Every year, the world’s largest stage on a lake serves as a venue for extraordinary opera productions. Every July and August, the city of Bregenz invites opera lovers to visit its annual Bregenzer Festival at Lake Constance – a special high-light for both, the visitors and the region.
This year’s “Opera on the Lake” will be Giuseppe Verdi’s eerily beautiful masterpiece “Rigoletto”: The set design shows a clown’s head that is 14 metres high and refers to the opera’s main character, Rigoletto (a jester). Two hands, their size adapted to that of the head, are also part of the stage. This set does not merely serve as a backdrop, but even comes alive and thus one of the opera’s main actors. “I am fascinated by the role that the head and the two hands play throughout the performance. As usual, the design is really impressive. Still, its elements and the way in which they’re used surprise me every time. And this time it’s particularly impressive.” These were my thoughts after I had visited a rehearsal at the beginning of July before the Festival had officially started.
The production highlights how Verdi contrasts extravaganza and chamber drama. A circus-like hustle and bustle, a reckless abduction, a nightly storm and intimate scenes between a father and his daughter – an entertaining series of events that is set in a breath-taking arena framed by mountains and the lake.
Unique atmosphere – In 2008, the makers of the James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace” used the lake stage as a set. Her majesty’s secret agent 007 chases his adversary, while a performance is going on on the stage, balancing over the 25-metre-high eye that was part of the set design for the opera “Tosca”. In the same year, the lake stage was also used as a setting for broadcasts of German TV station ZDF on the occasion of the European Football Championship.
Every year, the Opera on the Lake is an extraordinary spectacle. The atmosphere on the open-air stage which was built next to the lakeside dramatically changes in the course of performances, albeit this change may be only very subtle at the beginning. While there is still natural sunlight when the performance starts, the sun will quietly vanish behind the scenes, night will fall and become increasingly dominant. The lake becomes part of the spectacle in every production. There’s no opera in which there’s not at least one actor who takes a swim to amuse the audience.
A colourful programme – Bregenz Festival offers a lot more than only the “Opera on the Lake“. Every year, the Festival’s programme includes orchestra concerts, other operas, operettas, puppet theatre performances, musical theatre performances, exhibitions, etc. This rich programme is complemented by various guided tours that allow you to take a look behind the scenes. There’s also a special programme for kids and teenagers. The programme changes every two years. There’s always something new for you to discover.
Tickets – Tickets for the performances can be obtained at Bregenzer Festspiele and, in some cases, should be purchased quite a long time in advance, depending on the performance you want to see: https://bregenzerfestspiele.com/en/spielplan
Bregenz – Situated on the banks of Lake Constance, the city of Bregenz offers you the opportunity of taking a nice walk by the lake while enjoying some ice cream or taking a boat trip to the neighbouring countries Switzerland and Germany. The former Roman town also has a beautiful old city-centre with St. Martin’s Tower. Or you may want to go to the Pfänder mountain directly adjacent to the city to enjoy a breath-taking view. Can you find Europe’s slimmest house?
Why Dornbirn? Thanks to its central location in Vorarlberg, Dornbirn is the ideal starting point if you want to go exploring the region. The area really has a lot to offer. Staying for another 2 to 3 days after your festival visit will definitely be worth it, as it will allow you to explore and enjoy this special region.
Due to its architecture and the art that is on display there, the Vienna House Martinspark Dornbirn is the ideal hotel to get you in the right mood for your art programme. Every year, it offers a special Festival menu with several courses and a comfortable transfer to Bregenz to enable the guests to fully enjoy this extraordinary experience.
STAY | Vienna House Martinspark Dornbirn
My 5 tips to avoid major inconveniences:
Tickets: I would recommend getting your tickets some time in advance, because then you will have a better choice of seats and price categories. Tickets for performances during the week are cheaper and you may also be able to save a little on accommodation costs.
Mosquitos: As the stage is located directly on the lake, there’s quite a number of insects eagerly waiting for the approximately 7,000 guests. It absolutely makes sense to protect yourself from this nuisance by wearing long clothes, applying repellent or using any other suitable means.
Rainproof: As it is not only the actors who play in the open air, but the audience is also unprotected from any precipitation, I would recommend you to bring some protection against the rain. Raincoats or ponchos will be most useful, as it is not permitted to take umbrellas with you to the stands. As long as possible, performances will also take place when it rains.
Temperatures: Even if the temperature may rise to 30 °C (86 °F) in the afternoon, the nights by the lake get quite cool. As you will remain sitting there for quite a long time, your body temperature will also decrease. A (thin) windproof piece of clothing will optimally protect you from getting cold.
Sit mat: There are no cushions on the seats in the stands at the lake and the “Opera on the Lake” is performed without any breaks. That’s quite a challenge for your seat bones. I would recommend you to bring your own sit mat or buy one in the shop at the entrance to the lake stage before the performance starts.