Menu Shopping cart
Your basket is empty.
Support us


Exhibitions and Projects

Nativity Scene in the National Gallery of Slovenia

The Donkey of Nazareth

The puppet show entitled The Donkey of Nazareth was staged in 1996 by the Freyer Theatre production, led by Edi Majaron and Agata Freyer, the renowned Slovene workers in the field of puppetry. The text by Robert Waltl is a dramaturgical collage of carolling topics. The performance is based on the biblical narration, since European puppetry culture originates exactly in this tradition. The story of the birth of Jesus laid on a bed of hay is shockingly similar to the destiny of numerous refugees who, driven from their homes, seek at least temporary shelter.  The main protagonist of the puppet play is a donkey who sees all the hypocrisy that can also be observed today. The performance was led by actor Robert Waltl assisted by two singers; they presented the well-known story as if they were three carollers and illuminated it from a slightly more bitter point of view. It is a genuine revival of past customs, which does not go without allusions to the wealthy and selfish community because of which Mary had to find refuge in a stable. The Three Magi come with their camels that have assumed human nature and immediately get involved in a quarrel with Joseph’s donkey. The latter’s cleverness then helps the Newborn on His way to exile. The old knowledge is confirmed that the marginalized and weaker people of this world are, as a rule, more sensitive and braver than the majority of mankind...

Several pieces of information survive about Christmas plays in Carinthia. The best-known is the play recorded by Andrej Šuster – Drabosnjak (1768–1825) which inspired Robert Waltl for the Donkey of Nazareth text. However, only a few pieces of information exist about carol plays with puppets. The popularity of depicting the most characteristic biblical episodes is evidenced by the great number of surviving fresco cycles in small churches all over Slovenia, from the late 14th century onwards. The visual idea of Agata Freyer is based on the frescoes by Vincent of Kastav in the Church of Virgin Mary at Škriljine near Beram in Istria, with the famous Dance of Death from the year 1474. 

To Agata Freyer’s design, characters from these frescoes were masterly transformed into the protagonists of the performance by Jože Lašič, maker of puppet heads, and Anja Dolenc who translated the folds of the painted clothes into the third dimension, so that the puppets when stationary (marottes) give the impression of art creations. The puppets’ faces which express the character of the dramatis personae, were painted by Agata Freyer. In the spirit of contemporary theatre, the performance combined the tradition of past generations with the problems of our time.   

After the premiere at Christmas in 1996, the play was acted at international festivals in Ljubljana, ‘Lutke '97’ and ‘Festival kolede’ 2010; ‘Klemenčičevi dnevi’ in Novo mesto; ‘Revija lutkarskih kazališta’ in Rijeka (Croatia); in Charleville-Mézières in France; Madrid, Tolosa, Segovia, Alicante, Gijon, Zamora, and Leon in Spain; Silkeborg in Denmark; Gent in Belgium; Dsegh in Armenia; Minsk in Belarus; Erfurt in Germany; and St. Johan in Austria. It also toured numerous Slovene places until 2010, altogether there were almost a hundred performances.

Presentation will take place on Thursday, 1 December, at 6 pm.
On display in the rooms of the Gallery's permanent collection.

Edi Majaron and Agata Freyer

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

From 1 December 2016
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana