The fabulous floating stage of Bregenz Festival - Bregenzer Festspiele

Posted by Ra Moon

When the sun begins to hide under the waters of Lake Constance, the formidable Bregenz Festival show raises the imaginary curtain on the world's largest floating stage.

From that moment on, the 7,000 spectators gathered in the auditorium will dive into an overwhelming visual and sound feast outdoors in opera format.

Bregenzer Festspiele

Throughout its long history, the Austrian festival has built some of the most amazing designs ever seen on stage, featuring a cast of world-class performers, breathtaking sets, and costumes.

This unforgettable experience for opera lovers is an artistic and logistical effort to create a new project every two years, set in the beautiful landscape around.

This is the perfect time to review the previous productions of the famous opera on the lake by year, from most recent to oldest.

Bregenz Festival, opera on the lake

Madame Butterfly 2022-2023 season
The 2022-2023 season will feature a stunning production of Giacomo Puccini's beloved opera, Madame Butterfly.

Set in Japan in the late 19th century, Madame Butterfly tells the story of a young geisha named Cio-Cio San who falls in love with an American naval officer named Pinkerton.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures - Bregenzer Festspiele / Ralph Larmann

Rigoletto 2019
2019: Rigoletto - Giuseppe Verdi's opera was the last one from the pre-pandemic era.

As the 2020 festival was canceled, the 2021 season was highly anticipated with the return of live performances, performing again Verdi's Rigoletto.

The colossal clown's head and the balloon could rise up to 40 meters (about 130 feet).
Image courtesy of Bregenzer Festspiele and Anja Köhler

Carmen 2018
Bregenz 2017/2018: The set design featured two huge hands for the classic opera Carmen.

Lake Constance is known as the soul of Europe. On its shores are the borders of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Turandot 2015
Bregenz 2015/2016 performed the classic play of Giacomo Puccini set in Beijing, Turandot.

The exotic character of the story is highlighted by a stage inspired by the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army.
Image by courtesy of Karl Forster

Bregenzer Zauberflöte
Back to 2013/2014: This is how awesome the new stage for Mozart's Magic Flute was.

Die Zauberflöte had dragons connected by catwalks and an underwater railway to carry some set elements, including a massive crystal turtle.
Image by Bregenzer Festspiele / Anja Köhler

Floating stage opera festival

2011/2012: André Chénier (Umberto Giordano), was inspired by the famous painting of the French revolutionary Marat.

Acrobatic dancers executed a surreal aerial ballet at the top of the giant sculpture, performed by the company of Circus and Flying School Airealistic

Twilight on the shores of the lake. An extraordinary setting that no theater can match.
Image by Bregenzer Festspiele / Achim Mende

Floating Stage 2010 Aida
2009/2010: Aida (Giuseppe Verdi) is a grand opera, traditionally set in Egypt.

In Bregenz, the action was moved at the foot of the Statue of Liberty torn to pieces. The enormous parts of the mask were put together whilst the performance was going on.

Aida had flooring slightly below the level of the water in which the actors splashed around.
Image by Bregenzer Festspiele / Karl Forster

Bregenz Festival James Bond
2007/2008: Tosca (Giacomo Puccini). The colossal iris transformed into a mechanical mobile platform, becoming a new circular stage.

To add a little more glamor, scenes from the James Bond movie Quantum Of Solace were filmed during some of the summer 2008 performances, with Daniel Craig walking among the public.

Bregenz Festival Austria
2005/2006: Il trovatore (Giuseppe Verdi). From the original story of a rebellion in the Crown of Aragon Court, the action was moved to a modern industrial plant with fearsome chimneys spitting fire.

Keep in mind that the stages should be able to survive the extreme weather conditions of the environment for two years.

They also have to be light, easy, and quick to move when changing acts, which gives us an idea of the complexity of their design.

2004 West Side Story
2003/2004: West Side Story changed the opera to put in scene the troubled street gangs of Leonard Bernstein's classic musical.
Image by Benno Hagleitner/Vision fotografie

2001 La Bohème
2001/2002: La Bohème (Giacomo Puccini), updated the absinthe with Ricard pastis in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

Bregenz Festival productions usually try to give a twist to the traditional opera repertoire, staging original and even extravagant plays.
Image by Bregenzer Festspiele/Karl Forster

Bregenz Festival
1999/2000: Un ballo in maschera (Giuseppe Verdi).

The image of the grim skeleton watching the tiny figures moving on a book stage is definitely one of the most memorable icons of all time from the festival.
Image by Climent Vilella / First image on top by Benno Hagleitner

Porgy & Bess
1997/1998: Porgy and Bess (George Gershwin) reproduced an apocalyptic scenography Mad Max-style.

Originally the opera was set in the Afro-American population of the United States.

From this play comes the song Summertime, popularized by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, among others.
Image by Karl Forster

1995 Fidelio
1995/96: Fidelio modernized the sole opera composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in a setting that turned the streets of lower-class households into overcrowded prison cells.
Image by Karl Forster

Nabucco 1993

1993/94: Nabucco. Verdi's opera exceeded all expectations and all the functions were sold out.

Bregenz has never ceased to amaze its visitors.
Image courtesy of Karl Forster

1991 Carmen
1991/1992: Carmen (Georges Bizet). Occult on stage, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra plays music that touches the spectators through a sophisticated audio system hidden in the amphitheater.

Also, when interpreters are walking, their voices move with them too.
Image by Karl Forster


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