Worms (dpa) – Martin Luther has nothing to fear tonight. 500 years after a key moment in German history, when he was supposed to revoke his teachings before the emperor and empire, the reformer won from the start the opening piece “Luther” of the Nibelungen festival in Worms – without even appearing on the stage.

Nevertheless, the three-hour spectacle in front of the cathedral cannot do without the monk. The author Lukas Bärfuss paints a portrait of the customs of the time. It is an evening which shakes the certainties.

In the slowly fading evening light, Georg Büchner Prize winner Bärfuss dreams of the eve of the Reformation. Luther’s contemporaries have settled into decadence and immorality – including Pope Leo X, whom actress Sunnyi Melles plays as insanely alluring as Peter Ustinov once played Emperor Nero.

But with the theses of Luther, the “guerrilla in the name of God” (Bärfuss), the specter of freedom is involved. Secular and spiritual leaders lose their power. The fragility of human existence, the speed with which “everything can be finished”, this is the central theme of this evening in Worms.

Minute of silence for disaster victims

Because, of course, the flood disaster in its own federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia dominated discussions in one of Germany’s oldest cities on the Rhine. At a moving moment, the premiere audience silently pauses for a minute in memory of the flood victims.

With the exception of Culture Minister Katharina Binz, the state government around Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) cancels her participation. Binz (Greens), who represents the firm in Worms, also says: “It’s not a carefree evening.”

Director Nico Hofmann also has worry lines on his forehead. He has knowledge in the particularly affected crisis region of the Eifel. “There is no celebration at the premiere, it is forbidden in itself,” says Hofmann – it was clear to everyone at Worms. The anticipation of growing in the midst of the corona pandemic was great. Last year the Nibelungen Festival was canceled for the first time since its launch in 2002. This time in Worms at least 700 of the approximately 1,400 grandstand seats can be occupied.

You see a colorful panopticon of figures on a matt gold stage. Elector Friedrich (Barbara Colceriu) pulls the strings of a kiosk with funeral lamps and postcard holders. Elector Joachim (Jan Thümer) strolls down a long, unscrupulous hippie toboggan with sunglasses. Corrupt Bishop Albrecht (Jürgen Tarrach) struts around Lili Izsák’s set in flip-flops. Hungarian director Ildikó Gáspár takes her characters on a scooter and pedicab.

From the Madonna to the Eagles

And the music continues to play. Once it’s Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”, once it’s the Eagles’ “Hotel California”. There are also songs about the election of an emperor – Germany is looking for the star of Luther, so to speak. “For me, everything is music,” says Gáspár. “Space, light, figures, their movement, everything is musical, a rhythm through which time can be structured.” The author Bärfuss, on the other hand, adheres to the historical sources of the text. But the Swiss are also not afraid to rhyme Luther on butter, for example.

“Luther” can be seen without Luther until August 1. “Luther does not appear, but he is omnipresent,” says artistic director Thomas Laue. This is not a biography. “It is about the way an Augustinian monk, which even the powerful do not take seriously, with the dissemination of his word through the printing press, without which the Luther phenomenon probably would not have been possible at all, becomes one of the great changers of the world of his time, in which nobody comes anymore. “

In 95 theses, Luther criticized the trade in indulgences of the Catholic Church to be able to buy oneself without sins. In front of the Reichstag in Worms, the monk refused to revoke his writings on April 18, 1521. The sentences “I stand here. I cannot do otherwise ”attributed. The Reformation is taking its course.