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Culture

Exclusive Bayreuth Could Take Populist Turn

Bayreuth Festival organizers are considering jumping on the bandwagon of a recent high-culture trend, and screening one of its operas in a public square with no admission required.

An undated picture shows a scene with Gerhard Siegel in the role of dwarf Mime, during a rehearsal for the opera Siegfried by Richard Wagner for the Richard Wagner Festival 2007 in Bayreuth

For true Wagner fans, Bayreuth is a pilgrimage

What's the difference between the Bayreuth Festival and the soccer World Cup? Aside from the elaborate costumes and sopranos named Brunhilde, less and less, it seems.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

The original Bayreuth venue was overseen by the composer himself

Like 2006 World Cup organizers, who showed the soccer matches in public squares for free to thousands of fans who could not get tickets to the sold-out events, Bayreuth Festival planners are considering broadcasting of some of Richard Wagner's operas.

Following a trend

In fact, the idea is not new in opera circles: Vienna, Sydney and Liverpool are just a handful of cities that regularly broadcast opera-house productions on large screens in town squares, free of charge, in order to allow more people to experience the performance.

Free-broadcasting performances from the uber-exclusive festival of Wagner operas, held annually in Bayreuth, could bring opera-populism to a new level. The average time spent waiting for coveted Bayreuth Festival tickets is eight years.

Festival spokesman Peter Emmerich told news agencies on Wednesday, Feb. 27, that organizers were mulling trying out the arrangement for one opera this season, with the aim of fulfilling Romantic composer Richard Wagners's hopes of making Bayreuth a "festival for all."

Likely venue: a town square

German soccer fans celebrate during the World Cup quarterfinal match between Germany and Argentina at the 'Fan Mile' a public viewing zone in Berlin on Friday, June 30, 2006.

Are "Parsifal" fans more likely to be subdued?

Emmerich said a likely venue might be a town square with space for about 1,000 people, who would not need tickets. He also said it remains unclear which opera might be chosen, although he ruled out the "Ring" cycle on the grounds that it just too long. Possibilities include "Parsifal" and "The Master Singers of Nuremberg."

The annual Bayreuth Festival draws a roster of rich and famous attendees, and is a pilgrimage destination for Wagner enthusiasts. Up to now, performances have been held only in the famed Festspielhaus theater, whose design and construction was overseen by the composer himself.

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