Freilichtspiele Zermatt


About the play

The Plot

The Englishman Edward Whymper comes to Zermatt on the 12thJuly 1865. He is angry: together with his Italian friend and mountain guide Jean-Antoine Carell, he had wanted to make his eighth attempt to conquer the Matterhorn from the Italian side. But Carell had already set off in the middle of the night, without Whymper. The latter now wants his revenge, and needs to find a rope team as quickly as possible! He travels to Zermatt, and joins an already existing rope team as a guest. This consists of the French mountain guide Michel Crox, the Alpinist Sir Francis Douglas, Reverend Charles Hudson and his protégé Robert Hadow. The only local mountain guides that they could engage for their attempt are Father and Son Taugwalder.

The first ascent actually succeeds – but only three of the seven men return the next morning: Edward Whymper, the seriously injured Peter Taugwalder and his son. The bodies of three of the four men who died were recovered later. Up to today, the body of young Lord Francis Douglas has never been found.

Defamation, speculation and accusations follow, and there is even a rumour that Father Taugwalder cut the rope. Whymper, on the other hand, maintains his good name, while Taugwalder's version is lost in the turmoil: he claimed that Whymper cut the rope 200 metres before the summit, and ran ahead in order to be the first at the top. This was why they had only had a reserve rope for the descent, which then broke.  Nobody was convicted, and the file was closed and kept under lock and key for 55 years. Peter Taugwalder, the simple man from the mountains, cannot defend himself publicly against the respected Whymper. He breaks down under the defamation, and emigrates to America.

The play «The Matterhorn Story» from the Bernese author and director Livia Anne Richard is entertaining, exciting and moving – and goes into the detail at the same time. It reveals, analyses and interprets within the context and in terms of artistic freedom.

The result is a story that explores some of the great themes of human life: love, death, friendship, rivalry, megalomania and faith in God.

The theatrical scenes are accompanied live by Bruno Bieri with Hang, vocals and alpine horn. He supports the dramatisation with the eight tones of the Hang, and this scale is the starting point for the musical expedition. Lionius Treikauskas compositions bring colour into the open-air theatre. His leading string quintet and the five cellos ensure touching nuances. The D minor key runs through the topography of human existence like a bordun.


  • Opening night

    July 9th 2015

  • Derniere

    August 30th 2015

  • Visitors


  • Playwright & Direction

    Livia Anne Richard

  • Music

    Bruno Bieri

Press commentary

Berner Zeitung

«The play is as brusque as the mountains: 'The Matterhorn Story' on the Riffelberg in Zermatt is an impressive theatre and natural experience.»

Süddeutsche Zeitung

«A mountain destined for the really big drama.»



«The open-air theatre 'The Matterhorn Story' is way better than its title.»


Schweizer Illustierte

«A play like real life.»

«Open-air theatre rehabilitates Valais mountain guides.»


Radio Rottu

«Goose bumps, tears, pure emotions...»



«'The Matterhorn Story' – a play gets under one's skin.»


Walliser Bote

«Theatre – almost like heaven.»