Tuesday 19 August 2008

Bayreuth Festival audiences

I do not necessarily question the common knowledge that one has to wait 8-10 years to obtain a ticket for the Bayreuth Festival (with the usual exceptions, obviously). However, during my visits here over the past two years, where I have spoken to at least 50 people, I have yet to meet one, that actually did put in this extended waiting time to get a ticket, save one French woman last year and a couple of rather unreliable black-market ticket sellers.

All the people I talked to got company tickets, press tickets or got the tickets through a ballot of their local Richard Wagner society. I did encounter several people at the ticket office intending to apply for tickets later this year, though.

Now, this is by no means a scientifically valid survey as the demographic segments of the audience I spoke to are not representative of the mean Bayreuth-goer (younger and better looking, obviously....), however it offers an indication as to why the waiting time for ordinary tickets is so long: Simply because there may be relatively few tickets available for general audiences. To be fair, I do not know the exact percentage of tickets available for those applying by mail, but beforehand I imagined it to be close to 100%. Now I imagine it to be closer to 50%.

Which is not an intended criticism of the Festival management, since sponsor and press tickets are an inevitable part of running a business.

All photographs at performances of Tristan and Parsifal on August 14th and 16th 2008.


Anonymous said...

I met a few people who had done the wait. There was a pair of British men in line for the Ring---one of them had waited 8 or so years and gotten a Parsifal ticket and was hoping to get Ring tickets, and the other had the exact opposite situation. However, I didn't really talk to many people outside of those on the box office line.

Anonymous said...

Closer to 10% of the tickets are available to the public, I suspect. Most of the tickets for the first week of the Festival are allocated to members of the Friends (well, there are 5000 of them now and they contribute money to support the Festival, so let's not begrudge them) and to the Press. For the remainder of the Festival, the tickets are allocated to those favoured by the "Festspielleitung" and to Wagner Societies. According to my contacts in various countries, these go mostly to Wagner Societies outside Europe; the USA and Australia seem to be particularly favoured; and the latter deservedly too, since the Bayreuth Festival would be rather boring without the enthusiastic contributions of the Australian visitors. In my queueing days, I would see Wolfgang Wagner walk around the theatre every few hours, probably looking for the touts, who he had banned from the grounds; although he might not do this any more, I guess that the notices are still there to inform us that tickets are not to be bought and sold on the premises. That does not stop people walking over the road for the transaction, of course, which the more cautions will do.

mostly opera... said...

I woldn´t be surprised if it was indeed closer to 10%..
There are no notices on the Festival grounds, however you are warned both on the website and on the tickets that you have to carry ID´s with you and may be asked to identify yourself upon entering the Festival House (your name is printed on the ticket unless you have a Friends of Bayreuth ticket, in which case the company name is printed).

Now, to what extent this is applied nobody knows - I didn´t see any checking this year, but last year I was singled out and asked if I was indeed the person named on the ticket, to which a simple "yes" was enough (I WAS the persone on the ticket, which had been officiallly altered by the Ticket Office to that effect). But one person sitting close to me most certainly was expelled after the first half of the Ring (I know he bought a black-market ticket).

This year I noticed the Ticket Office handing out several differently-looking tickets - white tickets who read "replacement ticket - the original ticket is invalid".

Someone in the queue told me these were some of the tickets the Festival had discovered for sale on ebay - whether true or not I do not know..

If you do have a ticket without your name on, for whatever reason, I´d strongly recommend showing it to the Ticket office beforehand and get it altered (as opposed to having to do lenghty explanations 2 minutes before the performances)

Unknown said...

Apparently I am among the few who waited the full 10 years for my tickets! It's a process I started 20 years ago but did not submit my annual requests consistently until 10 years ago. No Ring this year, I am sad to say. Will I get a renewal form after this year's festival?! At least I toured the theatre (during the off-season) more than ten years ago!

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