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Bayreuth Festspielhaus, as seen today.
Bayreuth Festspielhaus, as seen in 1882.

The Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Bayreuth Festival Theatre[1] (German: Bayreuther Festspielhaus) is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, dedicated principally to the performance of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner. It is the exclusive venue for the annual Bayreuth Festival, for which it was specifically conceived and built.

The design was adapted by Wagner, without the architect's permission, from an unrealised project by Gottfried Semper for an opera house in Munich, and built under Wagner's supervision. Its construction was funded principally by Ludwig II of Bavaria. The foundation stone was laid on 22 May 1872 (Wagner's 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 August 13, 1876 to August 17, 1876.

Only the entry façade exhibits the typical late-19th-century ornamentation, while the remainder of the exterior is modest and shows mostly undecorated brick stone. The interior is mainly wood, which contributes to the excellent acoustics. Unlike the traditional opera house design with several tiers of seating in a horse-shoe shaped auditorium, the Festspielhaus's seats are arranged in a single steeply-shaped wedge, with no galleries or boxes. The capacity is 1,925.

The most famous and 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: the acoustic reverberation makes it difficult to synchronise the orchestra with the singers. Conductors must therefore retrain themselves to ignore cues from singers.

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

See also


  1. ^ "The Bayreuth Festival Theatre". The history of the Bayreuth Festival. Bayreuther Festspiele GmbH. Retrieved 2009-12-25.  

External links

Coordinates: 49°57′34.90″N 11°34′46.80″E / 49.959694°N 11.579667°E / 49.959694; 11.579667


Simple English

File:Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

The Bayreuth Festspielhaus (Bayreuth Festival Theatre) is an opera house in the town of Bayreuth, Germany. The German opera composer Richard Wagner got the opera house built so that his own music could be performed properly. He had lots of ideas about how opera should be performed, and he thought that there was no opera house in Germany that was good enough for performances of his operas. Today it is still the place where every year there is a festival, the Bayreuth Festival, which is dedicated only to the operas of Richard Wagner.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria was a great admirer of Richard Wagner and he gave a lot of money for the opera house to be built. Wagner watched the construction all the time and made sure that everything was built in the way he wanted. Work on the building started on 22 May 1872 (Wagner's birthday), and it was ready four years later when, for the first time, all four operas which make up the cycle called Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), were performed.

The opera house is big enough for an audience of 1,925. One unusual thing is the orchestra pit, which is right under the stage, covered by a hood, so that the orchestra cannot be seen at all by the audience. Wagner wanted the audience to be able to concentrate properly on the action on the stage instead of being distracted by watching the orchestra. It makes it very difficult for the orchestra and the singers to be together, and conductors have to get used to the problem.

The Festspielhaus also has a double proscenium, which makes it look as if the stage is farther away than it actually is.


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