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We've just returned from a small holiday in the heart of Europe, and purely out of curiosity we visited Bayreuth, the Green hill & the outside of the Festspielhaus (No sightseeing inside is possible in March, but at least we saw crocuses flowering everywhere). Soon I hope to come forward with photos, but for now I'm interested in your opinions of this holy shrine for Wagnerians.
 

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Bayreuth, going up the Green Hill towards the Festspielhaus 1875, designed by Richard Wagner. On the right & left: Richard Wagner Park. The streets in the neighbourhood bear Wagneropera names: Rheingoldstraße, Parsifalstraße, etc.



Right: Cosima Wagner Statue 1979 by Arno Breker. Centre: Festspielhaus 1875 by Richard Wagner & Gottfried Semper. Left Richard Wagner Statue 1986 by Arno Breker



Cosima Wagner Statue 1979 by Arno Breker
 

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Here are some images I took in August (Ring Cycle + Tannhauser) that I've been meaning to post for some time now.



A short theme from the opera played from the balcony signals the end of the leisurely one hour intermission. Seriously, every opera house should adopt the one hour intermission because it is lovely to both go to the washroom AND have a drink, and not have to pick one or the other. Some clever scaffolding hides the fact that the facade is undergoing major repairs:



The inside is actually tastefully ornate, more so than most will have been lead to believe from its famous reputation as a bland, sweaty dungeon. The seats themselves I found actually rather comfortable, on the bottom. What amounts to excruciating pain after 4 hours of sitting is the very low wooden backrest which seems specifically designed to torture anybody who would dare slouch or attempt to take in a nap during the performance. Do bring a cushion for your back!



Waiting for Tannhauser to start. Some guests were seated on the stage. Given that the stage action was rather inane, they have my sympathy. The acoustics from the stadium seating, by the way, are *everything* they're cracked up to be.

 

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The "silenced voices" exhibit, where one may read any number of gloomy plaques about the historical mistreatment of Jewish performers, just in case you weren't already weirded out enough knowing you're sitting where Hitler and his cronies once sat enjoying the very same operas you're seeing:



A place to stroll and enjoy your odd combination of champagne and bratwurst in what apparently passes for a garden in Germany:



The festival goes out of their way to accommodate international guests: "Pre-show talks". Then again, if you can't read this sign, you probably won't get much out of the pre-show talk.

 

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I have made my pilgrimage to Bayreuth in the autumn of 2013. I went on a guided tour inside the theater on the stage and into the orchestra pit, but I will not be there to see an opera until they begin to stage them in a way that is actually worth seeing. One remarkable detail about the house I got to learn about on the tour, was that on particularly hot summers the orchestra often wears t-shirts and flip-flops instead of regular suits. The temperature in the orchestra pit goes up to 40 C, and the audience cannot see them anyway. They hold a suit ready for the conductor when he comes out to take applause. A few nights later I had a dream where I was conducting a sweaty orchestra in t-shirts and flip-flops, passionately playing some of the best music the world has ever heard.

I also wanted to visit Villa Wahnfried, but it was under renovation. There was a big cardboard fence around it with openings you could stick your head into and see a big ditch in front of the house and a quite annoyed looking construction crew. I could still get to the grave of the Meister and his dog Rus, buried at his feet. The grave has no name or inscription, but everyone who comes there, knows who exactly lies there.

There is also a nice little park with some beautiful old trees that begins right behind the house. As my man and I wandered in it, there was a timeless feel about it, as if time flowed differently there, and as if, coming out on the other end you could get into the enchanted forest around the Grail castle, or to the shore of the Rhine where Valhalla stands, or to the deep primeval woods where Siegfried once heard the woodbird calling him.

Generally, the entire town is permeated with the spirit of Wagner worship, especially obvious in the year of his 200th birthday. Here are some photos of mine:

Plant Plant community Road surface Natural landscape Grass
Plant Building Window Sky Tree
Plant Shoe Flowerpot Dog Art


Sky Plant Shade Infrastructure Street light
Water Plant Tree Natural landscape Branch


The one before last is the Festspielhaus as viewed from the railway station. You can hardly miss it.
 

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This is delightful. An armchair tour, thanks to those who've been there.

At my age and with my income, I don't expect ever to visit Bayreuth. But I don't feel bad about this, given what Wagner's descendants have been doing to his operas. Of all theaters on earth, this should be the one where the composer's own conceptions of what his works mean are treated with the greatest respect, with the attempt to realize those conceptions in imaginative and powerful ways utilizing the latest theatrical technology.

We'll see that, when direction of the festival is assumed by people with more reverence for Wagner's genius than his own family has.
 

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Love it. Thanks guys :tiphat: :)
 

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We'll see that, when direction of the festival is assumed by people with more reverence for Wagner's genius than his own family has.
I wonder if the tradition of the Wagner family managing the Festspielhaus will even continue. I mean, Katharina is unmarried and childless, and that is not likely to change (another one of these "career women"). When she dies, will there be anyone else from the Wagner family to continue, or will the Wagner bloodline completely die out?
 

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I wonder if the tradition of the Wagner family managing the Festspielhaus will even continue. I mean, Katharina is unmarried and childless, and that is not likely to change (another one of these "career women"). When she dies, will there be anyone else from the Wagner family to continue, or will the Wagner bloodline completely die out?
It might be a good thing if it did. Another great grandson of Wagner, Gottfried, has virtually disowned his ancestry and made it his life's mission to go around the world denouncing his family and making certain that the names Wagner and Hitler remain inseparable. It's obviously some form of self-flagellation, a penance for the dreadful burden of guilt he's bearing by accident of birth and must continually try to exorcise. He needs to prove that he's not one of "them" - those Wagners.

Obviously it's still tough to be a Wagner and it would probably be for the best if no one had to do it any more. Maybe only then would the ludicrous effort to "de-Wagnerize" the operas end. I'm not holding my breath, though.
 

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^ I think it is not entirely the fault of Gottfried or any other one of the Wagners. It is as much a fault of our screwed-up society with its even more screwed-up values, where the noble and the beautiful is put down, and degeneracy of all sorts is praised. If the world was right, the Wagners would have been treated like royalty and would have worn their name and origins with pride as they should. I actually start to get some respect for Winifred. She was tough and proud, no power in the world could break her.
 
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^ I think it is not entirely the fault of Gottfried or any other one of the Wagners. It is as much a fault of our screwed-up society with its even more screwed-up values, where the noble and the beautiful is put down, and degeneracy of all sorts is praised. If the world was right, the Wagners would have been treated like royalty and would have worn their name and origins with pride as they should. I actually start to get some respect for Winifred. She was tough and proud, no power in the world could break her.
I wouldn't quarrel with your thoughts about the world and it's values, but the case of Bayreuth and the Wagner family involves specific issues and the latest generation of Wagners isn't handling them well. Winifred doesn't matter any more, and history is history; Bayreuth was made into something it should not have been, but it has long since ceased to be that. Wieland's abstract productions of the '50s and '60s were, in addition to whatever artistic excellence they exhibited, a sufficient cleansing ritual, and now it's past time the theater was returned to its original function of actually presenting Wagner: not "old-fashioned" productions, but performances that allow the composer-dramatist to speak for himself - which he's quite capable of doing - rather than "reinterpretations" that say more about our hangups and fetishes than about the timeless, archetypal human situations that he expresses with penetration and power. That was, after all, his goal, and we should be allowed to decide for ourselves how well he succeeded at it.
 

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^ I think it is not entirely the fault of Gottfried or any other one of the Wagners. It is as much a fault of our screwed-up society with its even more screwed-up values, where the noble and the beautiful is put down, and degeneracy of all sorts is praised. If the world was right, the Wagners would have been treated like royalty and would have worn their name and origins with pride as they should. I actually start to get some respect for Winifred. She was tough and proud, no power in the world could break her.
I think most people can agree with that premise, but then what one person considers 'degeneracy,' 'nobility,' and 'beauty' in art, politics, and music may not coincide with another person's ethical and aesthetic evaluations- especially when it comes to the staging of Wagner's great masterpieces.

I think as a clarification, one should state what type of productions and directors one is for- like in Woodduck's post above.
 
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