The Festival Theatre on 'the green hill' outside Bayreuth is one of the most renowned cultural institutions in Germany.
The visually-uninspiring building was designed by Wagner himself as the optimal place to perfom his version of modern opera, where the music and stage settings would create a perfect dramatic experience.
Wagner had expressed his wish for an ideal location to create his vision back in the 1850s but it wasn't until 20 years later that he started to turn that dream into an actual construction project.
Wagner had no real connection to Bayreuth, but the town was famous as a cultural centre. A location which was out of reach of the distractions and politics of the major cities, yet still relatively close to audiences and rich sponsors was perfect for Wagner.
He visited the town in 1871 attracted by the idea of the unusually large stage in the Margravial Opera House, although he found the relatively small spectator capacity and sightlines unsuitable for his purposes.
The town helped with his project, donating land on 'the green hill' just outside the centre. But, despite his renown and his previous attachment to the Bavarian ruler Ludwig II, Wagner was bedevilled by lack of funds during the building work.
It was lucky, therefore, that his guiding principles were to simplify the external paraphernalia of the traditional opera house and to concentrate on creating a spectacle without any distractions.
The auditorium was made from wood because of its resonance; the orchestra pit was covered over so that there were no visual distractions; and the wooden rows of seats created in the form of an amphitheatre giving good views for all visitors.
The building work started in 1872 on Wagner's birthday - he conducted a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the Opera House to celebrate and the topping-out ceremony took place 15 months later.
However, financial problems meant that it took three more years for the theatre to be ready to hold its first event - the first complete performance of Wagner's Ring cycle. Wagner had been bailed out by Ludwig II and enabled to complete the building but the losses from the first festival were so large that it took another six years for the next performance to be held.
The second Bayreuth festival, which premiered the opera Parsifal, was only held months before Wagner's death in Venice in 1883.
The theatre has been, more or less, run by Wagner's family and descendants since then.
Wagner had originally wanted the building to look like something that a carpenter had thrown together and it has been disparagingly known as 'the barn' over the decades. Yet the acoustics of the theatre and the productions it allows to be staged have made the Bayreuth Festival one of the most popular musical events in the world.
The Richard Wagner Foundation (which includes the German government, the Bavarian state government, the town of Bayreuth, the Wagner family and various other bodies) is responsible for the legacy of Wagner and care of the theatre. The Festival itself is run by a commercial company (which again includes the German and Bavarian governments and the town of Bayreuth plus the Society of the Friends of Bayreuth).
The 30 million Euros renovations which started in 2013 are scheduled to last for 10 years and are mostly financed from public funds.
The theatre can only be visited on an official guided tour or as part of a concert. Tours are available year round apart from June, July and much of August, when rehearsals and concerts are taking place.
Bayreuth Festival Website: www.bayreuther-festspiele.de
The Bürgerreuth is the hillside which rises above the Festspielhaus. The building on the way up to the top dates back to the 19th century and was used by Bayreuth citizens for celebrations and seasonal festivals. It was also where Richard Wagner oversaw much of the construction of the Festspielhaus, the view being over an open meadow at that time. Nowadays it is a restaurant offering Italian and grill specialities, as well as a small hotel.
The map controls to the left enable zooming in and out of the festival theatre view. The control at the top right enable switching between a 'satellite view' and a 'map view'.