Bayreuth Festival


July 5, 2022

The Bayreuth Festival or Richard Wagner Festival is a music theater festival dedicated to the last ten operas of Richard Wagner (1813–1883). The festival has been held since 1876 with interruptions, since 1951 every year in the festival hall on the Green Hill in Bayreuth, which the composer created together with the architect Otto Brückwald (1841-1917). The festival usually lasts from July 25th to August 28th. The manager is Katharina Wagner, commercial director Ulrich Jagels.

Chronological overview

13th to 30th August 1876: the first Bayreuth Festival 1882 to 1914: 21 festival years (1882 of which Richard Wagner was still involved), then interruption due to war and inflation There were no festivals in twelve years: 1885, 1887, 1890, 1893, 1895, 1898, 1900, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1910, 19131924 to 1944: 17 festival years four years without a festival: 1926, 1929, 1932, 1935 From 1876 to 1944 a total of 39 festivals took place. 1945 to 1950: Failure for political and financial reasons (six years). Up until then, since 1876, there had been a total of 27 years without a festival. Since 1951: uninterrupted annual performance (50th post-war festival: 2000) In 2011 the 100th Bayreuth Festival took place The 2020 festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the same reason, the 2021 Festival took place with reduced audience capacity. Oksana Lyniv was the first woman conductor on the Green Hill on July 25, 2021. She directed the premiere of The Flying Dutchman directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov.

History up to 1944

Richard Wagner wanted a theater where he could realize his ideas of a total work of art as a composer, lyricist, dramaturge and artistic director. This should be able to devote itself fully to the performance of his works away from the metropolises - without distraction and without the compromises of a repertoire company. In 1871 he decided on Bayreuth as the location. At the beginning of February 1872 he founded the Board of Directors of the Festival, with the local banker Friedrich Feustel as chairman. To finance what he estimated to be 300,000 thalers for the construction of a festival theater and the first season, Wagner founded a patronage association which, under the direction of Marie Countess von Schleinitz, a friend of his wife Cosima Wagner, issued share certificates for 300 thalers each. The buyer received a seat for three cyclic performances of the ring. This is considered the invention of fundraising. Other clubs were founded in various German cities. However, by the spring of 1873 only 340 patronage certificates could be issued. The topping-out ceremony for the Festspielhaus took place in October 1873, even before funding was secured. At the beginning of 1874, there was a risk that construction would be stopped due to a lack of funds, whereupon King Ludwig II of Bavaria, out of friendship with Wagner, provided a loan of 100,000 thalers from his private assets. The evaluation of the archives showed that, as in other opera houses, Jews were discriminated against in the ongoing theater operations. “But the bitterly anti-Jewish ideological framework provided by Wagner himself, his wife Cosima or their son-in-law Houston Stewart Chamberlain did not exist anywhere else. This clear image of the Jewish enemy only existed in Bayreuth,” Hannes Heer summarized his research in 2012. Nevertheless, many important Jewish artists performed regularly at the Bayreuth Festival. Wagner himself was a friend of the Munich court conductor Hermann Levi and was able to get him, together with King Ludwig II, to conduct the premiere of Parsifal in 1882 against hostilities from other quarters. The Austrian-American bass-baritone Friedrich Schorr was engaged from 1925 to 1931 as Wotan, Hans Sachs and Holländer