Bregenz Festival | Tickets & Schedule

A Partnership for more than 70 Years

A partnership for 70 years
The Wiener Symphoniker has been the orchestra in residence at the Bregenz Festival since 1946. The orchestra is not only responsible for opera productions by the lakeside and in the Festspielhaus, but is also regularly represented in several orchestral concerts on the festival program.

The beginnings
As always happens in cases like this, our partnership came about by chance. In August 1946, the orchestra went on a “tour of Austria” that led to Innsbruck and Jenbach Kufstein. The first stop was actually in Bregenz, where Hans Swarowsky and Otmar Suitner conducted two concerts in the course of a week-long festival. There was no lakeside stage back then. It was not until 1947 that a stage was built on the legendary gravel barges at the gondola port and the festival opened with Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. If the weather was inclement, then performances took place in the equally legendary Stadthalle, which was erected by the French occupation forces to keep the troops in shape. This is also where the first orchestra concerts took place. In 1947, Clemens Krauss conducted a rather impressive program that included the Unfinished, Don Juan and Pictures at an Exhibition.
During the initial post-war period, Bregenz was a rewarding location for the musicians of the Wiener Symphoniker. There were no food shortages, but they still had to reckon with an entire day’s journey. Some of the musicians were housed on farmsteads in the nearby Bregenz Forest, where they could enjoy something of a feast in comparison to conditions back home. The presence of a Viennese orchestra in Bregenz for several weeks of the year led to an alliance of special cultural and political importance. A remote Austrian state that was difficult to reach from the east, Vorarlberg seemed perennially eager to secede and dreamed of a union with Switzerland.
Performance conditions in Bregenz remained essentially the same until 1979, although the renovated Kornmarkttheater was added as an indoor opera performance space in the late 50s. Programming decisions were governed by a severe lack of space on stage and in the auditorium. In collaboration with Milan’s La Scala, an Italian staggione of excellent quality began in the 60s and took place annually. Buffo operas by Rossini and Donizetti predominated, but a prominently cast 1968 Falstaff under the direction of Vittorio Guis went down in festival history... which brings us to the opening season of the new Festspielhaus. On that occasion in 1968 and again in 1980, the unforgettable Giuseppe Taddei played the title role.

A new era starts
New circumstances allowed old ideas to carry on for a while, and the so-called “Italian season” was initially able to continue in the new house. Although he only took part in half the performances, Placido Domingo sang the role of Otello for the first time in Austria in 1981. His partner was Anna Tomowa-Sintow. Nello Santi was already present at the general rehearsal and marked the entire score from the conductor’s podium. In 1982, Lucia di Lammermoor presented another star tenor, José Carreras. Contrary to expectations, Pavarotti did not appear in Tosca in 1983, but Giacomo Aragall sang Cavaradossi with Mara Zampieri in 1984. And twenty-three years later, Tosca would move from the theatre to the lakeside stage. Edita Gruberova enjoyed triumphs in Donizetti’s I Puritani. The “staggione era” finally came to a close with Anna Bolena in 1968 and Ernani in 1987.

During the period that followed, Alfred Wopmann oversaw fundamental changes to artistic programming. Samson and Delilah was as important for the opera house as was the 1985-86 production of Zauberflöte for the lakeside stage. The emphasis shifted to spectacular staging, lesser known operas of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as modern lighting and personnel management practices. Marjana Lipovsek enjoyed phenomenal success as Delilah, which caused the production team to repeat the production in 1989 on short notice. The interest increasingly shifted to creative staging, particularly in the case of Harry Kupfer’s two brilliant productions of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust (1992) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitesh (1995), both conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev. The orchestra first came into contact with the talented young conductor, Fabio Luisi, in 1993-94 during performances of Giordano’s Fedora and Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini. Nearly every production from this period could be classified as remarkable. Yet those that stand out among the many excellent productions include Martinu’s operas, The Greek Passion (1999), conducted by Ulf Schirmer and directed by David Pountney, and Julietta (2002), conducted by Dietfried Bernet and directed by Katya Czelnik, as well as Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen (2003) with Vladimir Fedoseyev on the podium and Daniel Slater as director.

As already mentioned, Jerome Savary’s staging of Die Zauberflöte represented a paradigm shift in which expenditures for set design and staging increased astronomically. In order to recover costs, each subsequent production had to run for two seasons. From the orchestra’s point of view, however, such spectacles were clearly a far lower priority than the artistic quality of indoor productions. Until 2006, the area beneath the lakeside stage lay exposed to terrible extremes of searing heat or bitter cold. And contact with the stage was only possible via loudspeakers. The public and critics certainly considered a few productions to be outstanding, including Schirmer and Pountney’s Fliegende Holländer (1989-90) and Nabucco (1993-94). There was an especially remarkable storm scene at the dress rehearsal of Nabucco with the entire cast on stage for the Prisoners Chorus. But Götz Friedrich’s staging of Porgy and Bess (1997-98) also deserves special mention. The evocative set design for Un ballo in maschera (1999-2000) represented another quantum leap. From this point forward, the success of a production rose and fell on the effective use of an optical symbol that encapsulated the plot. In this respect, La Bohème (2001-02) was just as convincing as West Side Story (2003-04) and Tosca (2006-07). Rolando Villazon, who was still fairly unknown at the time, debuted as Rodolfo in La Bohème.

Triumphal orchestra concerts

As far as concerts are concerned, the opening concert of the 1980 festival went down in the annals of the Wiener Symphoniker. Karl Böhm made music with the orchestra for the last time in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The dramatic circumstances surrounding this concert are more easily remembered than its musical quality, for Böhm needed constant medical care in order to withstand the rigours of rehearsing. In the final movement of the performance, if not before, concertmaster Arve Teleffsen practically had to take over as conductor. In the summer of 1983, Georges Prêtre led what may have been the most sensational concert of the last three decades: his interpretations of La Mer and Symphonie fantastique made orchestra history. Also memorable were performances with the aging Erich Leinsdorf in 1987 and 1988, as well as several impressive concerts led by Vladimir Fedoseyev in the early 90’s, prior to his time as principal conductor.




Bregenzer Festspiele
Platz der Wiener Symphoniker 1
A - 6900 Bregenz
Phone: +43 5574 407-6



26 SEPTEMBER 2019 - 30 JUNE 2020

By phone
Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

In person
Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

1 JULY 2019 - 20 AUGUST 2019

By phone
Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

In person
Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

as well as 1 hour prior to all events or 5.00pm for all performances on the Seebühne

Online booking: online

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