Dinner-shows at Backstage Hotel

Zermatt’s artistic rendezvous

Text Daniel Bauchervez / Photo Max Parovsky
Date of publication Winter 2020-2021

Who is Heinz Julen? Born and raised in Zermatt, he’s the architect-owner of Backstage Hotel, a designer and painter who’s simultaneously inspired by the valley’s traditions and contemporary art — a man bursting with ideas, on a quest for the extraordinary. This winter he’s putting on his own dinner-show extravaganzas.

2020 wasn’t particularly kind to Heinz Julen. The unexpected closing of the Zermatt station mid-March could not have come at a worse time, just a few weeks before the Unplugged festival was scheduled to begin. As always, the Backstage Hotel was meant to host several of the festival’s main events. And the hotel’s art gallery, the Kunstraüme, was about to feature a top contemporary painter so famous that his identity, with the show now pushed to 2021, still remains a mystery.

For the time being, Kunstraüme is running "When trash becomes Art," a found-art exhibition featuring works by Swiss artist Ursula Stalder. A French artist was supposed to follow suit, but pandemic travel restrictions left the gallery no choice but to cancel. Not to be deterred, Heinz Julen took advantage of the opportunity to showcase some of his latest, biggest, brightly coloured pieces ever — which pedestrians can get a glimpse of as they walk past his boutique on Bahnhofstrasse 7b.

The situation also inspired another new project. Noticing that theatre was struggling during the lockdown, Heinz Julen took matters into his own hands and decided to host his own dinner-shows at the Backstage cinema. Beginning just before Christmas, performances are scheduled for almost every night of the season. A long-awaited opportunity for every artist to emerge from the shadows and blossom again in the limelight. Sky of Augustine (skyofaugustine.ch), the Joel and Romaine Müller brother-sister duo, will be inviting other talented upcoming artists to join them on stage four nights a week, in a setting reminiscent of the Unplugged festival. Their acts will be interspersed with visual and auditory journeys into Zermatt’s past, along with film extracts from the 1950s (a regular occurrence at the Backstage cinema). The icing on the cake? The performances will be accompanied by dinners prepared by chefs from the famous After Seven revstaurant (awarded 17 points by Gault&Millau). This is one performance (and meal) you don’t want to miss!