04 Jul 2012

Honors for Bayreuth’s “other” house

Bayreuth’s opera house has been awarded the honor of UNESCO World Heritage status. If you think that means Wagner’s festival house in the same city, with its excellent acoustics and uncomfortable seats, you will be mistaken.

Only a few of Wagner’s acolytes who flock to Bayreuth every summer take the time to see the Italian Baroque architectural wonder that is the Margrave Opera House. With the awarding of the UNESCO honor, one of only 37 in Germany, it recognizes one of the most elegantly breathtaking theaters in Europe.

Wilhelmine, a daughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm I, was married off to an unimportant aristocrat living in the dreary provincial town. A town today of still around 70,000 inhabitants, the theater was her idea and construction started in 1748. It was recognized, even during her lifetime, as a masterpiece.

“Bayreuth will now be known the world over, not just for Richard Wagner and his Festival, but also for its opera house,” Bayreuth’s Mayor Brigitte Merk-Erbe said. The awarding of the UNESCO World Heritage status inevitably results in increased tourism. Maybe some of the thousands who fill the town every summer for the Bayreuth Wagner Festival will now plan an afternoon to see the Margrave Opera House.

Frank Cadenhead