If you are an Opera enthusiast or just would like to peak your interest in classical music, then plan now to go to next year’s world famous Bayreuth Festival. Since 1876 Bayreuth, Germany has hosted an annual music festival of opera performances written by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner which is held in the specially designed venue, Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus (Festival Theater).
The music from the festival is works of Richard Wagner who was a German composer, theater director and conductor. This well known composer lived in Bayreuth, Germany from 1872 until his death in 1883.
Though he composed many concert overtures and a symphony, he is most widely known for his operas – particularly The Ring of Nibelung (Der Ring des Nibelungen), a cycle of four epic operas which is often referred to as the Ring Cycle or Wagner’s Ring.
Wagner wrote the Ring cycle over a period of 26 years, from 1848 to 1874. The four operas that constitute the famous Ring Cycle are:
- Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
- Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
- Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)
The scale and scope of the story is epic. It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over an eponymous magic ring that grants domination over the entire world (Lord of the Rings fans should recognise a similar story). The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung.
The cycle is a life’s work of extraordinary scale. Perhaps the most outstanding aspect is its sheer length: a full performance of the cycle takes place over four nights at the opera (one opera per evening) with a total playing time of about 15 hours.
Alongside some of his other famous operas such as The Flying Dutchman, Parsifal and Lohengrin, The Ring of Nibelung is central to the program of the annual Bayreuth Festival.
Richard Wagner Festival Theater
The Richard Wagner Festspielhaus (Richard Wagner Festival Theater) was personally designed and constructed by Wagner, which included many architectural innovations to accommodate the huge orchestra required by the composer to support his epic operas.
The entry façade exhibits the late 19th century ornamentation yet the exterior is relatively modest. The interior is mainly wood and is said to contribute to the excellent acoustics within the auditorium.
The theatre can hold up to 1,925 people. The seating is positioned in a steeply shaped wedge that offers every member of the audience an equal and uninterrupted view of the stage.
The theater boasts a double arch which creates the illusion that the stage is further away than it actually is. A recessed orchestra pit is completely hidden from the audience, creating a gulf between the audience and the stage and adding to the drama of the performance.
Red Carpet Festival
The festival has been a social phenomenon since it began in 1876, when it attracted important people such as Kaiser William I and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as well as other famous composers like Franz Liszt and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
To this day it still attracts many famous fans including dignitaries such as Chancellor Angela Merkel and many international celebrities – it’s considered a ‘red carpet’ event and very much part of the social calendar.
The festival sells out quickly, it is strongly recommended to purchase tickets well in advance. The 2015 Bayreuth Festival tickets will go on sale starting October 21, 2014.
Other Things To Do in Bayreuth
The Bavarian town of Bayreuth is rather famed as a mecca for Wagner fans and there is more to discover about the town’s most famous son. Learn more about this great composer at the Wagner Museum located at Wahnfried House, where he used to live. Additionally, you can find autographs, first editions of works, portraits and other Wagner-memorabilia at the Jean Paul Museum, which was the residence of Wagner’s daughter Eva Chamberlain.
Classical music fans will also be interested to visit the house (now a museum) of the great German pianist Franz Liszt.
The town of Bayreuth itself is simply a beautiful combination of old and new buildings. Wander through the cobbled-stone streets and soak up the Bavarian atmosphere of this very famous place.
You might also like to take a romantic stroll through history at the Old and New Hermitage Palace. The 18th century palace is beautifully designed and has a very enchanting Romantic style garden. Designed by Margravine Wilhelmine in 1735, the garden has magnificent fountains, water features, sun temple and the ‘Ruined Theater’ (Margravial Opera House), which hosts regular summer performances.
The Old Palace, which was built in 1715, has a music room, a magnificent Japanese room and a lavishing Chinese mirrored room that are definitely worth seeing. Built between 1749 and 1753, the New Hermitage was designed in a crescent shaped and has beautiful walkways in the rococo style.
Head to Bayreuth to enjoy passionate and moving classical operas from the renowned German composer Richard Wagner. Make sure you plan enough time so that you can visit a couple museums exhibiting works from Wagner and more.
How to Get There
Bayreuth is approximately three and half hours east of Kaiserslautern, three hours east of Wiesbaden and just under three hours northeast of Stuttgart via A81. There are also trains available on Deutsche Bahn.