Price for event at a hefty $77

Germany’s annual Bayreuth opera festival is going digital, streaming video and audio of its opening performance of “Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg” live via the Internet. The catch is the price – $77.

Organizers hope the online screening will draw new fans to an annual event devoted entirely to the 10 mature stage works by Richard Wagner, where fans often wait seven years or more for the opportunity to buy tickets.

“Those are complicated hoops, and it can be crazy to jump through them all,” said Katharina Wagner, a great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner, who is staging the production. “But for those who only know Bayreuth by name, maybe they will say, ‘OK, I’ll check it out if I can watch it at home on my laptop.'”

While New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Milan’s Teatro alla Scala have offered high definition theatercasts in recent years, the price usually has been closer to $24. And many arts organizations have free audio streams of performances on their Web sites.

Alexander Busche, Bayreuth’s lead spokesman, said the price will offset the cost of filming and purchasing media rights.

“We have a lot of costs,” he said.

He said the live premiere at 4 p.m. on July 27 will also be shown for free at a public viewing in Bayreuth’s town square. The video will be available for paid download online through Aug. 2.

The staging stars Klaus Florian Vogt, Franz Hawlata and Michaela Kaune. Sebastian Weigle conducts.

Berlin-based production company United Motion will use eight remote-control cameras inside the theater, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, to record the five-hour opera.

Most opera companies have used a mix of manned and robotic cameras in recent years.

Michael Dillmann, who runs United Motion, explained that he can’t remove any seats from the theater to make room for a film crew because the premiere is sold out. Most ticket holders paid between $79 and $315 for their seats.

“Using only remote cameras is definitely unorthodox,” Dillmann said. “But I think the end product will be good.”

It will be the first video recording of a Bayreuth performance since 1991, and the first ever in front of a live audience.

Dillmann said his company plans to re-edit the live footage for a DVD, due for release in November.

United Motion will also produce a series of behind-the-scenes video podcasts – one for each day of the monthlong festival – that will be available as a free download on the festival’s Web site through iTunes.

Wagner said the live filming, public viewing and Web site overhaul are significant upgrades for the festival founded by her great-grandfather in 1872 – but she stopped short of calling it a change in direction.

“It’s definitely an improvement for Bayreuth, but I wouldn’t call it something as lofty as a new path,” Wagner said. “You have to move along with advances in technology.”

Busche said he hopes the overhaul will help attract a younger audience.

“Wagner is not something easy you can start with like ‘Magic Flute,'” Busche said, referring to the Mozart classic. “You are ordering a ticket 10 years in advance to see a very complicated opera with very complicated music.”

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