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.
The operas in the Bayreuth canon are the last ten of the thirteen that Wagner completed. He rejected the first three – Die Feen , Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi – as apprentice works.Although these have been staged elsewhere and Rienzi was very popular into the early 20th century, the works in the canon exceed them, both in the number of performances given and in the number of available recordings. The term Bayreuth canon is therefore sometimes taken to mean the composer's mature operas. Georg Solti was the first conductor to complete studio recordings of all the works in the canon, starting in 1958 with Das Rheingold and finishing in 1986 with Lohengrin .
The components of the canon are as follows:
As of the completion of the 2018 [update] festival, 2725 performances have been given at the Bayreuth Festival of the operas in the canon, distributed as in the following table.
|symbol and colour||meaning|
|‡||Introduced by Richard Wagner|
|*||Introduced by Cosima Wagner|
|Opera||Completed||Première||Bayreuth première||Most recent Bayreuth season|
(to 2018 [update] )
|Total Bayreuth performances|
(to 2018 [update] )
|1854||22 September 1869||13 August 1876‡||2017||229|
|1856||26 June 1870||14 August 1876‡||2018||229|
|Siegfried†||1869||16 August 1876||16 August 1876‡||2017||228|
(The Twilight of the Gods)
|1874||17 August 1876||17 August 1876‡||2017||232|
|Parsifal||1882||26 July 1882||26 July 1882‡||2018||536|
|Tristan und Isolde|
(Tristan and Isolde)
|1859||10 June 1865||25 July 1886*||2018||244|
|Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg|
(The Mastersingers of Nuremberg)
|1867||21 June 1868||23 July 1888*||2018||319|
|Tannhäuser||1845||19 October 1845||22 August 1891*||2014||220|
|Lohengrin||1848||28 August 1850||20 July 1894*||2018||237|
|Der fliegende Holländer|
(The Flying Dutchman)
|1841||2 January 1843||22 July 1901*||2018||238|
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas. Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner with the libretto by the composer himself loosely based on the 13th-century Middle High German epic poem Parzival of the Minnesänger Wolfram von Eschenbach, recounting the story of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail.
The Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Bayreuth Festival Theatre 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.
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.
Francesca Gaetana Cosima Wagner was the daughter of the Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt and Franco-German romantic author Marie d'Agoult. She became the second wife of the German composer Richard Wagner, and with him founded the Bayreuth Festival as a showcase for his stage works; after his death she devoted the rest of her life to the promotion of his music and philosophy. Commentators have recognised Cosima as the principal inspiration for Wagner's later works, particularly Parsifal.
The Bayreuth Circle was a name originally applied by some writers to devotees of Richard Wagner's music who attended and supported the annual Bayreuth Festival in the later 19th and early twentieth centuries. As some of these devotees espoused nationalistic German politics, and some of them were supporters of Adolf Hitler from the 1920s onwards, this group of people has been associated by some writers with the rise of Nazism.
Theo Adam was a German operatic bass-baritone and bass singer who had an international career in opera, concert and recital from 1949. He was a member of the Staatsoper Dresden for his entire career, and sang at the Bayreuth Festival from 1952 to 1980. He particularly excelled in portraying roles by Richard Wagner, especially Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen, which he also performed at the Metropolitan Opera, among others. In concert, he was a much admired Bach singer and also drew acclaim for his interpretation of the title character of Mendelssohn's Elijah. He was a voice teacher at the Musikhochschule Dresden.
Dame Gwyneth Jones is a Welsh operatic dramatic soprano, widely regarded as one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos in the second half of the 20th century.
Karl Eduard Maria Elmendorff was a German opera conductor.
Bernd Weikl is an Austrian operatic baritone, particularly known for his performances in the stage works by Richard Wagner. He also has written books and directed operas.
Bernd Aldenhoff was a German Heldentenor.
Franz Mazura was an Austrian bass-baritone opera singer and actor. He performed at the Bayreuth Festival from 1971 for 25 years and at the Metropolitan Opera for 15 years. He was made a Kammersänger in 1980 and an Honorary Member of the Nationaltheater Mannheim in 1990. He most often played villains and strange characters, with signature roles including Klingsor in Wagner's Parsifal. Mazura took part in world premieres, such as the double role of Dr. Schön and Jack the Ripper in the world premiere of the completed version of Alban Berg's Lulu at the Paris Opera in 1979, and as Abraham in Giorgio Battistelli's Lot in 2017. Two of his recordings received Grammy Awards. His voice was described as with dark timbre, powerful and like granite, with perfect diction. His acting ability was described as "well-supplied with vivid imaginative touches, whether deployed in comic roles or characters of inexorable malevolence. Mazura could achieve more impact with a lifted eyebrow or a belligerently thrust chin than many artists could with a ten-minute monologue." He had a long career, appearing at the Staatsoper Berlin the night before his 95th birthday.
Janis Martin was an American opera singer who sang leading roles first as a mezzo-soprano and later as a soprano in opera houses throughout Europe and the United States. She was particularly known for her performances in the operas of Richard Wagner and sang at the Bayreuth Festival from 1968 to 1997.
Fritz Hübner was a German operatic bass. Active from the late 1950s through the 1980s, he was particularly known for his performances in operas by Richard Wagner.
Gerd Nienstedt was a German and Austrian opera singer, bass and bass-baritone. After an international career at major opera houses and the Bayreuth Festival, he was also a theatre director, stage director and academic voice teacher.
Carrie Pringle was an Austrian-born British soprano singer. She performed the role of one of the Flowermaidens in the 1882 premiere of Richard Wagner's Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival. Unproven rumours associate Wagner's supposed infatuation with Pringle with the circumstances of his death in Venice in 1883.
Evelyn Herlitzius is a German opera singer, a dramatic soprano. She is known for performing major roles in works by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, such as Brünnhilde, Isolde and Elektra, at the Semperoper, the Bayreuth Festival and leading European opera houses.
Gerd Brenneis was a German operatic tenor who had an active international career from the late 1950s through the 1990s. Known for his interpretations of the works of Richard Wagner, he worked as a principal artist at many of the world's great opera houses, including the Deutsche Oper Berlin, La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Vienna State Opera.
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.