Rathen Open Air Stage – Rathen, Germany - Atlas Obscura
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Rathen, Germany

Rathen Open Air Stage

This gorgeous amphitheater was once part of Nazi Germany's plan to promote propaganda.  

Considered one of Europe’s most beautiful open-air stages, visitors to the “Felsenbühne Rathen” can enjoy a variety of operas and musicals. The amazing outdoor theater is located in the heart of Saxon Switzerland National Park. The backdrop of massive rocks, trees, and the bare sky make for a unique experience after a hike along the Elbe river. The venue seats around 2,000 people, and the stage blends seamlessly into the natural stone background. 

It’s no coincidence that this beautiful outdoor stage was established in this part of Germany. The region of Saxony Switzerland has inspired German composers, writers, and painters for decades, especially during the Romantic period. The stunning landscape with its hills, bizarre rock formations, and steep valleys have been a consistent source of inspiration.

Carl Maria von Weber’s opera, Der Freischütz was composed in this region and is touted as the most frequently played opus at Rathen. Usually, when the Saxon State Opera and State Orchestra perform, they are accompanied by riders on horseback and wind machines that make the experience that more memorable.

However, this iconic place is not as innocent as it appears. The Rathen was established in 1936 as part of the Thingspiele,”movement. This form of multi-disciplined outdoor performance was all the rage in Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II. The Nazi Party saw the movement as key in being able to better spread government propaganda. Large rallies and speeches could be held at the various amphitheaters. It was also seen as a way to revive ancient German tradition. 

Nazi officials originally planned to construct about 400 similar theaters, but those plans were abolished when it was found that Adolph Hitler was not fond of the plan, along with the issues presented by German weather. Other more effective forms of propaganda eventually became more important. 

Know Before You Go

The open-air stage hosts over 90 performances from May through September each year. The stage can also be visited during the day without attending a show. Be aware, the town of Rathen can only be reached by ferry and visitors will have to walk a mile uphill in order to reach the stage, but there is support for people with reduced mobility.

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