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Bregenz Festival

For 2020 the Bregenz Festival's operatic performance on the "floating" stage will be Guiseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto"

The opera Carmen by Georges Bizet | picture: Bregenzer Festspiele GmbH

Rigoletto - Guiseppe Verdi

A huge jester's head juts out of Lake Constance. His calm face can morph from leering woman hater to screaming grimace. The ruffled collar he wears serves as a playground for a group of high spirited party goers. As if by magic, the jester can move his right hand, the bottom of a giant balloon gripped in his left. The Giuseppe Verdi opera is performed on a striking set created by Philipp Stölzl and Heike Vollmer, moving between spine-tingling spectacle and intimate chamber drama. 

The duke reveals his cynical philosophy in the world-famous aria »La donna è mobile«: Woman are flighty and dishonest, yet men must have a taste of their love to find happiness. Court jester Rigoletto actively helps him in his conquests until his own daughter falls into the Duke's clutches. 

Now eager for revenge the help offered by a contract killer comes at just the right moment. However, a curse put upon Rigoletto becomes his downfall. 

Verdi's music creates a uniquely intense atmosphere throughout the piece. Gala scenes reminiscent of a circus, an audacious kidnapping and an eerie night-time tempest are contrasted with intimate scenes between father and daughter, and between Gilda and the Duke.

The opera by Giuseppe Verdi opens on 22 July the upcoming festival season, until the end of the season on 23 August are 27 sea stage performances on the program.

Moments of pure magic on the lake

A balmy summer breeze ruffles your hair; the reflected orb of the setting sun turns the surface of the lake into the shimmering red of a thousand fire-flies. It is a night that conjures up the Mediterranean and the world of grand opera.

Welcome to the Bregenz Festival; welcome to Lake Constance and the unrivalled ambience of the Bregenz Festival's "floating" stage. Every summer, with a bewitching knack for artistic genius guaranteed to appeal to all the senses, the Festival wins over its audiences quickly and effortlessly.

Forecourt Bregenz Festival | (c) photo: andereart, Bregenzer Festspiele GmbH

In the heart of a stunning landscape...

... located in Vorarlberg, Austria’s westernmost province, the Bregenz Festival is not just another quality cultural open-air event.

This is about unforgettable first-time operatic performances; recitals in the Festival Hall that are the cream of the concert calendar; new artistic productions from the stage studio, or dramatic tales from operatic literature in the Vorarlberger Regional Theatre.

With more than eighty performances during the months of July and August, the summer festival attracts some 200,000 visitors to this international area bordering the Alps and Lake Constance. True artistic ability combined with a passion for all things unusual makes a unique recipe, which guarantees unforgettable moments in a magical lakeside setting.

Founding, history and development

The first Bregenz Festival week took place just one year after the end of the Second World War. It was held on a pair of gravel barges - one for the stage and the scenery of Mozart's early work Bastien et Bastienne, the other for the orchestra. For a town which at that time didn't even have a theatre, the idea of holding a Festival seemed ridiculous. However, the makeshift measure of choosing the lake - the town's loveliest feature - as the stage, proved to be the crucial key to success.

Visitors from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France ensured that, even in its very first year, the Festival was a truly international affair. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra was involved from the very beginning and has been largely responsible for the successful development of the Festival right through to the present day.


In 2006 the main topic of conversation was the newly renovated Festival Hall – the "best birthday present possible for the festival's 60th anniversary". As Festival President Günter Rhomberg put it: "This summer it is finally possible to offer the theatre-going public an infrastructure which lives up to the quality of our Festival performances".

"The Troubadour" proved to be one of the most successful operas performed on the "floating" stage in the previous ten years; over the two year period, a total of 301,573 visitors watched Robert Carsen and Paul Steinberg's spectacular production.

The Festival Hall performance of "The Fall of the House of Usher", by Claude Debussy, received unanimous acclaim from both critics and the general public; the Bregenz Festival's first operatic performance on the stage of the newly renovated Festival Hall succeeded remarkably in uniting Debussy's ballet "Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune" and "Jeux", with the newly completed one-act opera "The Fall of the House of Usher".

The contemporary programme series "Art in our Time" and the orchestral concerts also enjoyed record numbers of visitors.