The culture experience at Lake Constance
Each summer, in the middle of an enchanting landscape in the westernmost Austrian federal state of Vorarlberg, the Bregenz Festival presents high-calibre opera al fresco with the theatre on the lake. In addition, the festival attracts approximately 200,000 visitors to the border triangle between the Alps and Lake Constance with unforgettable debut opera performances and concertante treasures in the Festival House, unheard material as part of “Kunst aus der Zeit” at the studio theatre, as well as touching gems of operatic literature at the Theater am Kornmarkt in the months of July and August, with more than 80 performances in total.
What would Bregenz be without its festival?
Basically, the question is not asked. The history of the city since 1946 is so closely connected with the summer cultural highlights that since then only both together have made possible the development of the last few decades. Nevertheless, let the thought experiment be ventured: Bregenz would surely be an extremely livable state capital between the wonderful Lake Constance, the picturesque old town and the Pfänder. However, the international charisma of the conference city would be considerably reduced. And the huge range of cultural opportunities – not just on the new art boulevard around Bregenz Art House – would hardly have come into existence in this form.
The festival is simply an integral part of Bregenz. This view is shared by the many guests, who come specially for the opera performances and are then able to discover a great deal more, and the locals. Many also walk over the lake stage outside the summer months to admire the stage designs currently in construction, which are made suitable for the winter and, above all, then stand there in all their splendour. Stage designs? One should actually say visual, architectural and technical total works of art. Not only must they work smoothly during the performance, but of course also in interplay with the brilliantly sophisticated acoustics.
Summer landmarks: the spectacular stage designs of the theatre on the lake
Mostly they are also adapted to the landscape environment and here, of course, above all to the lake, and characterise the impression of the bank far beyond one’s imagination. It is no wonder, then, that a few of them have already become temporary secondary Bregenz landmarks. The stage structures for Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with the high tower (1989/90) or for Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca with the giant eye (2007/08), among others, sometimes became serious competition for the official landmark of the city: the early baroque St. Martin’s Tower in the Upper Town, which possesses the largest onion dome in Central Europe.
With the Bregenz Festival, superlatives are found at every turn. This begins with the globally unique size of the lake stage with its approximately 7,000 seats and certainly does not stop with the ever arising, possibly record-breaking figures related to the stage technology. This summer, 185,000 tickets await visitors, 162,000 of these for the theatre on the lake alone. The list could go on. However, in Bregenz, it is about far more than just a spectacular open-air experience, although, of course, the latter also follows the highest artistic standards.