Sunday 21 February 2016


Bayreuth will forever be associated with Wagner. But the driving force behind the beauty and cultural reputation of this town was actually a pretty extraordinary woman who lived a century before him

 Markgräfliches Opera House, Bayreuth. 

... the Margravine (Marquess) Wilhelmine, daughter of the King of Prussia, who survived appalling physical abuse as a child to become a composer, writer and painter of apparently enormous energy. She also transformed Bayreuth from an ordinary town to an intellectual and cultural centre of Germany, founding a university, constructing buildings and rebuilding its opera house (above), all before dying at only 49.

The architecture, palaces and parks of Bayreuth are mostly Wilhelmine's design, and even on a grey winter's day the place is undeniably impressive.

Wilhelmine's Neues Schloss, front and back views above and below.

The Hofgarten next to the palace is a peaceful place of ordered trees and lakes.

It was Wilhelmine's opera house, the Markgräfliche Opernhaus (in the first photograph), all rococo red, gold and blue with frescoed ceilings, that she commissioned the Italian architects of her day to construct, that drew Wagner to Bayreuth. He had his sights set on it as the most impressive venue in Germany to stage his work.

As it turned out, Wagner decided that the 500 seat interior was too small for his operatic creations, so he built his own Festspielhaus on the edge of town which 100 plus years later is the centre of the annual summer festival.

And he built his own house, Wahnfried, peace from madness or delusions, on the edge of the wooded Hofgarten ...

a grand neoclassical house in golden coloured stone at the end of a line of trees, where he and his wife Cosima, Franz Liszt's daughter, lived until they died and were buried in the garden.

A bust of mad king Ludwig graces the entrance - appropriately enough, since Ludwig bankrolled Wagner through many financial crises ...

Beside the house is the Richard Wagner Museum, which had only just reopened after a long renovation when I was there.

No need to be a Wagner fan to appreciate this fantastically well designed and presented museum built in contemporary style with interactive scores and multimedia displays

Bayreuth, Germany, November 2015


  1. you do go to the most romantic places
    and take such VERY good photographs when you get there
    much love

  2. Dear Karen, thank you once again for taking me to places I most likely won't ever travel to any other way. You are a fantastic guide, and brilliant photographer.



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