A Trip through Culture Spots in Germany - 4
Bayreuth for Wagner

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Frankische Schweiz






Having got back in to Weimar last night, it was easy to get out again today. While the B85 is closed, the first of three road problems today, the yellow road from the Nohra junction is open down a pretty, steep hilly bit to Bad Berka. Then, it was straighforward to Rudolstadt, which is a bit of a dump with continuous industry in this hilly country to Saalfeld. From here south, the road is very pretty, in deep gorges & we turned off the B85 onto the B90 at Hockeroda, heading to Wurzbach. Problem two sent us up the hillside to Weitisberga & through Heberndorf to Wurzbach & off on the little roads through Rodacherbrunn to the now invisible Iron Curtain at Nordhalben, where we picked up the Frankenwaldstrasse down to Kronach. Here was problem 3, as the road to Bayreuth through Kulmbach was closed (what are they doing?) & I had to divert from Kups to, hopefully, Mainroth but the last bit of that was closed, so I went through Burgkunstadt & back through Mainroth (the red River Main is here, on its way to the Rhine at Mainz) & no problems to Bayreuth through attractive, rolling country. We soon found the old-looking Hotel Goldener Hirsch, which had clearly been gutted & modernised inside. We had good salads for lunch (vegetables being a bit thin on the plate in the DDR) & went into the well-kept Old Town & mostly pedestrianised, although buses are let slowly through, which seems a good system. The Richard Wagner Strasse is the shopping area but the new shops are sensitively integrated into the old 18th C buildings. We went through this to Wahnfried (Wagner's house), which is now among mature trees. The main room is Wagner's library, which had his music playing & a few tiresome people insisting on silence, when I wanted to comment on the relevance of particular books to his works for Avis' benefit. The rest of the sensibly proportioned house is full of festival memorabilia. We had a look at the grave in the garden & went on to the Liszt Museum, where we practically woke up the dear old lady who was guarding it. There were no other punters, much to my disgust. She put on a CD which we have & after, said she would have changed it if I had told her. There was much more on show than in the Weimar house but it was sad to be in the room he died in when you know how miserable the circumstances were. We went back to the old Margravine Opera House (which had originally attracted Wagner because of its big stage) but were too early for the show, so I went back to Wahnfried, buying a pot of cyclamen on the way & put it on the grave with my card & a message of respect. The old opera house in enchanting, Lots of carved wood that looks like stone. The huge stage is let down by the small pit. There was a light show about its building & the influence of Voltaire on the Princess. The Prince wanted, and got, the biggest stage in Germany. I discussed this with a girl in a nearby bookshop where I was buying cards, photography being impractical & she said it was not much used, as loud music damages the structure (!?). So, they have two rarely used opera houses in this town but the main business is the breweries. We walked on round the Old Town, then urgently returned for the car (the car-park is a pig to get into & out of) to go to the Festspielhaus to photo it in the westerly sun. Back at the hotel, a snooze & an Italian dinner (canneloni & lasagne) in the hotel's pub restaurant. I asked for Bayreuter beer but the beer was better in Weimar.

Saturday 9th September 2000

There was decent breakfast buffet. DM150 again. We went back up to the Festspielhaus & hung around in the beautiful gardens until the theatre tour time, 10:00. We were ushered into the auditorium between the pillars at the sides. This is because it has no gangways &, although it seats 2000, seems smaller than I expected. The seats are very basic. One old Gerry said they were like Panzer seats. I imagine you bring your own cushion. There was a talk (in German only) about Wagner's life & the theatre, then we filed into the orchestra pit, which was a real revelation to me. I did not realise that it went down in terraces under the stage & if the acoustics were not perfect, this would not work. (I was thinking of the solo cello near the beginning of Valkyrie). It is largely wood (again painted like stone) that is responsible for the acoustic. Despite evidence of two air-conditioning units, they play in tee-shirts & shorts. It is claustrophobic as well as hot. Then, onto the stage, which is vast but the audience look close, so the singers can have a good relationship with them. The stage machinery seemed very out-of-date to someone who has recently been round Sadlers Wells & Covent Garden. They have up to 600,000 watts of lighting. I thought that many of the Huns in the theatre tour were not Wagnerites - this was just part of their coach tour but some were in a mediocre choral society & had the thrill of singing an item on the stage.

Maximilianstrasse with slow buses

The old Margrave's Opera House during the making of a film (from a postcard)


Ken, the author, outside Wagner's house 'Wahnfried'

Wagner's grave with floral tributes

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Contact: Ken Baldry at 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him URL: http://www.art-science.com/Tourism/Germany/G000904.html Last revised 5/3/2003 © 2000 - 2003 Ken Baldry. All rights reserved.