After being on the waiting list for about nine years, which of course felt more like nine centuries (there's an Italian bel canto line if I've ever heard one), I have been selected to buy tickets for the Bayreuth Festival this summer. I'll be at Bayreuth from August 6 -12, and will be attending performances of Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Parsifal.
A mixture of emotions is going through my head. The realization that I am going to the shrine, to the holy musical place revered by some, hated by others: a place that often elicits emotions as grand as the very works that are presented there. I'm going to the Mecca of Wagnerism, in a town in northern Bavaria that has been coming alive for a month, year after year, since 1876 with the music of just one man. Certainly the most cultured town in Upper Franconia, certainly the most cultured company town along the Roter Main.
I'm looking forward to this first visit, and what intrigues me the most is experiencing that Bayreuth sound and that Bayreuth acoustic everyone talks and writes about.
A few years after Richard Wagner's death Mark Twain visited Bayreuth. This is how he described his first time: the moment when the music first starts inside the famous auditorium:
"Finally, out of darkness and distance and mystery soft rich notes rose upon the stillness, and from his grave the dead magician began to weave his spells about his disciples and steep their souls in his enchantments. There was something strangely impressive in the fancy which kept intruding itself that the composer was conscious in his grave of what was going on here, and that these divine souls were the clothing of thoughts which were at this moment passing through his brain, and not recognized and familiar ones which had issued from it at some former time."
I can't wait!