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Wagner Festival, Bayreuth

Listed under Festivals in Bayreuth, Germany.

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It was Wagner’s idea to hold a festival celebrating his own work, the most event-deserving he thought to be Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle) and Parsifal, but his other works are also performed, most popularly Die Walküre and Tristan und Isolde. And popular the festival is, with most opera buffs having to wait between five and ten years to lay their hands on a precious ticket, demand exceeding 500,000 and supply standing around around 58,000.

Tickets are given out by a sort of lottery and it can be the luck of the draw whether you get to attend a Ring cycle year (a new version is premiered ever five years or so) where three other operas are also performed or a non-Ring year when five operas are presented.

To facilitate and house his showcase, Wagner designed a theatre, the Festspielhaus, which could hold an orchestra large enough to perform his operas as he had intended them and the great sets and theatrical effects he imagined - now a place of Wagnerian pilgrimage. Ever concerned with his ego, Wagner chose Bayreuth as the perfect spot for the festival because before the booming arrival of himself and his showcase in 1876, he found it “culturally wanting“.

His works were performed just as he wanted them until the 1920’s, not a thought spared for the stamina and endurance of the performers involved or for the ears and buttocks of the audience. The Festspielhaus survived the war through its close association with Hitler and pure luck that the allied bombs missed it, but during this period some of the sets and scores began to be tempered from the original, so now each individual director and designer sets the tone. The festival has been kept a family business, so is still introduced by a Wagner.

Wagner Festival Website (in German).

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

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Bayreuth Festival

Dedicated entirely to the performance and celebration of the works of Richard Wagner, this festival lasts nearly a month, running annually from late July to late August. Conceived by the composer himself, the festival’s purpose is to showcase his more epic works such as the ‘Ring Cycle’ in their complete forms.

It all takes place inside the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, also created by Wagner specifically for this purpose. It allowed him to indulge in his foible for concealing the orchestra under the stage to prevent the audience’s attention from being drawn away from the action above, making it a monstrously challenging venue in acoustic terms for conductors, singers and musicians, and a unique experience.

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