Lonely Planet Writer

Drama reaches new heights at this stunning wooden theatre in the Swiss Alps

A new theatre has been built in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 2300 metres high, marking it as a unique performance space for a variety of events. Open now, is it due to host shows at dusk throughout all seasons.

The Origen Festival Theater at Julier Pass in Swiss Alps
The theatre was built to withstand 240km per hour winds. Image by Origen Festival

Built at the Julier Pass in the Albula Range in the Alps, the Origens Theatre Tower was created by the Origen Festival Cultural, led by Reinhart-Ring laureate Giovanni Netzer. The name translates as origin, genesis or creation from Rhaeto-Romance, a subfamily of languages traditionally spoken in parts of Switzerland. The location was chosen due to its historical significance, having been used as a pass sanctuary by the Romans, as well as being the site of St. Sebastian’s chapel in medieval times. Drawing inspiration from the past, the project aims to inspire cultural exchange and world events.

Julier Pass Theatre
The space will host a range of world events and performances throughout all seasons until 2020. Image by Origen Festival

Opened by Swiss culture minister Alain Berset, the theatre hosted its debut performance on 31 July, staging excerpts from the opera Apocalypse as well as a solo piece by dancer Sergei Polunin. The theatre’s unique height allows for vertical exposition during performances, while the windows open up to the landscape surrounding it. Performances begin as daylight ends, according to each season, with the sunset being replaced by theatre spotlights. The seasons also have an impact on the theme of each performance.

The building stands at an altitude of 2,300 metres high at the Julier Pass in the Swiss Alps.
The building stands at an altitude of 2300 metres high at the Julier Pass in the Swiss Alps. Image by Origen Festival

Costing three million Swiss Francs (over $1 million), the Julier Tower was built in 1220 pieces, using over 24,000 screws that hold the building together. The wooden tower can withstand wind forces of up to 240km per hour as well as dry avalanches. The tower weighs a staggering 410 tonnes, with construction taking two and a half months. The space is due to be expanded in winter, and will stand until 2020, when the building will then be removed. Planned events include trilingual operas and international dance-solos.

Dancer Sergei Polunin performing at the theatre.
Dancer Sergei Polunin performing at the theatre. Image by Origen Festival

The full opera Apocalypse will be performed on select dates throughout August.

More information on the forthcoming programme for the theatre at the Julier Pass is available at the official Origens website.