Saturday, 8 September 2007

Bayreuth 2007: How to get a ticket..

Of course, this is what it´s really about: The tickets to The Bayreuth Festival....And how to get them..

Below are my conclusions on this subject after a week of intensive field studies:

The baseline info:

Tickets look exactly like the one pictured above. The Ring consists of one ticket only, which is valid for all 4 performances. On every ticket is a printed name and identification number. You are not allowed to use a ticket,which does not carry your name on it, and (in theory) you should carry identification with you (see below). If you do have a ticket, which does not bear you name (there may be a perfectly legitimate reason for that – such as going with a person who has another surname than yours) – you will need to go to the Ticket Office (Kartenbüro) and have the ticket re-named (which they do on the spot). The above precautions are an attempt from the Ticket Office to minimize the black ticket market.

The following is printed on the back of each ticket (in both german, english and french):

In order to prevent the sale of Festival tickets an the black market er through
secondary trading we reserve the right to make admission to the performances
dependent not only an possession of a valid entrance ticket but also an
presentation of a valid means of identification with photograph. We wish to
point out that tickets which are acquired through unauthorized advance booking
agencies or intermediaries etc. or at exhorbitant prices cease to be valid. For
verification purposes the entrance ticket may be withdrawn upon entry to the
Festival theatre. During the time required for verification a duplicate ticket
will be issued. Defaced tickets are invalid. For copyright reasons, photography,
filming arid the use of video arid tape recorders are strictly prohibitet in all
parts of the theatre. Cameras arid all forms of recording equipment, together
with watches with digital alarms arid mobile telephones, may not be taken into
the auditorium.

How to get a ticket through the well-established channels:

1) Write to the Ticket Office every year. The approximate waiting time to get a ticket is 7-12 years depending which production you want to see etc. I spoke to a few people who got tickets that way, and they´d been waiting somewhere between 7-10 years. What tickets you actually do get after this time is highly individual: I spoke to a french lady, who´d initially "only" gotten tickets to the Ring after 10 years waiting, but after calling the Box Office and literally crying they sent her tickets for Tannhäuser and Parsifal as well. Others got tickets for all performances, and some only for Parsifal and Tannhäuser. Rumours has it that over-sea customers take precedence and that applicants putting down "all performances" on their application form may have priority. The Box Office was not clear on this when I asked them.

2) Alternatively join a Wagner Society. I spoke to people from the US, who´d waited only 2 years to get a ticket. I suppose if you founded a Wagner Society in Mali or Burkina Faso, you´d get allotted some tickets very soon as well.

3) Are you wealthy – join the Friends of Bayreuth – and support the Festival. Friends are allocated a varying numbers of tickets, which probably depend on their contribution to the Festival. I talked to several people who went every year. (and it´s from such people I knew in Hannover, that I got my tickets for Parsifal). Friends of Bayreuth may give their allocated tickets to whom they wish ( this is how I got my ticket for Parsifal – fully legitimate). These tickets have the name of the company written on them and not the individual ticket-holder.

4) Get a paper to send you as their correspondent. Maybe not such a bad idea. I didn´t try it, but could work out.

Do you not feel any of the above methods are relevant for you? - then all hope is not lost:

Getting tickets via secondary sources (eg. black/grey market tickets):

Pleased note, that tickets purchased this way are considered void and the Festival will deny you entry if you have one. And please note, that I do not recommend this as a way to get ticket, but I merely provide information on the upside and downside of this method to prevent people putting a lot of money down for performances they may not be able to attend:
Internet auctions - particularly german ebay, is the most common venue for selling those tickets. I have been following these auctions all year and quite a few tickets have been offered here. Complete Ring gallery seats for 1500 Euros, Parsifal for 500 Euros etc. However, I know from reliable sources that the Box Office monitors these auctions and if they succeed to identify tickets for sale at german e-bay they will write to the ticket owners, and tell them the tickets are considered void. This is, in fact, not an empty threat. I know positively that they do this from an acquaintance who´d bought 2 tickets for Parsifal this way and immediately after the auction was told by the seller that the Box Office had contacted her and reclaimed the tickets (how do they find out? – if pictures of the tickets are shown, if the location in the theatre is mentioned together with the place of location etc.). Tickets are also sold via minor german opera websites.
There were no generel ID checks at the entrances to the Festival Hall the week I was there. I would assume half the audience were carrying tickets without their own names on. I actually asked about this in the Box Ofiice, and they told me that if you carry the same name (ie. last name) as your companion, you´ll have no problems - otherwise you should go to the Box Office and have your ticket altered. However, sporadic checks do occur.

I witnessed something curious during the Ring: Right before Walkure, one of the blue girls at the entrance carried a note pad with 4 numbered seats written down on it – when these 4 ticket holders then arrived they were being asked their names and if they were the owners of the tickets. A friend of mine sat next to one young man singled out this way, and I was convinced his name did not correspond to that on the ticket (even though he told the ladies that it did). He told my friend he was there for the entire Ring, but...after the ticket check in Walkure we never saw him again. He was replaced by an elderly lady for Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, and the ticket had been altered, with a Box Office stamp and what I assumed was her name on it. So, I gather, if the Box Office suspects some seats to have been sold illegally they will check the seat numbers for identification. And throw out the buyer if a satisfactory explanation is not forthcoming....And the sellers are banned for life as well..

On the other hand I have personal knowledge of 2 people who´d gotten in with tickets, which had appeared on the internet with a complete photograph incl. ticket number, and they were not checked at all.

Once in Bayreuth, you may ask around at all the hotels and "tourist" venues, and that may bring you a ticket as well. But these tickets will still be considered void and official policy has it you will be banned from life if found out.

Buying on the spot - Queuing at the Box Office:

Contrary to my thoughts before arrival, this may not be such a bad option..
The Box Office is located on the left side of the Festival House when you approach from the hill.
Below some observation on queue lenghts for performances I attended:
Meistersinger 19th august: 2 hours before the performance, 6 people were queing and they all got tickets.

The Ring (Ring III): 4 hours before start of the Rhinegold only 2 people were queing. I know at least 6 people who got tickets in this queue– and that is for the entire Ring. Also a young eastern-european musician carrying a sign reading "young latvian musician looking for tickets" was offered several tickets from the Box Office, which she turned down (too expensive) before buying from a young man passing by.

Parsifal: 12 people queueing 1 hour before. I am unsure how many got a ticket. This was the most extensive queuing I observed. For the following Parsifal a couple of young guys had camped outside the ticket office with sleeping bags the night before (the roof is covered with a baldakin, so raining is no problem. Toilets are just around the corner).

Tannhäuser: I don´t know. I heard this was the most popular showing. I didn´t go.
And the queuing system: You may reserve a place in the queue by putting down a small taburet etc. - and just leave it there - so you don´t have to stand at the exact spot all the time (same system as in Vienna State Opera). This is strictly enforced by your fellow-queuers - no cheating!

I spoke to the very helpful ladies in the Box Office about the general numbers of tickets returned every day etc. - obviously I didn´t get an exact answer to this, but was told, that a particulary large number of tickets were returned this year. But, as the lady told me, in the morning (before the performance, red.) they had nothing - the tickets started to arrive 1-2 hours before performance start.
As to why so many return their tickets this year I got an idea from walking around the Hill:

My impression was, that the black-market (which I´ve been told has existed in previous years) immediately outside the Festspielhaus on the day of performance has been channelled into the waiting line. I saw several people just arriving trying to sell tickets elsewhere on the hill, and if they were spotted by some personnel, they were asked to come to the Box Office where tickets were distributed to the queue. It was my impression, that the relatively large numbers of return tickets were due to the reduction of secondary trading on the hill and not to a higher return of tickets, although of course I can´t be sure.

Of course, tickets are still being sold on the parking place behind the house, or just on the outskirts of the Hill - I noticed that too. But it wasn´t too obvious.


of the kosmos said...

The box office's ticket surveillance practices are downright frightening. I love Wagner's operas but I have no interest in attending a performance at Bayreuth. (Well I would like to just once, for the experience.) It is interesting, however, to read your reports! Thank you for sharing with us.

Leonora said...

Could you just remind us of the snail-mail address of the Box Office? (or is it buried somewhere on the WebPage?) I DID have it!! But when I moved it disappeared....
I have STILL never been to Bayreuth!

mostly opera... said...

It is infact buried on the web-page under "karten"-
Write to:

Kartenbüro der Bayreuther Festspiele
Postfach 10 02 62
D-95402 Bayreuth

clive in the UK said...

I am currently on year six of my applications so guess I should start to appply for what I really want. Does it make a difference if one applys for pairs of seats as opposed to single seats?

mostly opera... said...

I really don´t know about the single vs. pair of seats. The Box Office is quite elusive on these issues, as I gather from my own experience and from friends. They seem to give different answers to different people. If you ask the questions on the wagner discussion group (humanities.musi.composers.wagner) maybe they have some indications. But I doubt anyone can answer you question with certainty. But - if you don´t get tickets for next year, I would definitely try and call the Box Office and "complain" - I´ve talked to a few people who did just that - and got tickets that way.

Anonymous said...

If you're applying for the first time what should you write in the letter to the Box Office? Thanks for the very interesting article. John.

mostly opera... said...

John - You just write to the Box Office and ask them to send you the official application form. Unsurprisingly you seem to have the best chances by opting for all performances of all productions - however waiting times generally average 8-9 years.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your help. I sent my application off today. John

Emily Goodling said...

Dear Ms. Mostly Opera,
I am an American student of German, Classics, and Music, and am planning to study in Germany next summer. And I am most certainly headed to Bayreuth the last week of July! My question is: have you ever heard of a student, going as a critic and reporter for a college newspaper, procuring one of the tickets that the festival reserves for members of the press? It is undoubtedly a long shot, but I figure it is worth a try.

Very kindly,


mostly opera... said...

Dear Emily, It is my understanding that Bayreuth Festival press ticket allocation policies are extremely variable. I have heard of refusals for relatively big internet media, while some very very small printed media in the outskirts of Europe have been allocated ticket. So I´d definitely give it a try, but I think you´d have to apply around now, as press ticket allocations usually are distributed around this time if not already.

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