This feature is about two music events in Europe: Bayreuth and Glyndebourne.
Both festivals are family-run enterprises and take place every year.
On the ‘Green Hill’ in Bayreuth, the Bayreuth Festival has taken place since 1876.
On the programme are Richard Wagner’s final ten operas. Occasionally Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is also played.
The festival runs from late July to late August. Performances generally start at 4:00 pm and finish around 10:00 pm.
There are breaks of one hour each, when guests can sample the cuisine, or go for a walk in the beautiful gardens.
The premieres are attended by VIPs such as the President of Germany, the Bavarian Prime Minister and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.
Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813. His works had a great influence on European music.
He chose the city of Bayreuth for his vision: a festival theatre with a unique design and special acoustics.
Only his works were to be performed there.
The festival was financed through certificates of patronage. King Ludwig II of Bavaria offered a loan.
The first festival began on the 13th of August 1876 with the complete Ring des Nibelungen.
Wagner died in Venice in 1883. His widow Cosima directed the festival from 1886.
In the beginning there were financial problems, but things got better over the years.
In 1908 Cosima gave her son Siegfried Wagner the management of the festival. His wife was Winifred Wagner who was born in London.
Prominent guests at this time were Thomas Mann, Igor Stravinsky and William Somerset Maugham.
After the First World War, patronage certificates were sold again.
In 1930 Siegfried Wagner died at the age of 61 and Winifred took over the management of the festival.
She was a friend of Adolf Hitler and after 1933 the festival received state funding. Later it was misused by the Nazi regime for propaganda purposes.
After the war, Winifred handed the management over to her sons Wieland and Wolfgang, grandchildren of Richard Wagner.
The festival has taken place every year since 1950, apart from 2020.
Katharina Wagner, great-granddaughter of the composer, is director today.
With its grand atmosphere, the festival is a unique experience. Visitors say that the spirit of Richard Wagner can still be felt on the Green Hill – ‘auf dem Grünen Hügel’.
And now we go to Glyndebourne in the south of England. The opera house was built in 1933 in the grounds of Glyndebourne House, a 16th century country manor.
The festival was founded by John Christie, a wealthy landowner and music lover.
In 1931 he married the Canadian soprano Audrey Mildmay. Together they visited the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals.
They planned their own festival with a focus on the Mozart repertoire.
At this time the conductor Fritz Busch from Dresden and Carl Ebert, artistic director of the Städtische Oper Berlin, came to England.
Both were against the expulsion of Jewish musicians and therefore had to leave Germany. In addition, there was opera director Rudolf Bing from Austria, who came from a Jewish family.
Together with John Christie they founded the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1934.
The first festival opened on the 28th of May 1934 with Mozart’s The Wedding of Figaro and Così fan tutte. It was a great success. There were no festivals held in the war years.
After the death of John Christie in 1962, his son George took over as director, and from 2000 George’s son Gus.
Between 1992 and 1994 a new opera house with 1200 seats was built. The architect was Michael Hopkins.
It’s said that Glyndebourne is a very British-style musical experience. Opera fans traditionally use the long intermissions to have a picnic in the park, where there are beautiful views of the Sussex countryside.
It wasn’t until 2003 that for the first time, a Wagner opera was performed, namely Tristan and Isolde.
It was the original idea of founder John Christie to establish a British Bayreuth.
Whether in England or Germany, classical music belongs to Europe and the world.
Bayreuth and Glyndebourne are great examples of European cultural cooperation.