Security high as Germany’s Bayreuth Opera Festival opens Monday
The recent terror attacks in Germany have raised fears over the country’s iconic Bayreuth Opera Festival, which opens Monday.
The 140-year-old festival is set to open at the Festspielhaus Theatre in Bayreuth at 1600 hrs, local time.
Security has been tight at the venue ever since rehearsals began this summer.
There are unconfirmed reports that this could be because ‘Parsifal’, the opening production, is perceived to be critical of Islam. However, stage director Uwe Eric Laufenberg denied this.
“There is s brief reference to Islam in ‘Parsifal’. But this piece doesn’t revolve around Islam. It’s about Christianity,” Laufenberg was quoted as saying by ‘Deutsche Welle’.
The new production of Richard Wagner’s last opera, has not been seen by any one, so far. Apart from the opening night, it is scheduled for five days, including the closing night on 28 August.
‘Parsifal’ was specifically written by Richard Wagner for Festspielhaus, the theatre he finished building in 1876.
Speculation has been rife ever since conductor Andris Nelson abruptly withdrew from the production in June. Some rumours said Nelson left because of the heightened security.
The additional security is said to cost more than $ 1 million. Several production teams are reportedly unhappy over the enhanced security, which they say will affect the festival ambience.
The recent attacks in the Bavarian state have, however added to the fears of the crew and the festival goers.
Germany’s week of horror began on 18 July, when a teenager hacked five commuters with an axe on a passenger train near Wurzburg in northern Bavaria.
The attack which has been claimed by ISIS was carried out by a refugee, possibly a Pakistani, who entered Germany last year. Authorities had earlier identified him as an Afghan refugee.
Wurzburg is an hour and a half’s drive from the festival town of Bayreuth.
In another attack, some 233 kms away in Munich, a gunman went on a rampage in a shopping area on Friday evening killing nine people.
Adding to the fears of the country, already on the edge, after the recent terror attacks in other European cities, a Syrian refugee blew himself outside a music festival in Ansbach, about 135 kms from Bayreuth.
The suicide blast late on Sunday injured a dozen people, three of them critically. The attacker has been identified as a 27-year-old whose asylum application was rejected last year.
The suicide bomber was trying to enter the open air music festival which was being attended by some 2,000 people.
The Bayreuth Festival first started in 1876. Financial woes of the inaugural edition stalled the fest for six years. But it resumed in 1882, with ‘Parsifal’ as the opening production.
The month-long Bayreuth Festival which presents operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner is usually attended by 60,000 people. Some 500,000 try to angle a ticket for the performances. The wait time, they say, could range anywhere from 7 to 14 years.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband are regulars at the Bayreuth Festival. It is not sure whether she will attend this year.
The main reception event and the red carpet walk by celebrities have been cancelled as a mark of respect for victims of the Munich attack.