Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Last updated

Richard Wagner Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus 2006-07-16.jpg
The Festspielhaus, home of the Bayreuth Festival , in 2006
Bayreuth Festspielhaus
General information
Location Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany
Coordinates 49°57′36″N11°34′47″E / 49.96000°N 11.57972°E / 49.96000; 11.57972 Coordinates: 49°57′36″N11°34′47″E / 49.96000°N 11.57972°E / 49.96000; 11.57972
Groundbreaking1872 (1872)
Opened1876 (1876)
Design and construction
Architectafter Gottfried Semper

The Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Bayreuth Festival Theatre [1] (German: Bayreuther Festspielhaus, pronounced [baɪˈʁɔʏtɐ ˈfɛstʃpiːlˌhaʊs] ) is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, built by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner and dedicated solely to the performance of his stage works. It is the venue for the annual Bayreuth Festival, for which it was specifically conceived and built. Its official name is Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus.

Contents

Design

Patronage certificate for funding the Bayreuth festival, issued 22. May 1922 Deutsche Festspiel-Stiftung 1922.jpg
Patronage certificate for funding the Bayreuth festival, issued 22. May 1922

Wagner adapted the design of the Festspielhaus from an unrealised project by Gottfried Semper for an opera house in Munich, without the architect's permission, and supervised its construction. Ludwig II of Bavaria provided the primary funding for the construction. The foundation stone was laid on 22 May 1872, Wagner's 59th birthday. The building was first opened for the premiere of the complete four-opera cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), from 13 to 17 August 1876. [2]

Only the entry façade exhibits the typical late-19th-century ornamentation, while the remainder of the exterior is modest and shows mostly undecorated bricks. The interior is mainly wood and has a reverberation time of 1.55 seconds. [3] The Festspielhaus is one of the largest free-standing timber structures ever erected. Unlike the traditional opera house design with several tiers of seating in a horseshoe shaped auditorium, the Festspielhaus's seats are arranged in a single steeply-shaped wedge, with galleries or boxes along the back wall only. This is also known as continental seating. Many contemporary movie theaters have adopted this style of seating, which gives every seat an equal and uninterrupted view of the stage. The capacity of the Festspielhaus is 1,925 and has a volume of 10,000 cubic metres. [3]

The Festspielhaus features a double proscenium, which gives the audience the illusion that the stage is further away than it actually is. The double proscenium and the recessed orchestra pit create – in Wagner's term – a "mystic gulf" between the audience and the stage. This gives a dreamlike character to performances, and provides a physical reinforcement of the mythic content of most of Wagner's operas. The architecture of Festpielhaus accomplished many of Wagner's goals and ideals for the performances of his operas including an improvement on the sound, feel, and overall look of the production.

The Festpielhaus was originally planned to open in 1873, but by that time Wagner had barely raised enough money to put up the walls of his theatre. He began to raise money by traveling and putting on concerts in various cities and countries throughout Europe. There are, however, some documents concerning the donation and aid (900 thaler) to Wagner for that matter by the Sultan Abdülaziz of the Ottoman Empire. [4] Even after Ludwig began funding the project, Wagner had to continue putting on concerts to keep the building project financially afloat. The tours were very taxing on Wagner's health and would eventually be a key element to his death later on in 1883.

Orchestra pit

A significant feature of the Festspielhaus is its unusual orchestra pit. It is recessed under the stage and covered by a hood, so that the orchestra is completely invisible to the audience. This feature was a central preoccupation for Wagner, since it made the audience concentrate on the drama onstage, rather than the distracting motion of the conductor and musicians. The design also corrected the balance of volume between singers and orchestra, creating ideal acoustics for Wagner's operas, which are the only operas performed at the Festspielhaus. However, this arrangement has also made it the most challenging to conduct in, even for the world's best conductors. Not only is the crowded pit enveloped in darkness, but the acoustic reverberation makes it difficult to synchronise the orchestra with the singers. Conductors must therefore retrain themselves to ignore cues from singers.

The orchestra layout deployed at Bayreuth is unusual in three ways:

  1. The first violins are positioned on the right-hand side of the conductor instead of their usual place on the left side. This is in all likelihood because of the way the sound is intended to be directed towards the stage rather than directly on the audience. This way the sound has a more direct line from the first violins to the back of the stage where it can be then reflected to the audience.
  2. Double basses, cellos and harps (when more than one used, e.g. Ring) are split into groups and placed on either side of the pit
  3. The rest of the orchestra is located directly under the stage. This makes communication with the conductor vital as most of the players are unable to see or hear the singers, but creates the huge, rich sounds Wagner sought to compose.

Bayreuth Festival

The Festspielhaus remains the venue of the annual Bayreuth Festival, during which Wagner's later operas, such as the Ring cycle and Parsifal , are given on a repertory basis.

Recent history

In 2014, photos printed on canvas hide the scaffolding around the Festspielhaus. Bayreuth Festspielhaus 2014-05-25.jpg
In 2014, photos printed on canvas hide the scaffolding around the Festspielhaus.

In early 2012, Katharina Wagner mentioned the need for repairs to the building, with mention specifically of roof leaks and crumbling of the red brick facade. [5] In 2014, funding for restoration was announced at a level of approximately €30 million, primarily from public funding shared between Germany and the state of Bavaria, [6] with the German national government and the Bavarian state government holding majority shares. [7]

Repairs were completed on 26 July 2015 and the building is fully restored. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Der Ring des Nibelungen</i> Cycle of four operas by Richard Wagner

Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epic music dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from Germanic heroic legend, namely Norse legendary sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel", structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend. It is often referred to as the Ring cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring.

<i>Das Rheingold</i> Opera by Richard Wagner

Das Rheingold, WWV 86A, is the first of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen,. It was performed, as a single opera, at the National Theatre Munich on 22 September 1869, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, on 13 August 1876.

<i>Die Walküre</i> music drama by Richard Wagner, part of Der Ring des Nibelungen

Die Walküre, WWV 86B, is the second of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen,. It was performed, as a single opera, at the National Theatre Munich on 26 June 1870, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 14 August 1876.

Opera house Theatre building used for opera performances

An opera house is a theatre building used for performances of opera. It usually includes a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and building sets.

Bayreuth Festival

The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner are presented. Wagner himself conceived and promoted the idea of a special festival to showcase his own works, in particular his monumental cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal.

Theater (structure) Performing arts venue (building)

A theater, theatre or playhouse, is a structure where theatrical works or plays are performed, or other performances such as musical concerts may be produced. A theatre used for opera performances is called an opera house. While a theater is not required for performance, a theater serves to define the performance and audience spaces. The facility is traditionally organized to provide support areas for performers, the technical crew and the audience members.

Academy of Music (Philadelphia)

The Academy of Music, also known as American Academy of Music, is a concert hall and opera house located at 240 S. Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its location is between Locust and Manning Streets in the Avenue of the Arts area of Center City.

Karl Elmendorff

Karl Eduard Maria Elmendorff was a German opera conductor.

Christian Thielemann

Christian Thielemann is a German conductor. He is currently chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden and the director of the Salzburg Easter Festival.

Festspielhaus Hellerau

Festspielhaus Hellerau is a theatre/studio building/classroom building located in Hellerau, the famous garden city district of Dresden, Germany. Built in 1911, it was an important center for early modern theatre up until the rise of the Nazi party, World War II and afterward when the area became part of Communist-occupied East Germany. After the German reunification and the departure of the Red Army, efforts were begun to restore the building, then nearly in ruins, to its original grandeur. The theatre was reopened to the public in September 2006 and restoration is currently ongoing.

Margravial Opera House Building in Bayreuth, Germany

The Margravial Opera House is a Baroque opera house in the town of Bayreuth, Germany, built between 1745 and 1750. It is one of Europe's few surviving theatres of the period and has been extensively restored. On 30 June 2012, the opera house was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Bayreuth canon

The Bayreuth canon consists of those operas by the German composer Richard Wagner (1813–1883) that have been performed at the Bayreuth Festival. The festival, which is dedicated to the staging of these works, was founded by Wagner in 1876 in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth, and has continued under the directorship of his family since his death. Although it was not originally held annually, it has taken place in July and August every year since the 75th anniversary season in 1951. Its venue is the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which was built for the first festival. Attendance at the festival is often thought of as a pilgrimage made by Wagner aficionados.

Longborough Festival Opera is an opera festival which presents a season of high quality opera each June and July in the English Cotswolds village of Longborough in north Gloucestershire. It began in 1991 as Banks Fee Opera by presenting concerts, and moved forward with operas presented by a travelling company. This was followed by converting a barn into an opera house. Audiences grew rapidly in the 1990s and, during the last decade, a focus on Wagner's operas led to three complete Ring Cycles being performed in 2013. The present chairman of the festival is Martin Graham, the music director Anthony Negus and the artistic director is Alan Privett.

Staatstheater Mainz

The Staatstheater Mainz is a theatre in Mainz, Germany, which is owned and operated by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Situated on the Gutenbergplatz, the complex comprises two theatres which are connected by an underground passage and also by skywalk. Performances of opera, drama and ballet are presented. Its name was Stadttheater Mainz until 1989.

<i>Jahrhundertring</i>

The Jahrhundertring was the production of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976, celebrating the centenary of both the festival and the first performance of the complete cycle. The festival was directed by Wolfgang Wagner and the production was created by the French team of conductor Pierre Boulez, stage director Patrice Chéreau, stage designer Richard Peduzzi, costume designer Jacques Schmidt and lighting designer André Diot. The cycle was shown first in 1976, then in the following years until 1980. It was filmed for television in 1979 and 1980. While the first performance caused "a near-riot" for its brash modernity, the staging established a standard, termed Regietheater, for later productions.

Jutta Hanna Edith Hering-Winckler is a German lawyer and patron of music. Since 1977, she has been head of a law firm in Minden as a lawyer and notary. Since 1999, she has been president of the Richard Wagner Society in Minden. She received awards for her civic engagement as the driving force of the Wagner project at the Stadttheater Minden, particularly Der Ring in Minden, which brought her hometown to international recognition.

<i>Der Ring in Minden</i>

Der Ring in Minden was a project to stage Richard Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Stadttheater Minden, beginning in 2015 with Das Rheingold, followed by the other parts in the succeeding years, and culminating with the complete cycle performed twice in 2019. The stage director was Gerd Heinz, and Frank Beermann conducted the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, playing on the stage of the small theatre. The singers acted in front of the orchestra, making an intimate approach to the dramatic situations possible. The project received international recognition and was compared favourably to the Bayreuth Festival.

Frank Philipp Schlößmann is a German scenic designer focused on operas who has worked at major opera houses and festivals internationally. He staged Janáček's Jenůfa at the Metropolitan Opera, Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at both the Bayreuth Festival and Der Ring in Minden, and the world premiere of Heinz Holliger's Lunea at the Opernhaus Zürich.

Bayreuth premiere cast of Parsifal Wikimedia list article

The Bayreuth premiere cast of Parsifal lists the contributors to the new productions of Richard Wagner's inaugural stage play Parsifal, including the premiere, which took place on 26 July 1882 at the Bayreuth Festival.

References

  1. "The Bayreuth Festival Theatre". The history of the Bayreuth Festival. Bayreuther Festspiele GmbH. Archived from the original on 21 October 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  2. Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, the first two operas of the cycle, had premiered individually at the National Theatre in Munich in 1869 and 1870 respectively; the 1876 opening of the Festspielhaus was both the premiere of the latter two operas, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, and the first time all four were performed together as a cycle.
  3. 1 2 Barron, Michael, Auditorium Acoustics and Architectural Design (2nd edition). Spon Press (Abingdon, UK), ISBN   0-203-87422-6, p. 352 (2010).
  4. "Abdülaziz Wagner'e para yardımı yaptı".
  5. Cadenhead, Frank (2 February 2012). "Bayreuth's Festspielhaus Needs Repairs". Opera Today. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  6. "Geld für Sanierung des Bayreuther Festspielhauses kann fließen". Fränkischen Tag (in German). 20 March 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  7. Rick Fulker (23 July 2014). "Calm after the storm as Bayreuth Festival opens". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  8. "DW Music at Bayreuth". Deutsche Welle. 25 July 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2018.

Further reading