My attitude is that even a lackluster opera performance is better than none at all, so I was not unhappy with the two evenings I spent in Bad Hersfeld last summer. I saw Cosi fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart the first evening, and Carmen by Georges Bizet the second. They were sung in German, not in the original Italian or French, and both were enjoyable but not memorable.
Mind you, they didn't do anything drastically wrong. The singers were competent but not outstanding, the orchestra was all right, the staging was perfunctory but not intrusive. I did think the chorus was quite good -- but I know someone who sings in that chorus, so I might possibly be a trifle biased about that.
The Bad Hersfeld Festival has been held here every summer since 1951. Originally it was just for spoken theater, but in recent years they have also been doing two opera productions on alternate evenings in August. In 2006 they presented a revival of Bizet's Carmen and a new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni.
In the summer of 2011 Bad Hersfeld presented a new German-language production of The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). This was performed on nine even-numbered evenings starting August 8, 2011. In between, on the odd-numbered evenings, they performed The Barber of Seville by Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), also in German translation.
In August 2012 Bad Hersfeld presented a new production of Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), alternating with Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Both of these were sung (as usual) in German translation, not in the original Italian.
Second and third photos: The "umbrella" looming ominously over the audience before an opera performance.
Fourth photo: The umbrella from the outside.
Fifth photo: A large poster advertising the 56th annual Bad Hersfeld Festival in the summer of 2006.
Here are the two statues together:
Konrad Zuse (1910-1995), the inventor of the computer, whom I described on my Bad Hersfeld intro page, and Konrad Duden (1829-1911).
Hardly anybody in Germany has ever heard of Zuse (ask a few people on the street if you don't believe me), but Duden's name is a household word because of the standard German spelling dictionary which is commonly referred to as "The Duden" -- he wrote the first edition of it himself, and completed it in 1880.
The one on my desk in front of me is the 21st edition, published in 1996 and incorporating a controversial spelling reform which was promulgated in that year.
Second photo: The Konrad Duden School in Bad Hersfeld. Duden was the Director of this school from 1876 to 1905.
Third photo: The Konrad Duden Museum, next door to the school. This small museum is only open on Sunday afternoons, so if you wanted to go inside you would have to plan your trip accordingly.
Operas in Bad Hersfeld take place in the picturesque ruins of this ancient church, first built for a monastery between 831 and 850.
This was of course a Catholic monastery at the time, but on May 1, 1521, Martin Luther came to Hersfeld and held sermons here, with the result that two years later the city became Protestant.
The second, third and fourth photos on this tip show the Stiftsruine from the other three sides.
The fifth photo shows audience members entering the Stiftsruine for an opera performance at the Bad Hersfeld Festival.
Bad Hersfeld has a number of fine half-timbered houses to look at, such as this one on the street called Neumarkt, near the Konrad Duden School. This particular house is the home of a folk music pub called "Sandy's Leierkasten".
Duden would turn over in his grave, by the way, if he could see the apostrophe in "Sandy's" -- that's a recent import from the English, and is frowned upon by German language purists. (Speaking of Duden's grave, it can still be seen at the cemetery here in Bad Hersfeld, even though he spent his retirement years in Wiesbaden.)
Second photo: The City Hall and church in the center of Bad Hersfeld.
The City Museum in Bad Hersfeld, just off to the side of the Stiftsruine, has exhibits on the history of the region, the monastery and the town, and also shows how millers and artisans used to work in this area in previous centuries.
Admission is free. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 17:00.
This little museum has a nice display of town history, history about how the Catholic Church played an immense role in developing this area, and all about the Charity Church (Stiftskirche) that once was here, and history about how people lived and worked in Bad Hersfeld. Sometimes that have special art exhibits, too.
Open: From Tu-Su from 10-12, and from 3 pm- 5 pm. Group tours are available upon request. Admission is free.
Herzberg Castle is not directly in Bad Hersfeld - it's just a short distance away - but well worth visiting, especially in the summer, when they have their Knights in Shining Armor Pagents.
The castle was built by the Lords of Romrod, in a part of the country known as the "shortcut through Hessen". Heinrich von Romrod owned the land on Herzberg (Heart Mountain), and his son, Frederick von Romrod, later known as Frederick von Herzberg, built a castle here (1372). It was very strategic, because this used to be a busy trade route - the shortcut through Hessen.
Royalty still occupy the castle. The Free Lords of Doernberg are now lords of the castle.
The knights in shining armour pagents are scheduled for July 3-4, 2004 and September 11-12, 2004.
In the castle, you can visit a museum which gives more information about the castle and its history.
WARNING: This castle is haunted!
Any town in Germany that writes "Bad" in front of their name means that it's a spa town. "Bad" is the German word for "bath", or in this case, "spa". Hersfeld is no different. They have a spa and wellness center here, with a number of package programs, if you would like to a nice "chill out" day on your way through Germany.
At the moment their package deals are being remodeled, but new information will be available soon, so that you can take advantage of one of the multiple wellness packages that fits your budget or likings.
The spa offers the whole works as far as spas go - everything from Fango, to special exercise, to iron packings, to hot air therapy.
This castle, as opposed to most castles, was not built by knights, dukes or kings - it was built by Abbots. The moated palace, known back then as "zu den Eychen" (to the oaks) was started by Abbot Ludwig von Mansbach in 1328 and finished by Abbot Berthold von V?lkershausen in 1372. This castle used to be the constant site of feuds between the Church clergy and the citizens of Bad Hersfeld. Abbot Ludwig Landau had the entire place redecorated in 1572, adding lots of half-timbered housing to it. Abbot Ludwig set his own memorial by adding his coat of arms to the wall of the building.
Unfortunately, this is not a castle you can visit. Today the "Hessian Research & Educational Institute for Green Landscapes and Feed Farming" have their offices here. Still, it's a nice place to look at.
Bad Hersfeld is famous for its open air play pagent or festival. Traditionally, it's held in the ruins of the Charity Church (Stiftskirche), and attracts famous international, as well as famous national works and artists. For example, you can see Andrew Lloyd Weber's and Tim Rice's famous musical "Jesus Christ Superstar", which plays this year between June 22nd and August 8th. Other works include "Jungle Book" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream".