The Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth

The Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth opens today. But apart from the famous Green Hill, the Bavarian town is also home to the Margravial Opera House, one of the largest Baroque theaters in Europe. It is currently being restored (in a project that is expected to last until 2018), but photographs of the opulent interior can be viewed online. The renovation will preserve the theater's mid-eighteenth-century architecture and decorations. The opera house was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

Wilhelmine of Bayreuth (1709-1758), the sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and her husband Frederick (1711-1763) shaped Bayreuth over the course of two decades into a European cultural and intellectual capital and encouraged the theater to be built.

The opera house was inaugurated with performances of the operas Trionfo d'Ezio and Artaserse by Johann Adolf Hasse upon the occasion of the marriage of the couple's only daughter, Princess Elisabeth Friederike Sophie, to Carl II Eugen, Duke of Württemberg in September 1748. Wilhelmine also acted as the theater director. Some compositions by the margravine are also known, including the opera Argenore.

Operas have been performed in Bayreuth since 1662, including Die Fuertrefflichkeit des Hochloeblichen Frauenzimmers by François Maran (1669), L'Argia by Marcantonio Cesti (1680), L'innocente giustificato by Pietro Torri (1688), Alba Cornelia by Francesco Conti (1715), and Theofane by Antonio Lotti (1722). The regency of the margrave couple that started in 1735 marked the beginning of the heyday of Baroque opera in Bayreuth, during which performances of operas by Vivaldi (Rosmira and Feraspe), Carl Heinrich Graun (Rodelinda), and Hasse (L'Allessandro nell'Indie) took place. In 1769, the last margrave of Bayreuth died and the decline of artistic life wore on. The Bayreuth Opera finally closed its doors in 1791 when the principality fell to Prussia.

Image: Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth (2013) by Avda, via Wikimedia Commons.




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