"Fifty Years of Bayreuth
BY SIEGFRIED WAGNER. |
the son of the great composer, Richard Wagner, and himself a componer and conductor of distinction. He has been the guiding spirit in promoting the Bayreuth Wagner Festival Plays since his father's death.
IN August 1876, on the lovely hill near Bayreuth, there opened for the first time the doors of the festival playhouse which my father, overcoming all difficulties,had created aft the place for the production of his gigantic four-part stage work. "The Ring of the Nibelungen.” King Ludwig II of Bavaria, in enthusiastic devotion, had helped to make the deed possible, and the Bayreuth City Administration had, in far-seeing understanding, taken up the idea. Thus began the Bayreuth Festival Plays which have now been in existence for half a century and have become a source not only of exultant enjoyment, but also of the highest and noblest spiritual advancement and enrichment to countless people.
After the “ring” had been produced three times in 1876, it was not until 1882. on account of renewed obstacles, that the Festival Plays could be resumed with the production of the votive festival play “Parsifal,” which was repeated in 1883 and 1884.
The festival period of 1883 my father did not live to see. But his life’s work was built up and continued in his sense. In 1886 another work appeared for the first time in the Festival Playhouse, “Tristan and Isolde,” and gradually the others followed: 1888 and 1889. "The Meistersingers of Nuremberg;” 1891 and 1892, “Tannhauser;” 1894, “Lohengrin.” In 1896, after 20 years, the “Ring” was resumed and has since then remained on the program continually, together with “Parsifal” and one of the other works. To these “The Flying Dutchman” was added in 1901 and 1902, this work being produced, in accordance with the original intention of its creator, in one act without interruption. When, in the Summer of 1914. "The Flying Dutchman” was again on the program, the Festival Plays had to be broken off after eight performances on account of the World War. For fully ten years the Festival Playhouse remained closed until, in 1924, under faithful co-operation on the part of the old and of new friends, the Festival Plays were recalled to life with splendid artistic as well as outward success. Again the “Ring,” "Meistersingers” and “Parsifal” were given, and repeated in 1925.
The public was surprised to see the jubilee year, 1926, when 50 years of existence were completed, pass with out any Festival Plays. However, that year had to remain free for the unavoidably necessary preparations and studies for the next festival play Summer. In Bayreuth, thorough, serious work comes before the celebration of anniversaries, for the very purpose of being able to accomplish real “Festival” plays in the highest possible perfection. All achievements of advanced stage technique are utilized there; still, what is known to be my father’s will and directions for the performance of his works is adhered to.
So now this Summer (July 19 to August 20) invites once more to the pilgrimage to the Festival Plays. Besides the “Ring” and “Parsifal,’’ “Tristan and Isolde” will be given again after an interval of 21 years. Not in the hustling, noisy unrest and diversion of the great city Richard Wagner wanted his Festival Plays performed, but divorced from it, free of the ordinary theater rush, in quiet concentration, so that the hearers might devote themselves entirely to the art work, might absorb it and live it and, in the intervals and on the days without performances, might find relaxation and joyous rest in nature’s beauty. Bayreuth, the former margrave residence, the character of which the inner city still retains in many respects, offers a cozy home like sojourn, with many memorable historic places and wonderful scenic attractions in its environs. In the city, an important new creation is of great interest: “Richard Wagner Biography Hall,” in the side wing of the new castle. This museum, founded by Helena Wallem, shows in a vivid, fascinating manner, by means of writings, pictures end reminiscences, the life of the master in its chronological development. Adjacent to it is the “Glasenapp Memorial Room,” the work studio of the late famous Wagner biographer, Carl Friedrich Glasenapp, with its large library and other valuable equipment."
in The Sunday Star, Washington DC, June 5, 1927, part 3, page 4.