Festival site sings

Set designer Es Devlin’s set for the 2017 Bregenz Festival. At Bregenz, on Lake Constance, Austria.
Picture: Stephen Scourfield The West Australian
Photo of Stephen Scourfield

Meet Austria’s Lake Constance, a magnet for music lovers worldwide.

The stage is set. It floats out on the edge of Lake Constance, big playing cards arcing in the air, fingernails of a pair of massive hands chipped. 

The 560sqkm of Lake Constance is “shared” by Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

The Swiss think the border is in the middle of the lake. The Austrians are happy to share, of course. They think it’s a condominium of all three countries. The Germans agree to a tripartite condominium, albeit on different grounds. 

They all patrol the lake.

I have just ridden an ebike here from St Gallen in Switzerland. Still in Switzerland, we break the easy and signposted ride for lunch at Bad Horn hotel (truly), just outside the town of Horn itself (honestly) and overlooking the lake.

Two Zeppelin airships hover over Germany, where the factory is. Behind me is Switzerland. And then we ride over a little bridge into Austria, without fanfare. And then there’s plenty of agricultural activity to ride through in the Rhine Delta. 

And then, here I am, in Bregenz, right on the western edge of Austria. And here is where the scene is set for Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, and for the Bregenz Festival from July 19 to August 20.

The festival is held every summer, and is well known through the arts and opera community as something special — something particular.

Bregenz is the capital of Vorarlberg, the most-western state of Austria, but easily reached on Switzerland’s benchmark railways.

The Carmen set is the work of British stage designer Es Devlin, who’s also worked with the likes of Adele, Kanye and the Pet Shop Boys.

Since 1946, the Bregenz Festival’s Opera on the Lake has stimulated some of the most remarkable outdoor stages ever built. The festival also features Moses in Egypt by Rossini, and the world premiere of To the Lighthouse, a chamber opera in three parts by Zesses Seglias, with libretto by Ernst Marianne Binder after the novel by Virginia Woolf and sung in English.

Astrid Mulholland-Licht, director Australia and New Zealand of the Austrian National Tourist Office, says of Vorarlberg: “It hasn’t really been on the map for Australians. But this region has a lot to offer as part of a European visit — particularly the food and architecture.”

Vorarlberg’s reputation for both continues to build. It is an area of deep cultural history and Astrid adds: “It’s not a coincidence that there’s a lot of culture and architecture in this region.”

Other Arts

Schwarzenberg has its Schubert festival, Schubertiade from June 17- 25 and August 25-September 3 in the village of Schwarzenberg. It’s the world’s biggest festival of the works of Austrian composer Franz Schubert, drawing visitors from all over the world. “For some, it is a pilgrimage to that village,” Astrid says.

Top image: The set used in the 2015 and 2016 Bregenz Festivals on Lake Constance, Austria, by Stephen Scourfield.

Fact File


Stephen Scourfield was a guest of Austrian National Tourist Office.


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