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Bayreuther Festspiele (Part 4, conclusion)

Audience reaction was extremely enthusiastic for the music. Now Bayreuth audiences do not leap to their feet no matter how much they love something. They do, however, stamp their feet on the wood plank floor which gives a sound of rolling thunder. The curtain calls go on for as long as the audience can keep it up along you shouts of “Bravo”. Das Rheingold has no intermission since it is a paltry 2 ½ hours, but the other operas have curtain calls at the end of each act. Unlike Italian opera, there is no applause after arias to “disturb” the drama. Wagnerites know all of these little ins and outs. At the end of each evening, the conductor also comes out to represent the orchestra for curtain calls, to explosions of clapping and feet stomping.

The stage production team does not come until the end of the last opera Goetterdaemmerung, and what happened next was worth the price of admission. The audience went from wild applause for the musicians to loud boos, shouts of abuse, whistles, cat calls. They stood on the stage for several minutes taking all of this abuse, smiling and waving as though it was a triumph. Finally the singers came out to rescue them and then audience jumped to their feet with a standing ovation.

So that is what goes on at the Bayreuther Festspiele. About Bayreuth itself, it is a very pretty town of about 60,000. It has a long pedestrian shopping street called the Maximillian Strasse in the old section, The Neues Schloss, and Wagner’s home, Wahnfried, which is a museum and just reopened after a 2 year renovation. The city has an excellent bus system and a one week bus pass was just 13 euro for 2 after 9 am. The nice people at the bus station suggested getting a single 7-day pass plus a 4 trip ticket for days we wanted an early start, as the bus pass was good for just one person before 9 am. Nuernberg is just one hour away on the train, and part of the trip is through a beautiful limestone gorge called the Hersbrucker Alb. Unfortunately, August 1 the line was shut down there for repairs and there is now the the dreaded schienenerstazverkehrs (replacement bus) for the next 6 weeks.

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Thanks for the full report on Bayreuth, Sam. Really enjoyed reading the details of the Festspiele.

You also answered another question, before I asked... so, Wahnfried has finally reopened. I was in Bayreuth last summer, and I was glad that you could at least walk through the garden and see Wagner's grave while the house was under renovation. I arrived in the early evening, when glints of sunlight poked through the heavy canopy of leaves in the adjoining park- I thought the prelude to "Lohengrin" would have provided the perfect soundtrack. One of those "goosebumps" moments from my four years in Germany that I will never forget.