Lessing: Nathan der Weise, Salzburger Festspiele (detail) View full image

Ulrich Rasche’s Nathan der Weise selected for Theatertreffen

Ulrich Rasche’s Nathan der Weise has been selected to open this year’s Theatertreffen at the Berlin Festival, one of ten ‘remarkable productions’ selected from 690 German-language plays staged in the past year. Rasche’s production of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s play opened at the Salzburg Festival in July 2023, with the New York Times describing it as: ‘The most exciting directorial work I saw at Salzburg… The showmanship, the physical virtuosity, the intensity and clarity of the text have all been hard to forget.’

In selecting the production, the jury said: ‘The radiance of enlightenment in Ulrich Rasche’s production of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s “Nathan der Weise” (Nathan the Wise) shines and blazes so brightly that it is hard to say whether it will lead humankind into a better future or simply blind them. Short, interspersed external texts by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Voltaire suggest the latter. They reveal the deluded side of enlightenment and the fact that there were unbridled anti-Semites among its thinkers. And Lessing took a rather pessimistic kind of stance against these anti-Semites. It is exactly this pessimism that pervades Rasche’s staging and Valery Tscheplanowa’s equally sharp-thinking and moving portrayal of Nathan. Together with light artist Alon Cohen, Rasche creates boundaries made of light. These walls of light enable beautiful entrances, but they also repeatedly separate the characters, underlining Rasche’s idea of the limits of enlightenment – an idea already illustrated by Lessing’s awkward happy ending which excludes Nathan, of all people, from the family.’

This is the fourth time Rasche has been selected for Theatertreffen, with previous productions Die Räuber (2017), Woyzeck (2018) and Das große Heft (2019). Nathan der Weise will be performed on the main stage of the Berlin Festival on 2 and 3 May 2024.

Images from Nathan der Weise