To followers of Richard Wagner, the none-too-enthralling Bavarian market town of Bayreuth is the navel of the world, for that is where the master built his “theater of the future,” the Festspielhaus, specially designed for his 17-hour, four-evening epic, “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” Things might have turned out otherwise; for a time, when money was tighter than usual, the spendthrift megalomaniac considered pulling up stakes for greener pastures in Minnesota. One wonders how many of the crowned heads, fellow composers, and other glitterati who assembled for the inaugural three-“Ring” circus in August 1876 would have followed him there. Maybe not even Dom Pedro II of Brazil?
Over the years, rival shrines have cropped up with some frequency. For nearly four decades, beginning in 1975, faraway Seattle established a reputation as Bayreuth West, delivering ever improving summertime “Ring” cycles, alternating in some years with other epics from the canon. Now Brisbane, which is just about as far from Bavaria as you can get without cutting the cord to Spaceship Earth, is gearing up for a season as Bayreuth South. (Book yesterday—tickets are already disappearing fast.)