There are many reasons to look forward to summer. Members of the Vienna Symphony have quite a special reason, since for decades they have spent the summer months in western Austria. The orchestra has been an integral part of the Bregenz Festival since it was founded in 1946 - the reason why many of the Vienna Symphony’s musicians are connoisseurs of the Alemannic dialect, passionate hikers, and sailors.
Over 200,000 visitors from all over the globe look forward to the Bregenz Festival every year, enjoying the opera productions on the world’s largest lake stage. The festival expertly pulls off a remarkable balancing act: on the one hand, we have the large-scale productions on the lake, with their magical atmosphere between the starlit sky and Lake Constance - a magnet for the public and held over two seasons. On the other, the festival on Lake Constance regularly invites us on highly interesting journeys of musical discovery: a number of courageously-programmed rarities have been rediscovered in Bregenz. 2010, for example, featured a retrospective dedicated to almost-forgotten Polish-Russian composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919 - 1996), with his opera The Passenger receiving its first Austrian performance. And program ideas like this often have lasting results: the Bregenz initiative led to an international revival of Weinberg’s music, which has since been included in concert programs throughout the world.
Lake Constance first hosted music theater a year after the end of the Second World War, with concerts performed on two gravel barges.
The first concerts by the Vienna Symphony took place on August 8 and 9, 1946 in a gymnasium.
There was no professional theater building in Bregenz until 1955, when the Theater am Kornmarkt was inaugurated.
The newly-built Festival Hall was inaugurated in 1980, and the first concerts were performed in the newly-renovated hall in 2006.
During its early years, the festival’s artistic direction was in the hands of a committee, before Ernst Bär and Alfred Wopman served as its long-time artistic directors.
From 2004-2014, British director David Pountney played a central role in shaping the Bregenz Festival’s artistic philosophy.
Since 2015 Elisabeth Sobotka, former artistic director of the Graz Opera, has taken over artistic responsibility for the Bregenz Festival.
The Bregenz lake stage can seat around 7000 visitors.
Austrian cultural radio station Ö1 broadcasts several productions each year. These recordings are disseminated throughout Europe via the EBU (European Broadcasting Union).
In 2015 the Bregenz Festival was named Festival of the Year at the International Opera Awards.
800 loudspeakers form part of the special sound system on the Bregenz lake stage. The acoustically-unique system for open air events is known as “Bregenz directional hearing.”
Did you know?
In 2008 the lake stage and Bregenz Festival Hall served as the backdrop for a well-known film: James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace was shot here, with Daniel Craig on the set of Marc Forster’s staging of Tosca.
The same year, German television also made use of the lake stage: during the European Football Championship, the platform served for three weeks as the public viewing venue for over 160,000 football fans.
Pop star Tina Turner, who lives in Switzerland, regularly attends premieres and performances at the Bregenz Festival.
The lake stage is also used during the festival off-season, with concerts by such stars as Falco, Peter Gabriel, and Elton John.