Press conference of the Salzburg Advent Singing in the Stiegl Brauwelt

Insights into the work "The Stargazer"

Press conference of the Salzburg Advent Singing in the Stiegl Brauwelt

A new piece

At the second press conference of the Salzburg Advent Singing in the Stiegl Brauwelt, the leading team gave an insight into the work “Der Sterngucker”. This is a completely revised revival of the title of the same name performed in 2014. Tickets for the Salzburg Advent Singing are in high demand again this year.

Traditionally, the second press conference of the Salzburg Advent Singing took place on October 3rd in the Stiegl Brauwelt. The leading team – Hans Köhl (overall artistic direction, concept, book, lighting direction), Daniela Meschtscherjakov (production, stage direction), Klemens Vereno (compositions), Hellmut Hölzl (costumes, make-up), Dietmar Solt (stage design) and Stefan Sperr (overall direction, administration) – gave insights into the completely reworked work “Der Sterngucker”, which already enchanted audiences in 2014. The premiere is on November 29, 2019 in the Großes Festspielhaus.

Commenting on the musical events, he says: “There is a great deal of continuity in our ensembles. Many of the musicians have been with us for decades. The fact that almost all of them have a university music education is reflected in the quality. For example, Stefan Prommegger (basset horn) is a member of the well-known ensemble Faltenradio with Philharmoniker Matthias Schorn during the year. Horst Hofer is the leader of Juvavum Brass, the Lungau Big Band and is well known from the TV program Sport& Talk from Hangar7. The list could go on and on! With Bernhard Teufl, who has developed his voice beautifully over the years as Josef, and Simone Vierlinger as Maria, we have the Advent “dream couple” par excellence. Incidentally, Bernhard will be making his 200th appearance as Joseph at the Salzburg Advent Singing this year, which we will celebrate in style.”

55 program points in a proven ratio

22 scenic, 15 folk music and 18 compositional program items can be experienced in just under three and a quarter hours. General director Hans Köhl: “I have added two new roles to the play: I wanted to include a part for Base Elisabeth this year – Martina Gmeinder established herself fantastically as a wonderful contralto in this role last year. The same applies to the Tyrolean actor Edwin Hochmuth, who is a great asset to the Advent Singing and won the hearts of the shepherd children in 2018. This year, he will be playing the beggar Jåggerl and will be accompanied by three little shepherds. Another Tyrolean is actor Wolfgang Hundegger, who already wowed the audience as the Blind Shepherd at the Salzburg Advent Singing 2017. This year, he takes on the title role as the Stargazer. The tradition of folk drama is strong in Tyrol and produces characteristic actors of high quality such as Wolfgang and Edwin. The scenic play takes place on two levels: On the one hand on the biblical level with Mary, Joseph, Elisabeth, the shepherds and an angel, and on the other on a present or timeless level of the Sterngucker and his little protégé.”

Inspiration for the music

Klemens Vereno finds it very special for a contemporary composer to put himself in another era: “In choral music, my inspiration goes back to Heinrich Schütz. In the instrumental field, I like to imagine the composer Brahms, who is characterized by an extremely vocal approach to instruments. Based on this imagination, I try to do justice to the sound world of Advent singing. Art music and folk music are different levels on the same scale: Art music is inconceivable without folk music. It is beautiful, but also challenging, to stage the various ensembles musically. We have the Mühlviertler Vokalensemble, the Volksliedchor, the Saitenmusik, woodwinds, brass, strings… – everyone should come into their own according to the sounds and expressive possibilities – individually and in orchestral interaction. Even our double bass player has a lot to do as a soloist in a piece of music. This year, the Little Shepherds will also be involved in large vocal works.” As an avowed fan of Mozart’s opera finales, Vereno is also enthusiastic about the four possible vocal levels in Advent singing: Choir – shepherd children – vocal sextet – soloists, which will be brought together again this year to create an overwhelming overall effect.

Handmade costumes

Veteran Hellmut Hölzl has been involved for 36 years: “Even though we have a large collection of hundreds of costumes, all of which are handmade, nothing from the 2014 production was usable for me. I have developed all the costumes for this year in a historicizing style that matches the work. The dominant color this year is blue as a connection between heaven and earth. It runs through the costumes of the children to the clothes of Mary and Joseph. The spectrum ranges from a delicate morning sky blue to a deep midnight blue. The color red is reserved only for Mary this time.”

Sold out again

Stefan Sperr reports positive news about advance ticket sales: “Our ticketing is up to date for online bookings, but we also offer our guests direct contact with our service team, which is very popular. Demand for tickets is very good again this year. With the exception of the 2nd and 3rd Fridays in Advent at 7.30 pm and the 3rd Sunday in Advent at 5 pm, we are already pretty much sold out. However, there are always opportunities to get the best tickets from returns. Just take a look at or inquire by phone.”

Finally, Hans Köhl thanks Director Michael Seywald and the Musikum Salzburg, whose institution does valuable basic musical work and, like the Liefering parish, repeatedly provides rehearsal rooms for the Hirtenkinder. A big thank you also to the Stiegl brewery and the Kiener family, who have supported the Salzburg Advent Singing in partnership for 20 years. As the organizer, Salzburger Heimatwerk associates values such as quality, sustainability, tradition and innovation with this company.

The shepherd children

“I’ve been working with the shepherd children since spring,” says Daniela Meschtscherjakov. Born in Frankfurt, she has lived with her family in Salzburg since 2000 and trained as an actress here. She has been working as a director since 2008, often with children and young people, with amateurs and professionals alike, and is responsible for directing the Advent Singing for the first time this year. “Of course, it is a challenge to establish the play on the large stage of the Festspielhaus or, for example, to stage the level of the stargazer and the level of the dream image in which he transforms into the evil innkeeper. But I find working with the actors, soloists and shepherd children very exciting. I also work with the choir as an actor.”

The stage design in the Festspielhaus

Stage designer Dietmar Solt has been making sure that everyone feels comfortable on stage for 18 years: “You might think that when we do a revival, we simply put the old set back in place. But the opposite is the case: there is a new book and therefore new play situations. The visual image will show two levels, from rural-alpine to biblical-archaic scenery. I have omitted windows or doors this time, unless they are necessary for the game, such as the door to the inn. This allows the performers to appear and disappear fluidly. In previous years, the shepherd children were slowed down somewhat by the steep steps, but last year, for the first time, I made non-rhythmic diagonal ascents. This makes it possible to maintain the flow of the play and has proved to be very helpful for all the actors. The only thing that is almost unchanged from 2014 is the central playing space with the Sterngucker hut. I would like to emphasize the great cooperation with our stage builder, the carpentry Laserer from Gosau. This great team is open to all ideas when it comes to implementing my plans.”