The Bregenz Festival may be all about opera, but the music plays second fiddle to the location. For this annual event in the Austrian city of Bregenz, an enormous stage is built in the water of Lake Constance, just off the shoreline.

It’s always a grand performance space, with huge shapes rising up from the lake and colours bursting from every angle. There are moving parts that allow the set to change during the performance and in different areas are spaces for acrobats or dancers.

There are more than 20 performances of the chosen opera each year through July and August. They begin just as the sun sets and, for the audience, the first visual treat is watching the lake and the surroundings turn from an orange glow into twilight. The whole performance, however, is full of beautiful and vibrant imagery. Although it is serious theatre with a strong intellectual foundation, the show also appeals to the masses with elements of circus, aerial art and large choruses.

The operas that are performed on the lake stage are always popular and accessible ones – classics like Turandot, The Magic Flute and Aida. However, there are also more challenging works put on during the Bregenz Festival in other venues. The main internal theatre of the opera house hosts local, contemporary or obscure operas for several performances. At other locations around the city, there are orchestral concerts, family opera and art exhibitions.

Bregenz feels like an appropriate destination to host a festival like this. Set between mountains and the Austrian shoreline of Lake Constance, it has firmly established its place as the cultural hub of the region. The Bregenz Festival is a good example of why it deserves this reputation.

Money Saving Tips

  • Accommodation can fill up quickly in the centre of Bregenz during the festival period. Nearby towns like Hard offer excellent options for hotels just a short drive away.
  • Be sure to buy the Bodensee-Vorarlberg Leisure Card for €16/€8. It gives free access to the main sights in Bregenz and another 30 attractions in the surrounding region. It’s valid for 3 days and includes free public transport.

Did you know?

  • The Lake Stage of the Bregenz Festival in 2008 was used in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace
  • The top of the Martin’s Tower in the old town of Bregenz is the largest Baroque bulb-shaped steeple in Central Europe
  • One artist took over the Kunsthaus Bregenz by filling it with 300 tons of weight – right at the limit of the building’s loading capacity – and then challenged visitors to enter

My personal highlight

Walking along the shore of Lake Constance to the opera house and having a meal outside in the forecourt

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