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– The Festspiele Experience
Attending the Bayreuther Festspiele is truly a remarkable experience. The Wagner Society of Northern California has put together this information packet in order to assist not only those of you who will be attending the Festspiele for the first time but also repeat visitors. The material is intended only as a guide to your Bayreuth experience and does not represent an endorsement of any particular hotel, restaurant, or event. We recognize that tastes may vary, hotel and restaurant management change, and events vary from year to year. Nevertheless, we hope you find it helpful in your own planning—and we also hope you will make additions or adjustments for those who will follow you. Some things remain the same—particularly at Bayreuth—but some things change (especially prices!), and what was available one year and may not be so in another year.
Geldautomats (ATMs) are readily available throughout town; Citibank has a branch at Marktplatz. While ATMs will incur fees (all card and banks vary), the exchange rates make this an option far superior to travelers checks and, in some cases, paying by credit card.
Official web site of the Bayreuth Festival. Includes full performance and cast information as well as historical data.
(click on the British Flag, which will then change to English text)
Kongress-und-Tourismuszentrale, Postfach 10 03 65, D-95403 Bayreuth. Email.
Phone 0921 / 88588.
Official site of the Bayreuth Tourist Bureau; includes hotel and room listings (in town and regional), brochures on line, and events schedules, among other services.
As of 2011, Visitors can also rent an audio guide for a walking tour of Bayreuth. To rent a guide visit the Tourist Information Office at Opernstrasse 22. The cost to rent is €8.00 for 3 hours and you must leave your ID as security.
Bus Line Number 5 goes from the Bahnhof (Train Station) and the Marketplace (Marktplatz) to the Festspielhaus. The bus ride from the Markplatz takes less than 10 minutes. Once off the bus (Am Festspielhaus), one walks a path up the hill to the Festspielhaus.
Excellent discount site for booking hotels in Germany and throughout Europe. Efficient and reliable.
“Travelaxe searches many travel websites simultaneously and compares their hotel rates side-by-side”; includes discount rate
Gemut http://www.gemut.com/ This is a helpful site which gives tips on car rental and can arrange car rental, travel insurance and so on for you. One WSNC member swears by this site and uses only Gemut for bookings.
(you can change the language to English by looking in the upper right under the “DB” logo)
An outstanding web site run by the German railway for European trains—not only in Germany but throughout Europe. You may even order train tickets and reservations online, a particularly helpful service for reserving overnight compartments.
Click on the British flag for the page in English. Wonderful site providing information on fortresses, palaces, and gardens in Bavaria. Good resource for planning in Bayreuth and surrounding areas.
Suggested Books (linked to Amazon.com)
Lonely Planet Bavaria by Andrea Schulte-Peevers (Lonely Planet Publications, 2002)
Insight Pocket Guide Bavaria by Anne Midgette (Langenscheidt, 2001)
Michelin “Green Guide” to Germany (4th ed., 2005)
Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival by Frederic Spotts (Yale, 1994)
Richard Wagner and the Festival Theatre by Simon Williams (Praeger, 1994)
The Wagners: The Dramas of a Musician Dynasty by Nike Wagner(Princeton, 1998)
Wagner at Bayreuth: Experiment and Tradition by Geoffrey Skelton (White Lion, 1965)
Opera in Context. Essays on Historical Staging from the Late Renaissance to the Time of Puccini, edited by Marc Radice (Amadeus, 2003) – see Chapter Nine by Evan Baker, “Richard Wagner and His Search for the Ideal Theatrical Space”, pp. 241-278.
People arrive at the Festspielhaus well before the curtain—an hour or more in most cases. The park around the Festspielhaus is lovely and makes for pleasant strolls and picnics. The #5 bus (Hohe Warte) provides the closest public transportation alternative, but many hotels also arrange for buses. Parking at the Festspielhaus is ample and free, but you will certainly want to arrive 90-60 minutes ahead of the curtain. Parking lots can be found behind the Festspielhaus—one just above the postcard kiosk and the other a tiny bit higher up the hill.
Since this is a summer festival, most people dress for the occasion. At least half wear evening clothes with the ocassional white tie and tails; others wear suits with ties or sport coats with ties and pretty dresses or pants suits. No matter what one wears, the key is comfort.
The Festspielhaus is not air conditioned, and the theatre doors are closed during the intervals. There is a chilled air blower which comes on during interval, however, it is nothing like U.S.-style air conditioning. Consequently, the theatre can become warmer as the night progresses. The weather can be hot or cool and/or rainy , so you need to plan accordingly and check the weather prior to leaving home. The successful packers are those who wear basic outfits, layers and vary them with ties, scarves, shawls, or jewelry.
The Bayreuth seats in the Parkett have no arms and are not particularly well padded, nor are the seat backs. Most people, therefore, bring thin cushions—not thick ones, please, that obstruct the view of those behind you. REI has several Therm-A-Rest inflatable cushions and “trekker” seats. Other participants found an inflatable lumbar cushion that also works well either for the back or the seat. Check out model SBSIRE ($40) at Relax the Back. Several hotels supply comfy cushions, so you may want to ask if they provide this service when you make your hotel reservations.
There are a limited number of cushions available at the Festspielhaus coatchecks located in the mail lobby. Charge is €3 per cushion (2011).
However, the seats in the Balcony and the Loge are padded and quite comfortable.
Fifteen minutes prior to the curtain, a brass ensemble arrives on the balcony and signals the time with a fanfare taken from the act to follow. Five minutes later, the brass repeats the fanfare twice; and at five minutes prior to the curtain, the ensemble plays the theme three times. For Das Rheingold, there is only the single set of fanfares, as there is no intermission.
No one misses the curtain which rises at either 16:00 or 18:00 (Rheingold with no intermission). There is no initial recognition of the conductor; the time arrives, the audience spontaneously quiets down, the lights dim, and the glorious sound begins. After the doors are locked, no one will be admitted. If you’re late, you’re out of luck. Before the beginning of each performance, a photographer takes photographs from the balcony in front of the theater of the people assembled below. The photographs are posted the next day in the front window of the Parsifal Apotheke (pharmacy) on Bahnhofstraße 6 near Hohenzollernstraße and are available for purchase with one day’s notice.
In 2011 the Festspiele stopped producing the large season program book which included the cast year book. It now publishes a separate program for each of the operas and a separate year book. The price of each book is € 7.00. For full cast and performance information, one must also purchase a separate program each evening (€1.00).
Intervals last at least one hour, but none for Rheingold or Holländer.
The audience is among the best behaved in the world— no applause during the performance or until the house is completely dark and the last note has drifted into the stratosphere. No supertitles – so come prepared.