Bayreuther Festspiele

Chronology

1813 22.05. Richard Wagner born in Leipzig, the ninth child of the police actuary Friedrich Wagner and his wife Johanna Rosine née Pätz. Friedrich Wagner dies on 23 November 1813 and Johanna marries the painter, playwright and actor Ludwig Geyer, who dies on 30 September 1821
1843 02.02. Following the tremendous success of Rienzi on 20 October 1842 and the première of Der fliegende Holländer on 2 January 1843, Wagner is appointed Royal Saxon Court Kapellmeister at the Dresden Opera
1846 02.03. Wagner submits a critical report on the Royal Orchestra containing numerous suggestions for reform, but it is ignored
1848 11.05. Wagner submits his 'Plan for the Organization of a German National Theatre for the Kingdom of Saxony' to the relevant ministry. It produces no results. During the late summer he works on his essay The Wibelungs: World History from Legend. He starts to develop his new artistic ideal, believing that only through revolution can it be achieved. Growing enthusiasm for the anarchist movement.
  04.10. Drafts 'The Nibelung Legend', a preliminary prose study for the later Ring
  20.10. Completes prose draft of Siegfried's Death
  28.11. Completes poem of Siegfried's Death in its original version
1849 May Dresden Uprising brutally suppressed. Having played an active part in it, Wagner is forced to flee to Switzerland with a price on his head
  July Writes Art and Revolution, a rigorously anti-capitalist, poetical tract. His artistic ideal takes its cue from Greek antiquity.
  04.11. Completes The Artwork of the Future, which he dedicates to Ludwig Feuerbach. In it he first uses the phrase 'total artwork of the future', not just a union of all the arts but a community of artists working together as a collective, a 'cooperative of artists'
1850 14.09. First mention of the idea of a festival in a letter to Ernst Benedikt Kietz. Wagner is increasingly fascinated by the idea, which becomes the starting point of the four-part Ring that occupies him from 1851 onwards. Zurich and Weimar are considered as possible venues for his festival performances of it
1851 10.01. Completes Opera and Drama, his principal theoretical tract.
  August Wagner completes his autobiographical monograph, A Communication to My Friends, at the end of which he announces the Ring
  12.11. Wagner informs Theodor Uhlig that the Ring will 'make clear to the men and women of the Revolution the meaning of  that Revolution'
1853   The libretto of the Ring is privately printed
1863   Writes preface for first official publication of the poem of the Ring, which appears in April 1863. In it Wagner elaborates his detailed plans for a future festival and festival theatre. He believes that they can be financed either by private patrons or by the 'action' of some prince and ends his introduction with the words: 'Will this prince be found?'
1864   King Ludwig II invites Wagner to Munich and assures his material future. He offers to have a festival theatre built for the Ring in Munich. Plans are commissioned from Gottfried Semper
1865   Semper proposes a provisional theatre in Munich's Crystal Palace that reflects Wagner's severely functional demands, but Ludwig prefers a magnificently monumental theatre overlooking the Isar. Wagner reacts to these developments with increasing reserve. With his enforced departure from the city on 10 December, his plans for a festival and for a special theatre in Munich are effectively at an end. Plans and discussions continue until the end of the decade
1870 05.03. Alerted by Hans Richter to the existence of the former Margraves' Theatre in Bayreuth, Wagner looks up the entry on the town in Brockhaus's Konversationslexikon and immediately pins his hopes on Bayreuth as a future venue for his festival
1871 16.04. Wagner visits Bayreuth with a view to assessing its suitability as a festival venue. Although the Margraves' Opera House proves unsuitable, he is pleased with his reception in the town and soon decides to settle there and build a theatre of his own. A Patrons' Society is set up with the aim of raising the sum of 300,000 thalers (over £2 million at today's prices) that is necessary to build a provisional theatre and defray the cost of the performances
  12.05. While visiting his home city of Leipzig, Wagner announces the first Bayreuth Festival, at this juncture planned for 1873
1872 22.05. The foundation stone of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus is laid
1873 02.08. Topping-out ceremony with a fair and fireworks
1874   Building work on the theatre is delayed by financial problems. The Court Secretariat in Munich refuses a financial guarantee, leaving the project threatened with bankruptcy
  25.01. Ludwig II decides to help Wagner and Bayreuth
  20.02. A credit agreement is drawn up between the Board of Directors of the Bayreuth Festival and the Court Secretariat in Munich. The sum involved is 216,152.42 marks (or approximately half a million pounds at today's prices). The loan is paid back in full by 1906
  21.11. The full score of Götterdämmerung is completed, thus bringing to an end Wagner's work on the Ring after a period of twenty-six years
1875   Preliminary rehearsals for the Ring are held in Bayreuth during the summer
1876 03.06. Rehearsals for the first Bayreuth Festival begin in earnest
  13.08. The Bayreuth Festival begins with the first complete cycle of the Ring (local premières of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and world premières of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung). Three cycles are given in all
  30.08. The first Bayreuth Festival ends with a deficit of 148,000 marks (£333,000 at today's prices), making a repeat of it out of the question, at least in the shorter term
1877 August Wagner starts work on the score of Parsifal
  15.09. In a speech to the delegates of the Patrons' Society, Wagner sums up his experiences of the first Bayreuth Festival and announces his plans to perform all his works in Bayreuth from Der fliegende Holländer onwards
1878 31.03. In order to pay off the Bayreuth deficit, Wagner signs a royalty agreement with Munich, Bayreuth receiving an interest-bearing loan of 100,000 marks (£225,000) that is paid off out of receipts from performances of his works in Munich
1880 31.03. Wagner writes to Ludwig II, explaining his plans to establish a 'permanent foundation' in Bayreuth
  28.09. Wagner informs the king of his wish to restrict Parsifal to Bayreuth
1882 13.01. Wagner completes the full score of Parsifal
  02.07. Beginning of rehearsals for Parsifal
  26.07. The second Bayreuth Festival opens with the first performance of Parsifal
1883 13.02. Wagner dies in Venice and is buried in the grounds of his house at Wahnfried on 18 February 1883

Further reading:

• Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century, trans. J. Maxwell Brownjohn (Collins: London 1983)

Cosima Wagner's Diaries, trans. Geoffrey Skelton, 2 vols. (Collins: London 1978-80)




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