"Opera in Bregenz" Top 5 Page for this destination Bregenz by Nemorino

Bregenz Travel Guide: 163 reviews and 449 photos

Bregenz and Lake Constance from Pfänder Mt.

Lake Constance, which in German is called the Bodensee, has an area of 571 square kilometers, which makes it the third largest lake in Europe, after Lake Balaton in Hungary and Lake Geneva between Switzerland and France.

The shoreline of Lake Constance is 273 kilometers long (only 250 by bicycle, because the cycling route takes some shortcuts). About 62% of the shoreline belongs to Germany, 27% to Switzerland and 11% at the upper (eastern) end of the lake to Austria. The above photo shows the Austrian part, with the city of Bregenz visible at the foot of Pfänder Mountain.

On the lakeshore at Bregenz is the open-air opera venue where the Bregenz Festival is held every summer. On the grandstand there are 6800 seats for us spectators, surrounded by over 600 loudspeakers that are part of a sophisticated sound system called "BOA - Bregenz Open Acoustics".

Out on the lake, separated from the first row of spectators by a narrow strip of water, is the opera stage, which for two years looked like a huge red oil refinery. This was the set for the opera Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), which was shown in a production by Robert Carsen, stage set by Paul Steinburg, in the summers of 2005 and 2006.

Aside from looking like an oil refinery, the Troubadour stage was also arranged to be reminiscent of a medieval castle, which is where the story originally took place.

Like a castle in the fifteenth century, an oil refinery in the twenty-first is the key to power, wealth, domination and destruction -- that's why they wanted the stage to look like both. The set designer, Paul Steinberg, was quoted as saying that Verdi's Troubadour is a story of power, riches and revenge. To transport this story into the twenty-first century they chose "the thing that best symbolizes ruthless striving for power" in our time, namely oil. He said that the refinery represents "a fortress of present-day industrial society, and its most valuable resource." My travelogue The Troubadour stage has some details of this.

Photography of any sort is always prohibited during any indoor opera performance, not only for copyright reasons as they sometimes say, but also because in the silence of an indoor opera house it would be highly disturbing to the rest of the audience, just as bad as people coughing or rustling with candy wrappers.

Here in Bregenz, though, in the huge open-air festival grounds on the lakeshore, they just say no flash photos and no videos. This is why I have been able to include some photos (non-flash and non-video!) of actual scenes of the opera, which I took on two different nights from completely different angles. See my Favorites a.k.a General Tips for these photos, and for the story of Verdi's Troubadour -- and for an unusual security precaution that I have never seen at any other opera venue. I have linked these tips together so you can easily view them in order.

Updates: In the summers of 2007 and 2008 the opera on the lakefront stage in Bregenz was Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (1828-1924), in a spectacular stage set by the Frankfurt set designer Johannes Leiacker. His set was dominated by a huge 12-meter-wide eye with a blue iris (blue like the Marchesa Attavanti's eyes, not black like Tosca's). The eye was painted on 1000 square meters of canvas and set into a back wall measuring 50 by 25 meters. The effect was so spectacular that the same set was used in the spring of 2008 for the filming of several scenes and stunts for a new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. The Bregenz sequences in this film run for about nine minutes, with Puccini's Tosca playing for almost half of that time.

In the summers of 2009 and 2010 they presented the opera Aida by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), in a new production by Graham Vick.

In the summers of 2011 and 2012 the lakefront opera was André Chénier by the Italian composer Umberto Giordano (1867–1948).

In 2013 and 2014 they showed Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Some of the performances in the summer of 2013 were conducted by Hartmut Keil of the Frankfurt Opera. Also, two members of the Frankfurt opera ensemble sang in some of the performances: Alfred Reiter as Sarastro and Daniel Schmutzhard as Papageno.

Details on the Bregenz Festival website.

First review: Safety precautions at the lakeside stage

  • Last visit to Bregenz: Aug 2005
  • Intro Updated Jul 1, 2015
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Reviews (37)

Comments (53)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Oct 15, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    We were here last year and thoroughly enjoyed the area. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Oct 15, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    Hi Don, wonderful page!

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Sep 22, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    Hi Don, Did not realise Lake Constance was so large, cycle tracks everywhere, how long to ride the 270km on your rent-a-bike?

  • Maryimelda's Profile Photo
    Jun 17, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    You tell the story of Il Trovatore so well Don. Another good page.

  • kris-t's Profile Photo
    Jan 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Great festival tips and Opera photo's.

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Jan 12, 2013 at 4:47 AM

    Hello Don,
    Continuing my visit to your opera comments I discovered with great pleasure a new oil refinery (you know I'm a fan of chemical complexes). A competitor for Beaubourg!

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Jun 19, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    What an unusual opera stage. Fantastic tips on the opera, what a sad opera though. You go more than a hundred times to the opera a year?

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Apr 18, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    That is a very different looking opera stage, an oil refinery - yes, a medieval castle - well, maybe. Sounds nice to arrive to the opera by boat, and then sip on a glass of wine while waiting for the departure after the opera. Just came back to read the rest of the tips. Good that there were divers in the water, just in case something should happen.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Mar 18, 2012 at 3:27 AM

    First I was a bit sceptical when I saw this strange stage set, but it came to life through your splendid descriptions of the opera itself and the "backstage" information in your travelogues. Fascinating! Thanks Don :-)

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Looks a great location for a summer festival, the lake provides excellent transportation to the festival, plus the advantage of wine bar whilst waiting for the next ferry. Don,I hope you never missed the last ferry!


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