Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Wagner himself masterminded the idea of the Bayreuth Festival, the first annual music festival, and the predecessor to modern music festivals such as Lollapalooza and Boneroo. The driving force behind the composer's vision for the Festival was the ability to perform his operas in a perfectly ideal situation, according to Wagner's own standards. To reach this end he chose the site at Bayreuth for its beauty, and for its location away from the distractions and hassles of large cities.
Wagner personally supervised the design and construction of his theater, the Festspielhaus, which indeed contained many innovations on theaters of the day. These innovations were conceived by Wagner and his designers to serve specific roles in Wagner's own works, most notably the Ring Cycle and Parsifal. Perhaps the most major feature of the Festspielhaus is the orchestra pit. It is recessed under the stage, and covered by a hood, such that the orchestra is rendered completely invisible to the audience. This feature, according to Wagner, let the audience concentrate on the drama onstage, rather than the motion of the conductor and musicians. Another unique feature of the Festspielhaus is the double proscenium, serving to give the audience the illusion that the stage is farther away than it actually is. The double proscenium and the recessed orchestra pit lead to the creation of, in Wagner's terms, a "mystic gulf" between the audience and the stage, giving a dreamlike character to a performance at Bayreuth.
The Bayreuth Festival when it opened in 1876 was a socio-cultural phenomenon. The festival was plagued by money problems in its early years, and owes its survival to most generous support from King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The Festival was closed during World War II and the town of Bayreuth sustained heavy bomb damage. Since the Festival reopened in 1951, tickets have sold out year after year. Currently, there is a 10 year waiting list for tickets to the Festival.
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