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The Bayreuth Festival

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The very popular opera festival, the Bayreuth Festival, is held once a year in Bayreuth, Germany. Operas such as Ohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Das Rheingold and Die Walkure are shown several times throughout the festival. If you’re looking for Siegfried, Gotterdammerung, or even Parsifal, this is the festival for you! Opera fans of the composer Richard Wagner from all over the world trying to get tickets to attend are in for quite a surprise. Not only are there a very little number of tickets available, somewhere around 58,000, there’s an estimated 500,000 or more people who want to attend. This makes for not only a very long waiting list, but a very interesting ticket purchase procedure as well.

The first step in trying to obtain one of these coveted tickets is to write a letter. Instead of the normal ticket purchasing done over phone or web, the interested buyer must write a letter to the Box Office asking them for an order form. If you don’t speak German, don’t worry! You can write the letter in French or English and it will still work. So if you’re from America, get ready to spend a lot on postage! Once the order form arrives, and is sent back, it’s time to wait. Don’t forget, this all has to be done early. The letter requesting the order form must be sent no later than the end of September. The order forms must be returned no later than October 16th. The festival is held in July and August, so these ridiculously early deadlines show just how many requests they receive.

So, how do things work on the Box Office end? It depends if you’re a repeat applicant or a first time applicant. If you’re a first timer, you won’t get the tickets for several years. According to them, only after several years of applications will you even be considered for the tickets. The Bayreuth Festival states this clearly on their website. So if you still really want to go, knowing you won’t be able to for several years, this is the festival for you. The average waiting period is 9 years. 
Another way to get tickets is to actually go to the Box Office on the opening day. Tickets get returned, for whatever reason after going through all that hard work to get them, and they’re offered for resale. But be prepared to wait for quite a long time for tickets you still may not receive. The Box Office opens at 11:30, but get there early. There’s going to be a ton of people with the same idea: the early bird gets the worm. Of course with the importance of these tickets, there won’t be nearly enough for the entire waiting crowd. These tickets are so hard to get that getting to the box office a day or two early even might be a good idea! 

Of course, if you have a lot of money and think it’s worth the risk, you can always buy tickets off the black market. Not only is this very illegal, it is very highly enforced. There are reports of black market ticket holders being violently rejected from the festival, in any means necessary to remove them. Risking life and limb just for a seat? Waiting 9 years sounds safer.

The festival’s website states that after your first year of applying, they’ll automatically send you a new application every year, but think about it. With over 500,000 applicants, how easy would it be for them to miss a few people? Be sure to resend that first letter again, every single year to get another order form. Dedication and determination pays off. Eventually.

Are you a member of a Wagner Society? If not, you might want to join. Wagner societies all over the world are given a certain number of tickets for their members. Another group that would be very helpful to join is the Society of Friends of Bayreuth. It is a society created to help provide financial aid for the Bayreuth festival. It costs 260 euros to join, and 205 euros a year in membership fees, but 465 euros is a small price for tickets to this magnificent festival.

Now what happens if you were to actually, or finally, get selected for tickets? With all this work and hype, the price has got to be monstrously high. The best seats in the festival usually go for no more than $200. What?! I waited ten years for a $200 ticket?! Yes. Yes you did. The extremely low price is just one reason why so many people want to attend the festival. Seeing famous operas by Richard Wagner for $200 or less? Sign me up!

If you’ve waited the wait, paid the price, and finally gotten your tickets, good for you. Now look on smugly as you smile with pride. Maybe throw out a bit of sympathy to those just starting out on their decade long journey to obtain these mystical tickets. But don’t forget. You’re getting to experience something that 450,000 other people that year will be missing out on. The Richard Wagner Festival.
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