A successful start in the monastery ruins: With «Notre Dame», artistic director Joern Hinkel has chosen a play to open the Bad Hersfeld Festival that could hardly be more up-to-date.

Lots of applause and cheers at the start of the Bad Hersfeld Festival: the 71st season of the well-known theater festival began on Friday evening with the play “Notre Dame”.

Love and passion, but also exclusion, racism, prejudice and violence – in the stage version of the world-famous novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” by Victor Hugo, festival director Joern Hinkel shows the whole range of human interaction and opposition.

Richy Müller as the gloomy archdeacon

The audience honored the modern staging, which is supported by subtle yet effective 3D special effects, with applause lasting several minutes. There were cheers especially for Robert Nikisch as the physically handicapped Quasimodo and Anouschka Renzi, who can be seen in four roles in the play. But “Tatort” star Richy Müller as the gloomy Archdeacon Claude Frollo and Cathrine Sophie Dumont as Esmeralda were also given a lot of applause.

The festival opened in the evening with a ceremony and a commitment to peace, freedom and democracy. The world is in a state of upheaval, said Hinkel, referring to the Ukraine war. “Everything you were sure of is suddenly unsafe.” In an allusion to the anti-Semitism scandal at documenta fifteen, the artistic director also emphasized: “The freedom of art only goes so far as the dignity of others is not trampled underfoot.”

Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) stated that she wanted to ensure that the theater festival would continue to receive support from the federal government in the future. Faeser said that Victor Hugo, who addressed social injustices in his work, is more relevant today than ever. That shames, but at the same time encourages people to work to eliminate these injustices.

The speaker was also the Kyiv-born director and director of the Berlin documentary theater, Marina Schubarth, who described the conditions under which artists persevered in the Ukraine and who is currently bringing them to Germany with like-minded people to bring them to safety. “May the sky above you remain blue without this terrible smoke that is now drifting over the Ukraine, over the people and the art,” said Schubarth. “I wish my country one thing: freedom and peace.”

For the first time this year, the festival will be held in front of a full audience, and the celebrities were allowed to appear on the red carpet again without restrictions, including the actors Götz Schubert and Markus Majowski, Lottofee Franziska Reichenbacher and Ingrid Steeger, who in wheelchairs and with their Dog appeared at the premiere.