advertisement

The operas of Wagner are dispensed like a musical Eucharist to Wagnerian pilgrims at the Festspielhaus, the opera house he built with the backing of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Tickets to the Richard Wagner opera festival held in this huge hall, one of the largest opera houses in Europe, are almost impossible to obtain; there’s an 8-year waiting list. You may, however, visit the theater on guided tours (in German) and see the huge stage capable of swallowing up Valhalla and all sorts of other innovations meant to make good Wagner’s promise to fans, upon laying the cornerstone in 1872, that “they’d see the “unveiling and clear presentation of onstage images that will seem to rise up before you from an ideal world of dreams and reveal to you the whole reality of a noble art’s most meaningful illusion.” Productions have been a family affair almost ever since the epic 15-hour “Ring” cycle was first presented here in 1876: When the composer died in Venice, his wife, Cosima, took over, and his grandsons, Wolfgang and Wieland, have produced the operas in the post-World War II years.