Mysterien: Ein Salzburger großes Welttheater
© Anna-Maria Löffelberger

Mysteries – A Great World Theatre in Salzburg

Theatre Marathon


Aufgrund der Covid-19-Pandemie und der damit einhergehenden vorübergehenden Schließung des Salzburger Landestheaters konnte die Produktion nicht stattfinden.

What are the origins of human existence? Which questions are preoccupying us at present? And which answers do we need to find for the future?

All the divisions of the Salzburg State Theatre – opera, drama, dance – examine the mystery of creation in four different productions that recall Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Great World Theatre”: “Galapagos” is a fabric of texts that bring to life the world of Charles Darwin, presenting his research as well as the scruples he felt about having to deviate from the Bible with his theory of evolution. This work is followed by the divinely beautiful sounds of Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation” and offset by the bitter struggle between evolutionism and creationism in the play “Inherit the Wind”.“Homo = Deus” concludes the evening at the Salzburg State Theatre with its focus on the meaning of creation and its finality.

An extended break with a rich choice of food and drink will make the evening even more enjoyable.

With a theatre marathon modelled on the “Great World Theatre” by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929), which premiered at the Collegiate Church in Salzburg in 1922 under the direction of Max Reinhardt, the Salzburg State Theatre revives the mediaeval tradition of mystery plays – with a modern twist.

Artistic Director Carl Philip von Maldeghem will be staging the theatre marathon together with head of the ballet division Reginaldo Oliveira and stage and costume designer Stefanie Seitz. The same team also realised the “Dionysia” theatre festival at the Felsenreitschule in the autumn of 2017. The Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg will be conducted by Gabriel Venzago.



As a young man, Charles Darwin travelled the world aboard the British research ship “Beagle”. On the Galapagos Islands he discovered that species differed from one island to the next. This experience changed his view of the world and inspired him to develop his theory of evolution as an alternative concept to the notion of a divine creation. Darwin was well aware that he was treading dangerous ground with his theses. “Galapagos” uses a fabric of texts to bring Charles Darwin’s world to life, with his recollections of foreign countries and wretched sea-sickness, his self-doubts as well as his debates with fellow scientists and with his fiancée Emma Wedgwood, who was not ready to give up her belief in creation. A battle of the words portrays this extraordinary man, who found the courage to dethrone a dogma of society and to let biological facts and rational insight compete against faith and its traditions.



Storm, thunder and lightning, rain and snow, foaming ocean waves, a gently babbling brook, the dawning of day and the rise of the moon at night – Haydn’s work “The Creation” offers all this and much more. Its three parts put into music the days of creation and Adam’s and Eve’s life in the Garden of Eden. “In all the time the theatre has been standing it has never been that full,” a contemporary reported of the world premiere of Joseph Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation”, which turned out to be one of the most significant musical events of the year 1798. The soloists of the opera and ballet divisions, the choir and the Mozarteum Orchestra fully commit themselves to this epoch-making musical work, developing an imaginative panorama of the biblical creation with a choreography of powerful images.


Jerome Lawrence / Robert E. Lee

The “Monkey” Trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925: Christian fundamentalists sued a school teacher because he had discussed Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in his lessons. The trial attracted much public attention. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee wrote a play about it that focuses on the contradictions between evolutionism and creationism (the verbatim belief in the biblical account of creation). In 1960 the play was made into a film, which starred Spencer Tracy and was nominated for four Academy Awards. “The film’s topic – intolerance and fanaticism as opposed to the democratic right to free speech and free teaching – is highly relevant today,” Die Zeit wrote at the time. What the authors could not predict was that this topic would still warrant heated debates in the 21st century. The Salzburg State Theatre presents the German-language premiere of the play in 2020.



Douglas Adams’s fantasy story about intergalactic traveller Arthur Dent – who sets out to unravel the mystery of the universe, only to discover that his long and arduous journey full of wrong paths and detours will lead him to the revelation that the meaning of life is supposedly expressed in the number 42 – is the starting point of a theatrical inquiry into the dying of the circle of creation which concludes the evening at the Salzburg State Theatre. Is humanity aspiring to play God in order to achieve the freedom – as “homo deus” – to extinguish the old creation and design a new world in its stead? Documentary texts describing the traces of human existence on our planet and their destructive power form a dense network of scenes that makes the mysteries of our present day and future palpable as challenges for the global society.