Scenes from Bayreuth (2)

Here are more photos from Bayreuth.

The Festspielhaus is located about a 20-minute walk north from the center of Bayreuth. The approach is dramatic:

My first visit was without a ticket. I went to see the red carpet notables at the premiere of Tannhäuser.

Well, attempted to see. I didn’t get there quite early enough.

Some people took extreme measures for a better view.

But honestly, every person on the carpet had to be identified for me with the exceptions of Angela Merkel and Guido Westerwelle. The guy next to me would say, “That’s the minister of the environment!” and I would say, “toll!” and he would add, “…of Bavaria,” and I would think, “…oh.” I was reassured that a lot of the Germans needed to have the notables identified for them as well. One of the photographers said as he was folding up his tripod that the crowd was pretty B-list compared to previous years.

Merkel stayed the whole week, spending the other nights incognito and unbothered by everyone else (though it’s not like she wasn’t noticed). Her security was very discreet but she’s been coming every year for years and I’m told they have it down to a science.

Here are people milling around during intermissions. As you can see, the dress code is formal compared to anywhere in the US but casual-ish compared to Salzburg. I can endorse Intermezzo’s dress advice as accurate with one exception: I did see at least a half-dozen drindls dirndls each night.

Before the end of each of the very long intermissions, these guys play a fanfare consisting of some music from the next act. Fifteen minutes before they play it once, ten minutes twice, five minutes three times.

I didn’t take any pictures inside because I suspected it was not allowed. I will say that the seats are uncomfortable, but not for the reason I expected. The seat is indeed unpadded, but the only thing that bothered me was how the seat back hit my lower back at an awkward spot.

But other people were taking photos of the Parsifal curtain call so I took one too. The women’s chorus doesn’t appear onstage so they’re just wearing street clothes.

One thing I really liked about the atmosphere was how unpretentious and unritzy it is. People are really there for the music (sometimes in a terrifyingly intense way!), also unlike Salzburg. Even the food tends towards the casual:

I promise I do have a few other things to blog about before the fall season starts, but if it seems like I’m trying to stretch my material out, well, I am.

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  1. Liked the "Scenes from Bayreuth" – they paint a realistic picture for those like me who never have been there. And the typo "drindls" made me laugh – looks as funny as the dress itself.

  2. Tom Service wrote:

    If you think the audience for the Royal Opera House is ethnically one-dimensional, well-heeled, and septuagenarian, you should see the denizens of Bayreuth.


    The Festspielhaus needs an audience that belongs to today, rather than hangers-on to a perniciously nostalgic dream of Wagneriana. If the culture of Bayreuth doesn't change, the festival (and the significance of Wagner's works) risks, like Wotan's Valhalla at the end of the Ring, passing into oblivion.


    Hard to disagree here…

  3. Anon: I aim to entertain. 🙂 I kept it there so your comment would make sense.

    Anon2: You're off topic here, I don't know what is meant by "change" without more context (link, dude, link), and I don't presume to know a whole lot about this. But here's what I have to say because this is something that interests me: Yeah, we want as diverse an audience as possible, but think about the uniquely suicidal economics of running a high-level Wagner festival with a relatively small theater, and the kind of people who are able to take the time to get to a little out of the way town in northern Bavaria, and you begin to see how it ended up the way it is. Bayreuth is by its nature an exclusive place. In terms of outreach, there are other places that deserve much more criticism (e.g. the Wiener Staatsoper, who has virtually no outreach whatsoever).

  4. Thanks for the Bayreuth travelogue and comments–most appreciated, since I'll never get there! If you are looking for something to post, how about a review of that Fidelio CD? The tempi (at least on Gott welch' dunkel hier) sound noticeably slower than on the Sehnsucht disc. And I thought Bieito (the live version, I think with a different conductor than you saw) was slow…


  5. I'm sorry, by "live version" on the Bieito, I meant the "streaming live" version that I watched on my computer…


  6. Fragende Frau: I think I will indeed review the Fidelio CD, because I have Thoughts about it. I need to listen to it a few more times first, though. When I saw Fidelio in Munich it was conducted by Daniele Gatti (he of the current Bayreuth Parisfal), who usually tends towards the glacial but I think was actually faster than Abbado in the tenor aria.

  7. Oops, Gatti was faster than Abbado in the full recording, I mean. He might have been a little slower than the Sehnsucht CD, which of course was also conducted by Abbado.