Saturday, August 17, 2013

Das Festspielhaus

The real reason to hear a performance in the Festspielhaus is the unique acoustic which bounces the orchestra's sound onto the stage & then into the auditorium. The sound seems to emerge from middair on the stage, & it has a palpable, 3-dimensional presence. This is particularly effective for The Ring, & there are startling moments when the motives ring out from over the singers' heads. The orchestral texture is transparent, vivid & clear.

The proscenium has a strange shape, squarish & tall.

The discomfort in the hall is extreme. The audience is packed as closely as possible. The seats are usually directly in front of one another instead of being staggered.

These 2 wooden slats are all you get for a seat, which is why Bayreuth veterans, like the Opera Tattler here, arrive with their own seat cushions. There's no climate control, so it can be swelteringly hot inside. So far this summer we've been lucky. It's been generally cool, & I'm truly grateful.

Performances start at 4p for 3 act operas. Intermissions last about an hour, so most performances finish before 10p. One-act operas begin at 6p. The theater has no lobby, so the audience promenades outside the building & in surrounding parks during the breaks.

For the full experience you eat at the ridiculously fancy restaurant next to the theater, where you order in advance for each intermission & receive your food timed to the performance.

Many attendees spend the intermissions reading the libretto. The Opera Tattler has a very cool one in the form of an old book from around 1912. Relevant motives are listed in the margins of the text, keyed to musical examples on tipped-in pages that fold out so you can look at the music without having to flip pages.

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