Over 100 years ago – The idea
After Bad Elster grew from a weaver's village to a renowned bath location in the 19th century, the Royal Saxonian Municipal Baths became a popular summer destination for the nobility and high society at the beginning of the 20th century. Europe's privileged attended numerous concerts and theatrical productions at the King Albert Theatre (built in 1888), the Royal Kurhaus (1890) and at Bad Elster's three bandstands. In 1911, the idea was born to build an additional nature theatre in the style of ancient Rome and Greece.
At that time, the background of the opening events focused on the fact that Goethe stayed in Adorf while on his travels through Karlsbad from July 3-4, 1775. It is believed that the poet possibly developed the last segments of his epic "Hermann und Dorothea", published in 1797, while staying there. Therefore, the poet had probably heard of the news printed on a Thuringian newsletter from 1732, that a group of migrants from Salzburg travelled to East Prussia in 1732. It was told that a wealthy local took one of the immigrant's daughters as his wife. Due to his interests in science, Goethe was most likely also familiar with the "Sauerbrunnen" in Elster - a mineral spring famous for its healing powers. Thus, it is believed that Goethe completed his story in memory of Elster, thereby joining a Thuringian tale with the Vogtland landscape. And so the springs of Bad Elster remain adorned by a quote within this epic, "... glorious water; acid it was to the taste, and reviving, and wholesome to drink of".
The facilities were then completed in a timely matter, so that the reopening of the NatureTheatre with the production "Hermann und Dorothea" could begin as planned on July 9, 2011, amidst perfect weather conditions.
The Goethe Festival
Referencing the above-mentioned history, the court chamber councillor and Bad Elster chemist, Carl-August Klingner, and the head teacher, Walter Dost from Plauen, dedicated themselves to a theatrical adaptation of Goethe's epic "Hermann und Dorothea". Additonally, Klingner wrote a fitting play and moved the setting to the region between Adorf and Elster. Dorst then composed the corresponding music.
A kind emigrant's daughter named Dorothea enters the stage surrounded by a large group of migrants - played by amatuer actors from Adorf and Bad Elster - and carefully depicted carriages drawn by horses, oxen and donkeys. Ignoring her own exhaustion, Dorothea devotes her attention to the sick, elderly and children. Hermann from Adorf comes across her as she is pulling the healing waters from the Elster spring and immediately falls in love. Hermann wants to take Dorothea home with him, which his father will not allow - naturally an argument begins. The mother diplomatically intervenes and has the father's council - the chemist and the priest - visit the migrant group, in order to gain information about Dorothea. Both men personally experience Dorothea's grace, gentleness and kind-heartedness and are able to convince Hermann's father. After a moving fairwell and a little confusion, Dorothea leaves the migrant group and Hermann brings his love home - with his parent's blessing...
Following the play, the 'Salzburger migration' was reenacted by 300 amateur actors from all over the Vogtland. The celebratory march led to the bathhouse, where the participants then circled the newly constructed Goethe fountain. A large festival ball at the Royal Kurhaus marked the joyous end of this exciting opening day. King Friedrich August III also visited Bad Elster on occasion of the opening celebrations on July 12, 1911, for whom the 'migration march' was reinacted a second time. The theatrical production continued to be successfully staged at the NatureTheatre Bad Elster for the summer seasons from 1912-1914.
Until the "Deep Sleep"...
A further premiere took place at the NatureTheatre Bad Elster with Julius Mosen's drama "Heinrich der Finkler, König der Deutschen" on August 5, 1917. This drama took place under the initiative and direction of Paul Medenwaldt, the head director of the royal court theatre and the royal orchestra to Gera Reuß. It took place in Kohren-Sahlis in 1834 and told of the history surrounding Heinrich I (876-936), the so-called Duke of Saxon, who was crowned king in 919 and is deemed the founder of the German Reich. A further production of "Heinrich dem Finkler" took place on August 18, 1917. However, a third performance had to be cancelled, as the players that were also part of the military were no longer available.
Up until 1945, regular events took place at the NatureTheatre when the weather was pleasant, including the successful "Hans Sachs Festival" in 1929. The NatureTheatre was actually reopened once before 1929 after stage renovations, highlighting Franz von Suppé’s operette "Dichter und Bauer". After World War II, John Strauss' operette "Der Zigeunerbaron" was staged, among other productions, with the last performance together with the choir of the GDR State Folk Art Ensembles taking place on August 24, 1952. Not long after, the beautifully historic bandstand from the 19th century was abandoned and served as a hay store for a deer corral between 1960 and 1985.
The Revival: The new clearing of culture in the forest park
As of 2006, the Chursächsische Veanstaltungs GmbH and the city of Bad Elster adapted the historical venue to present event technology with the support of the European Union, the State of Saxony, the Cultural Region Vogtland and other sponsors. The goal of the project also was reviving the NatureTheatre Bad Elster - the oldest forest theatre in Saxony - as an additional attraction on the »the shortest theatrical mile« within a town of culture and festivals, thus benefitting both locals and visitors to Saxony and the Euregio Egrensis region.
1st June 2007 marked the festive reopening of Bad Elster's NatureTheatre with the performance of Carl Maria von Weber's romantic opera »Der Freischütz« by the Landesbühnen Sachsen - under the direction of GMD Florian Merz.
From autum 2017 until spring 2018 there was an extensiv modernization whereby the venue had been increased and significantly improved. The grand reopening took place on 8 th June 2018 with Carl Maria von Weber's romantic opera »Der Freischütz«. Since then the venue includes 1500 seats, the stands structure offers ideal service areas and the modern navigable canopy ensures a maximum of independence to the weather. The NatureTheatre Bad Elster evolved to an important element of the royal facilities and became a dynamically creative event venue in Bad Elster.