Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra is the resident ensemble of the historic Bayreuth Festival in Germany, founded by composer Richard Wagner in 1876 to exclusively stage his operatic works every summer.  Approximately 200 musicians recruited from over 40 distinguished orchestras in Germany and abroad come together each year to secure all opera and concert performances held during the Festival (usually over 30).  The musicians willingly sacrifice most of their summer break from their fixed orchestral positions to perform at the Festival.  Although contracts are renewed annually with the Orchestra musicians, several members have been participating during several consecutive Festivals and consider Bayreuth to be their second artistic home.  Throughout its history, the Orchestra has performed with the world’s greatest conductors.  This summer, the Orchestra has performed under the baton of Pietari Inkinen, Philippe Jordan, Axel Kober, Oksana Liniv, Christian Thielemann, in addition to that of Andris Nelsons. The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra’s performances outside of its home base are rare.  This tour – comprising performances in Cologne, Essen, Paris as well as Riga – is the Orchestra’s first tour of more than one city since its 1955 maiden tour of Paris and Barcelona with fully staged productions.  The Orchestra has performed in Abu Dhabi in 2008 and 2019 and in Barcelona in 2012.  A specially assembled festival orchestra came together for the first time, at Richard Wagner’s instigation, for the inaugural 1876 Bayreuth Festival. After a six-year pause, the second edition of the Bayreuth Festival in 1882 featured the orchestra and choir of the Munich Court Theatre for 16 performances of Parsifal, a goodwill gesture from Bavarian King Ludwig II to help Wagner meet his budgetary constraints. Following Wagner’s death, the Munich Court Theatre orchestra also played for the 1883 and 1884 Festivals. Since 1886, the Festival has created its own resident Orchestra in the form known today.

Further reading:

Sous, Alfred. Das Bayreuther Festpielorchester. Geschichte, Geschichten und Anekdoten von damals bis heute. Frankfurt-am-Main, Musikverlag Robert Lienau, 1997.