Bayreuth (dpa) – Prelude to Bayreuth: The Richard Wagner Festival has started in the town of Upper Franconia.

After a mandatory one-year hiatus, the world-famous festival began with a new production of the opera “The Flying Dutchman” – for the first time in the history of the festival, a woman, Oksana Lyniv from Ukraine, was on the podium.

Celebrities in Bayreuth

The most prominent guest at the premiere was Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), who arrived shortly before the start and came with her husband Joachim Sauer. The outgoing head of government was greeted by the evening’s first applause.

In a long black skirt and an orange blazer, Merkel showed up in front of the Königsportal, where Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder was waiting for her. Instead of handshakes, the two politicians greeted each other with a crown conforming salute. At the same time, the first fanfare sounds from the balcony above the portal, indicating the imminent start of the performance.

It’s Merkel’s farewell visit as Chancellor to Bayreuth. Merkel’s term ends after the legislative elections in the autumn. The Chancellor is considered a great supporter of Wagner’s work and was a regular guest in Bayreuth.

Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) came with his wife Karin, who wore a dark blue lace dress. The red carpet, which is usually rolled out at the opening, remained at the depot this year, and the state reception that followed was also canceled. Due to Corona’s restrictions, 911 people are allowed into the house per performance this year, typically just under 2,000.

Much is different from the rest of Green Hill in Bayreuth, where tradition is still very important. Anyone with a ticket to the festival must pre-register, as only those who have been fully vaccinated, recovered or tested are allowed to enter.

After successful registration, a pink ribbon is placed for the wrist. Of course, that doesn’t always go with the beautiful evening dresses. But an FFP2 mask is also an unusual accessory for an evening at the opera. But it must be now.

Democratization push on the Green Hill

Unusual photos can also be found next to the village hall: food trucks are set up to shorten the long waiting time between registration and admission. Can of pasta instead of lobster sausage – it felt like a little push for democratization on the green hill.

Instead of kisses or handshakes, Wagnerians greeted each other with a friendly nod or a brief punch. Onlookers were not allowed to come in front of the house, but some were waiting on the sidewalks in the direction of the Festspielhaus to take a look at Merkel and Co.

The police were very present; However, so far everything has gone according to plan, a spokesperson for the Upper Franconia Police Headquarters said shortly before the start of the show.

Due to the cancellation of the previous year, the planned new production of Richard Wagner’s “Ring des Nibelungen” could not be carried out. The project has been postponed until 2022 due to Corona.

As a replacement, this year there will be a project for each of the four “Ring” operas. This year’s program also includes “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” in the production of “Tannhäuser” by Barrie Kosky and Tobias Kratzer. Andris Nelsons and Christian Thielemann will conduct concerts at the Festspielhaus. The festival ends on August 25.