Sometimes opera, and performance in general, occasions far more than what we see, hear and feel – an ineffable quality that provides sustenance to the soul and connection to our fellow people. Germany’s annual Bayreuth Festival, where Wagner’s monument to his work has captured followers since 1876, brings that experience home overwhelmingly so. And first-timer or not – be it for forking out hundreds of euros for the privilege and exclusivity – the collective spirit of voluntarily giving oneself completely to Wagner and his theatre of “total artwork”, the “Gesamtkunstwerk”, is palpable.
Opening on July 25, on the gently rising green hill where the Festspielhaus stands, and running until August 29, the 2018 Bayreuth Festival is host to six of Wagner’s sprawling works in 32 performances – Der fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküreand Parsifal. Of them , only Lohengrin arrived in a new production.
The themes are meaty and so too are the now accustomed radical concepts a director can be vociferously booed for. For the fans, passions climb high inside Wagner’s purpose-built theatre where he accomplished many of his goals for presenting his works – including an acoustic of incomparable bloom – and so too does the temperature.