Bayreuth Opera House Added to UNESCO World Heritage
Enlarge image A banner saying 'World heritage' was attached to the balcony of Bayreuth's Margravial Opera House on June 30, when it joined the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. (© picture alliance / dpa) The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has added the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth to the World Heritage list. The opera house in the Bavarian city of Richard Wagner thus becomes the 37th World Heritage site in Germany.
The World Heritage Committee, meeting in St. Petersburg on June 30th, called the opera house “a masterpiece of Baroque theatre architecture.” For the Committee, the attributes of the opera house carrying Outstanding Universal Value are its location in the original 18th century public urban space, the 18th century Baroque façade, the original 18th century roof structure spanning 25 meters and the internal layout and design of the ceremonial foyer, tiered loge theatre and stage area.
“Built between 1746 and 1750, the Opera House is the only entirely preserved example of its type where an audience of 500 can experience Baroque court opera culture and acoustics authentically, as its auditorium retains its original materials, i.e. wood and canvas,” according to its World Heritage description. The Margravial Opera House is one of 20 cultural sites added to the worldwide list of now 745 World Cultural Heritage sites at the June 30th meeting.
The bell-shaped auditorium of tiered loges built of wood and lined with decoratively painted canvas was designed by the renowned theatre architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena, while court architect Joseph Saint Pierre designed the sandstone façade.
Enlarge image View from the Prince's Box into the Margravial Opera House of Bayreuth. (© picture alliance / dpa) “As a court opera house in a public space, it foreshadowed the large public theatres of the 19th century. The highly decorated theatre’s tiered loge structure of wood with illusionistic painted canvas represents the ephemeral ceremonial architectural tradition that was employed in pageants and celebrations for princely self-representation.” Its ballroom is typical of the Absolutist society at the time with wooden dressing rooms, unique streaked marble and painted decoration.
The opera house was commissioned by Margravine Wilhelmine, wife of Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg–Bayreuth and sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Wilhelmine was herself a gifted composer, and the opera house was only one of the many building projects with which she and her husband transformed Bayreuth into a center of culture.
The building was inaugurated before it was completely finished in September 1748 with performances of the operas “Il trionfo d’Ezio” and “Artaxerxes,” the libretto of the latter having been written by Wilhelmine herself.
More than a century later, the Margravial Opera House drew Richard Wagner to choose Bayreuth for his music festivals. Though he decided to build his own theater in the city, Wagner celebrated the laying of the foundation stone of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus by conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on May 22, 1872, in the Margravial Opera House.
Today, the state of Bavaria is investing heavily in the preservation of this heritage site. A comprehensive, 19-million-euro renovation and restoration of the opera house is to begin next year.