Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at the Bregenz Opera Festival in Austria was an incredible experience quite unlike any other (although attending an opera at the Arena di Verona (Roman amphitheatre) is quite surreal too), as the opera was performed on a stage in the lake! For the James Bond fans out there this is where they filmed the Tosca scene in Quantum of Solace!
Opera is very popular on the Continent, more so I would say than in England, and there were people of all ages in attendance including many young people. This opera festival occurs once a year and is very well-known in Europe, selling out months in advance to a mostly German, Austrian and Swiss audience. In fact it seemed like English visitors are a rare occurrence as the programmes were only available in German, and of course both the singing and the subtitles were in German too! Fortunately (seeing as I don’t speak German) The Magic Flute is a very visual opera, and this performance included fireworks, abseiling, boats, a floating egg, dancing, a rotating stage and fire-breathing dragons! So I would still recommend the opera at Bregenz to other non-German speakers. Creating the set must have been a mammoth task, which is undoubtedly why each opera is repeated for two years at Bregenz. As you can imagine the atmosphere is incredible – a hot summers night with the water just in front of you and the lights from other cities around Lake Constance just visible in the distance. Some guests choose to arrive and depart by boat. My only criticism would be that it is too long a performance to not have an interval, that and the rather uncomfortable seats. Also if you fancy going next year don’t forget to take some insect repellant (we had been forewarned)!