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Bayreuther Festspiele (Part 2, The "scene")

Ok, about the festival “scene”. The orchestra consists of the cream of the crop from the top orchestras in Europe, most of which are on summer break. The singers are top stars who often work for quite a bit less than what the Met pays normally. The “prestige” factor is a big draw. By the terms of Wagner’s will, again, not one note or word can be changed. The performances take place in a nearly acoustically perfect hall where there really are no bad seats. The audience seats have backs solid wood and only the most flimsy cushioning to sit on. For 69 euro, they sell seat cushions that fold up to look like fashionable purses, at least for the ladies. Men can get by with less camouflaged gear.
Despite the heat of summer, formality is the rule here. At least 50% of the men are in tuxedos, the rest in business suits, some in sport coats and ties, and just a confident few in open-collar shirts and jackets. Women pull out all the stops with their best gowns, a few in Bavarian trachts. Women from Japan favor beautiful kimonos. The opening night is always a new production and all of the attendees are VIPs from Germany, starting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, other government bigwigs, entertainment figures, society types, etc. They do a red carpet photo parade, which then gets published in all the German magazines.
With only a total of 30 performances in the course of 5 weeks, just 55,000 tickets are available each season. This would not come close to filling Lambeau Field for a single game, so tickets can be hard to come by. It can be take a few years sitting on a wait list to score, but it can be done. Joining a Wagner society can help. People do campout at the ticket office waiting for returned tickets, but it is not something to be done on a lark. You’ve got to be seriously into it.
There is a modern restaurant right outside the Festspielhaus with facilities to satisfy the needs of festivalgoers. Since Wagnerian operas are rather long, 4 hours or more, they usually have two one hour intermissions at the festival to provide opportunities for schmoozing, champagne sipping and people watching, which is over the top. The Oscars are the only thing I could compare it to. There is a sit-down restaurant, a very nice cafeteria, several stands for gelato and champagne. But my favorite is the Festival Bratwurst stand. Nothing like seeing 40 men in tuxedos lined up to get a brat and a beer, just like Lambeau Field minus the tuxes.
People usually gather about an hour before the curtain to see and be seen. Photographers wander about and you can get your picture taken in front of the Festspielhaus and look at the galleys at a drug store downtown the next day and purchase prints. Champagne stands sell glasses of bubbly for 7 euro a pop. At one half hour before the curtain, the outer doors of the hall are opened. At exactly 15 minutes before the curtain, a bell rings (reminds me of the bell when the starting gate opens at the race track) and the inner doors are opened and you can go in and get your tickets scanned and take your seat. There are no aisles in the seating area, so you must enter at a specific side door and make your way to your seat. At precisely the appointed start time, the bell rings and are the doors all close simultaneously and there is the sound of them being locked. Now I don’t think fire regulations would allow them to actually lock the doors, but as a sound effect, it does have a certain psychological effect. You are there and you are not getting away. The house lights dim, and the crowd, which had been buzzing heartily immediately goes deathly silent. I mean you really can hear a pin drop. There is no applause for the conductor arriving at the podium, you can’t see him. The prelude just starts.

Posted by
2263 posts

Wow, I am really intruiged. How much are tickets? How long did you have to wait to get them? And did you see other Wagner operas?

Posted by
2263 posts

Wow, I am really intruiged. How much are tickets? How long did you have to wait to get them? And did you see other Wagner operas?

Posted by
16763 posts

We had good seats in the center about 2/3 of the way back and they went for 260 euro for each opera. Center first 6 rows go for 320 euro each. There are a few seats way in the back in the upper galleries for as low as 30 euro, but when you've come all this way, the peanut gallery is not the place to be.

It only took two tries, but to insure moving up on the list, joined the Society of the Friends on Bayrueth, which is the org that supports the festival. It costs about $275 annual dues after a $400 initiation, but they get an allocation of tickets for their members, so made it on the 2nd year. Perhaps the weirdness of the production reduced ticket demand as well.

They send out ticket order forms in September after that year's festival is over. You send in your request (it can done on-line these days), and if you get an email invoice at the end of January, you're in if you pay in full in 30 days. They take credit cards with a 5% fee. The very next thing is to get hotel reservations in Bayreuth. They can disappear fast if you want to stay in town.

We did not go to any other operas as 4 in 6 days is plenty. Not only do the singers need the rest days, but the audience as well.

Interesting to read Mark Twain's article about his visit in 1891. Somethings haven't changed.
http://twainquotes.com/Travel1891/Dec1891.html