Etzel’s table where the bloodbath took place, Worms 2015

© Bernward Bertram

More light and color for the Nibelungs

The Nibelungenfestspiele (Nibelung festival) delights an audience of several thousand enthusiasts every year at the historical location in front of the Worms Cathedral. PLEXIGLAS® is almost always part of the stage setting of the different productions.

2003 it was the horse, for example: the horse of Brunhild, queen of Iceland. Brunhild’s empire consists of ice and snow, so the staging by Dieter Wedel “Die Nibelungen” (the Nibelungs) featured her larger than life horse made of a material that was as transparent as possible: original PLEXIGLAS®.

The four-meter-high and over three-meter-long animal, which was manufactured by Evonik from branded acrylic glass, had an internal frame with original PLEXIGLAS® sheets in different sizes glued on. Embedded spotlights provided a mystic atmosphere and the horse could blow steam from its nostrils. It had an overall weight of three tons and was the incontestable star of the show.

Durable and illuminable

But this is not the only way to use this versatile material for the stage: In 2015, the branded acrylic glass served as the basis for a large table, where the final banquet of Etzel, king of the Huns, took place. This initiates a huge bloodbath in the Nibelung saga and leads to the downfall of the Nibelungs in a sea of flames and blood. The table, apparently made of wood, started glowing red during the course of events – because the furniture piece was actually made of original PLEXIGLAS® and could be illuminated from the inside.

In 2016, the festival dared to step into the present: “Gold – Der Film der Nibelungen” is a remake of the ancient legend, a theater performance within a theater performance so to speak, with original PLEXIGLAS® taking a key role. Because the booths, the actors retreat during the shooting breaks, were completely transparent. This stage design gimmick enabled the audience to watch the characters expose most intimate thoughts and feelings. PLEXIGLAS® branded acrylic glass was the perfect material for this stage design, as it is transparent and at the same time robust. And once again, the lighting of the edges created the appropriate atmosphere, right up to the blood red feeling of doom when the ensemble falls out over the movie project.

Impact on overall impression

Only three examples taken from the history of the Nibelungenfestspiele in Worms where PLEXIGLAS® took on an important part of the performance. The branded acrylic glass did not always have such a dominant role on the theater stage, but PLEXIGLAS® has been part of every performance in the previous years of the festival. Sometimes it might not attract attention right away, but due to the light conducting capacity, it really makes an impact on the overall impression. The material enables a homogeneous scattering of light and thus allows the creation of a targeted atmosphere. Like the threateningly glowing table or the ice cold, mystic giant horse.

The Nibelungs

The legend of the Nibelungs has been told, passed on and, in its course, modified for centuries in German and Scandinavian regions. The best-known written version of the “Song of the Nibelungs” has its origin in the 13th century: Siegfried, the hero who had before bathed in dragon blood, comes to the court of Burgundy in Worms, where he helps King Gunther to woo Iceland’s queen Brunhild with a trick. In return, he would be allowed to marry Gunther’s sister Kriemhild. As things develop, the famous “queens’ dispute” between Kriemhild and Brunhild takes place in front of the Worms Cathedral portal. The discussion escalates and finally leads to Siegfried’s murder by Hagen, Gunther’s vassal. In the end, widow Kriemhild takes vengeance on her brothers with the help of Etzel, king of the Huns, and has all Burgundians slaughtered. As the epic poem originates from very diverse sources, the different versions feature inconsistencies regarding content or let characters from other heroic legends have a brief appearance.

Close connection

In fact, Worms is not only the historic location of the Nibelung saga where Brunhild and Kriemhild quarreled before the Worms Cathedral, but also the Evonik site where the base material for PLEXIGLAS® is produced. Methyl methacrylate (MMA) is made from raw materials and then polymerized here. The resulting cooperation was obvious: Especially as Evonik not only became a sponsor, but was actually making a meaningful contribution to the performances. Or to the fringe events: The park in front of Worms Cathedral becomes a meeting point for theatergoers and other curious people each year for two weeks, with tents, booths and atmospheric lighting. Numerous luminous signs or illuminated booths were made of PLEXIGLAS® in the previous years. After all, the material cannot only be used to realize creative stage design ideas, but thanks to its light conducting properties and the versatile processing options it is also excellently suited for illuminants, advertising signs and design elements.

By the way: queen Brunhild’s horse still exists. It currently stands in front of the Evonik gates in Worms.  Worms, Nibelungs and PLEXIGLAS® – a perfect match.