A look behind the scenes
It is the world’s largest lake stage – and it welcomes interested visitors to take a look behind the scenes at all the goings-on. Reserve a guided tour: www.bregenzerfestspiele.com
The success story came about as a temporary solution over 70 years ago. In 1946, the city of Bregenz didn’t have a stage big enough to host Mozart’s early work “Bastien et Bastienne”, and so two gravel barges close to the gondola harbour were turned into the first opera stage on the lake. Even then, the audience was delighted by the charm of this location.
Visitors from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France turned the festival into an international event already in its very first year. Four years later, Bregenz Festival was given its first permanent lake stage on wooden posts. On rainy nights, around 1,000 visitors and the artists relocated to a nearby gymnasium where the play was performed. The lake stage was ultimately renewed and enlarged in 1979, and the Festival Theatre opened in 1980. This meant that visitors and actors were able to relocate straight to the theatre as soon as bad weather struck.
The Viennese Symphonists travelled to Bregenz in its capacity as the festival orchestra for the very first production – they are still a permanent fixture of the Bregenz Festival these days. Without a doubt, its contribution towards the development of the festival has significantly influenced its success.
In 1998 the Festival, with its lake stage, the big hall in the Festival Theatre and the new Werkstattbühne set the scene for an extensive enhancement of the programme – a total of 12,000 seats are now available. In the form of the cross culture programme, the Festival reaches around 10,000 young people every year.
It is not only the festival itself and the city of Bregenz which benefit from the growing success of the festival – right from the start, the visitors have been discovering the region of Vorarlberg as a holiday destination and occasionally combine their visit to the opera with a longer stay or come back at a later date as part of a business event to one of the county’s meeting establishments. Many regulars have been coming back for years – or even decades – and love the romantic trip by the historic “Hohentwiel”, the only wheel paddle steamer on Lake Constance, for instance.
The Magic Flute was on the agenda for the second time in 2013, after its breakthrough in 1985 when it was met with enthusiastic reviews by the press, which shouted for more. Ever since, the productions have been held for two years in a row and the stage structures have become more stable, more lavish. With around 523,000 visitors, more people than ever attended Bregenz Festival during the 2013-2014 season. A television broadcast of Turandot in 2015 attained a record quota of over one million viewers.
The new artistic director Elisabeth Sobotka has been in charge of the programme since 2015. The 355-ton scenery for Turandot is currently being taken down. The degree of the capacity utilisation of the first production under her management was phenomenal, and the native of Vienna is set to leave her mark on production in the years to come. The promotion of new talent and art is currently in the preparation stages – in an opera workshop, interested spectators will be able to experience up close the entire creative process.