A ghostly village for a deeply Romantic opera

Lake stage preview for "Der Freischütz"

Bregenz, 17 April 24. A spooky village, half-sunk in wintry marshland – this is the setting for the Romantic opera Der Freischütz, with which director and stage designer Philipp Stölzl is returning to the Bregenz Festival after Rigoletto in 2019/21. Carl Maria von Weber's dramatic opera can be seen in its first ever lake stage production from 17 July in a 28 performance run.  Today, Wednesday, the Bregenz Festival is holding the preview and “topping-out” ceremony for Der Freischütz.

While, over the past few weeks, spring has arrived on and around Lake Constance, the lake stage at Bregenz has been gradually transforming into the eerie winter landscape that director and stage designer Philipp Stölzl has evisaged for Der Freischütz. The little village where Carl Maria von Weber's opera is set has been taking shape on the lake shore since December last year. In it, the tragic tale of the young court clerk Max and his pact with the devil is to unfold over the coming two summers. 

In spite of the summer heat, visitors should shiver as a result of the creepy atmosphere of the village half-sunk in a marsh. That's what director Philipp Stölzl is hoping for. As he says, "Der Freischütz is essentially a dark, Faustian tale: Max sells his soul for earthly happiness and pays for it bitterly. In those draughty huts, primordial conflicts are fought out, and it's a grim, bare-knuckle fight."

A marsh separates the audience from the stage
The stage set itself, with its snow-covered hillocks, half-derelict wooden buildings and bare trees, was constructed in the winter months out of steel, polystyrene foam and hundreds of cubic metres of wood, the festival's technical department working in conjunction with staff from 33 businesses. Right in front of the shorefront wall an artificial lagoon has come into being, with an area of 1,400 square metres, transforming the lake stage into a wintry, marshy landscape. That's because, in this Freischütz production, characters don't just sing about water, they also sing in it. The vast water basin is mostly 25 centimetres deep, but there are walkways and deeper areas in which performers can disappear and reappear at other places. "So that nothing can happen, everything has been designed to be non-slip," says the technical director Wolfgang Urstadt. Pumps circulate the approx. 500,000 litres of lake water in the basin twice a day, while ceramic filters ensure cleanliness.  

Artistically applied patina
The Freischütz village consists of eight crooked houses. The smallest of them is about as big as a kennel, while the village inn, with an area of 16 square metres, has the dimensions of a small living room. All the houses as well as the 12 metre high church tower are made of a steel girder construction with wooden cladding. The scene painters use polystyrene foam, putty filler and paint to imitate the look of stone and timber and then the surfaces are treated with an artistically applied patina.
Since the winter, 30 deceptively real-looking, bare trees have stood on and around the lake stage. They are made of tubular steel scaffolding which the scene painting team have lent a realistic appearance to by means of chicken wire, filler, mortar and paint. Suspended above the snow-covered hillocks of the set is the moon. It has a diameter of six metres and consists of a timber construction to which 3D-machined polystyrene foam panels and facade plaster have been attached.

The stage – including plastering and painting as well as the installation of spotlights and loudspeakers – must be finished by the beginning of June, which is when rehearsals start for the new lake stage opera production and the small Freischütz village will for the first time be filled with life. 

Der Freischütz makes its lake stage debut
Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz – one of the most popular operas in German-speaking countries and a work, moreover, that has never been performed on the lake stage at Bregenz – marks the return of director Philipp Stölzl to Bregenz for the 2024/25 seasons. Following his acclaimed Rigoletto, the opera on the lake stage in 2019/21, Der Freischütz is the Munich-born director's second production on the Lake Constance stage at Bregenz. Stölzl is not only directing the opera, but has also designed the set and lighting. On the conductor's podium will be the festival's conductor in residence Enrique Mazzola, who was also music director for the Rigoletto production, and Erina Yashima. 

Der Freischütz opens the Bregenz Festival for its 78th season on 17 July 2024. With a further additional performance, which will be added to the programme on 15 August 2024, approximately 199,000 tickets are now available on 28 evenings (incl. dress rehearsal and Young People's Night), almost 70 percent of which have already been booked. Altogether 227,000 tickets have gone on sale for the more than 80 events at this summer's festival.

The 2024 Bregenz Festival runs from 17 July to 18 August. For tickets and information please visit www.bregenzerfestspiele.com or call tel. 0043 5574 4076. 

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17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Karl Forster
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Karl Forster
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Karl Forster
17.04.2024

Richtfest "Der Freischütz"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Karl Forster