Traditionally Bayreuth is a place of artistic and creative genius, where the exceptional is the norm. The Richard Wagner festival is not the only world-class event here – the festival programme covers a wide variety of genres. There is one thing, however, that all visitors to Bayreuth have come to expect: the very best.
Four notable personalities have shaped the cultural life of the town – and still do today: Margravine Wilhelmine with her legacy of baroque architecture, Jean Paul, the poet and Romantic writer, Richard Wagner, who achieved musical immortality in Bayreuth, and pianist Franz Liszt, history's first 'pop star', whose creative genius took Europe by storm.
From opera house to festival hall: Bayreuth and Wagner
For a long time, the Margravial Opera House was the cultural heart of the town. It is one of the most beautiful baroque theatres remaining in Europe, and until 1871 was the largest in the whole of Germany. It was commissioned by Margravine Wilhelmine, built by master architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena from Bologna and his son Carlo, and admired by Richard Wagner, who sought a suitable venue to stage his works. Although it didn't quite meet his expectations, Wagner nonetheless chose to settle in Bayreuth and started to build his own festival hall in 1872. The year 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth and Bayreuth is gearing itself up in grand style for this special occasion. There will be a spectacular new production of The Ring of the Nibelung; the big screens are expected to draw bigger crowds than usual, and eight major concerts will bring even more music fans and musicians to the town – including a few that you don't see every day in Bayreuth: one of the concerts features a performance by Finnish symphonic metal band Apocalyptica.
The history of tobacco and festival after festival
Tobacco is an indulgence enjoyed by a fair few locals if the Kunstmuseum Bayreuth is anything to go by, which features the historical collection of the British American Tobacco company. This new art museum in Bayreuth was established following the restoration of the Old Town Hall at the heart of the historical town centre. It mounts several exhibitions every year from the holdings of various foundations, with an emphasis on 20th-century prints. In contrast, Bayreuth's festival programme embraces a wide range of genres, from classical, jazz and pop to lieder, ballet and film – the choice really is extensive. Just be sure to leave a little time for the many other wonderful museums, palaces and parks in the town.