In addition to the big productions in the main part of the castle, they have also started doing smaller late-night shows in the castle cellar, in a room which seats exactly one hundred people.
This summer they are doing a "grusical" down there, entitled "Shakespeare, Murderers, Pulp and Fiction", as well as a series of "erotic readings".
In 2003 down there in the cellar I saw a brilliant production, starring Sabine Fischmann, of the musical Heute Abend Lola Blau (This Evening Lola Blau), by the Austrian composer, author and cabaret artist Georg Kreisler (1922-2011).
Lola Blau in this musical is a young Jewish actress and singer who is caught totally unawares when the Nazis take over Austria in 1938. She has to flee the country, loses track of her boyfriend in the general confusion, gets a cold welcome in Switzerland, earns her passage to America by singing on shipboard for the first class passengers and the Jewish people in steerage, and has a huge career as a singer in America (here Georg Kreisler has written a very funny and satirical song in English called "Sex is a Wonderful Habit" -- otherwise the show is all in German). After the war she returns to Vienna and gets reunited with her boyfriend, who has survived a concentration camp. But she can't get roles in the theaters, despite hilarious efforts to do so, and ends up singing bitter but very funny songs in a small cabaret.
This is essentially a one-woman show (Kreisler wrote it twenty-some years ago for his then-wife), and is a brilliant tour-de-force for any singer-actress who can pull it off. Besides Sabine Fischmann, I have also seen Ingrid El Sigai perform it with the Kammeroper Frankfurt.
This year's Castle Festival (Burgfestspiele) in Bad Vilbel includes a new production of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (in German translation) as well as Maria Stuart by Friedrich Schiller and a number of other dramatic and musical productions (but no operas, sorry).
There are also plays for children in the afternoons, and literary matinees on Sunday mornings.
Altogether there are over 150 performances on the program, which runs from June 6 to September 4, 2005.
Update: In the summer of 2007 their program will include the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (in German) and the play Gefährliche Liebschaften by Christopher Hampton (1985), based on the novel Les liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos (1782). Last year in Metz I saw a French opera based on this same book.
Another update: In the summer of 2010 the Castle Festival program will include another play by Friedrich Schiller, The Robbers (Die Räuber), which was later made into an Italian opera called I masnadieri by Giuseppe Verdi. This is one of Verdi's lesser known operas. I saw it for the first time at the Frankfurt Opera in 2008. The premiere of I masnadieri in Frankfurt was memorable because the orchestra was out on strike that weekend (highly unusual in Germany, though it happens in Italy all the time) so pianists Felice Venanzoni and Karsten Januschke saved the premiere by taking turns as accompanists on a grand piano in the orchestra pit.
This covered bridge across the Nidda was built quite recently (in the 1990s, I believe) to connect the two main cultural venues of Bad Vilbel, the Castle and the Old Mill.
What’s so bad about a town like Bad Vilbel?
Click on the link below to find out.
Bad Vilbel is mainly just a suburb of Frankfurt, with boring housing developments and several bottling plants for mineral water, but I often cycle there because it's close by and there are two nice cycling routes to get there and back, one along the Nidda River and one through quiet streets and fields.
So that's where I go when I have no particular destination and just want to ride around a bit.
It takes about half an hour from my house in Frankfurt to the border of Bad Vilbel, and another ten minutes to the castle.
If your bicycle has a flat tire or something you could always take the train to Bad Vilbel.
The S6 suburban train (S-Bahn) in the direction of Friedberg goes there four times an hour on weekdays, but only once or twice an hour in the evenings and on weekends.
The train stops twice in Bad Vilbel. To go to the castle or the old mill, get off at the second stop (Bad Vilbel Bahnhof, not Süd).
From the center of Frankfurt there is also an express bus to Bad Vilbel, line number 30. For the castle or the old mill, get off at the stop Altes Rathaus (=old town hall).