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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.
Updated Sep 15, 2012
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.
Updated Jun 9, 2010
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?
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Updated Feb 24, 2010
The Old Town Hall, in the center of Bad Vilbel, is a half-timbered building which has been carefully renovated, as have some of the other buildings in the nearby Frankfurter Strasse.
Second photo: A closer look at the freshly painted Old Town Hall.
Third photo: Near the old town hall there is a fountain and a sitting statue of Friedrich Grosholz (1810-1888), who was the first to market the local mineral water in the nineteenth century, thus beginning Bad Vilbel's most important industry.
Fourth photo: Nearby there is a small street named after Friedrich Grosholz.
Updated May 7, 2006
Just across the Nidda from the castle is a newish-looking building which for some reason is called the Alte Muehle or Old Mill (I suppose there was once a mill here, no sign of any now, though, as far as I can see) which is a cultural center with a small theater and a very popular restaurant.
This is one of the places where you can see "Mozart Motz-Art so zart", a lively celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday by three mainstays of the local classical music cabaret scene, Ingrid El Sigai, Markus Neumeyer und Frank Wolff, which they also perform at the Stahlburg Theater in Frankfurt.
Updated Apr 4, 2006
Address: Kulturzentrum Alte Muehle, Lohstrasse 13
The castle in Bad Vilbel is a "water castle", which means that it is located down in the valley and has a moat around it.
The oldest parts of the castle date from the 12th century. The original castle was destroyed in 1399, but later rebuilt in a bigger and better form. It was again destroyed in a siege in 1796, and remained a ruin after that.
Since 1987 the castle has been used every summer as the venue for the Burgfestspiele or Castle Festival.
What I didn't know until recently is that the current moat around the castle only dates from the 1950s, which is when the castle was bought by the city of Bad Vilbel.
In retrospect, it was not a good idea to keep the moat full of water for the past half-century, because the ancient sandstone walls are now very damp and starting to crumble, so a major restoration project is now being planned. This will include draining the moat and incorporating it into the surrounding park.
Updated Aug 21, 2005
The seats down front, closest to the stage -- to the left in the photo -- are the second cheapest (category D), because they are the only ones that don't have a roof over them. If the weather seems uncertain, a lady comes around and distributes free plastic raincoats (which cost EUR 0,50 in Weikersheim, by the way) to everyone sitting down in that section.
The night I was in Bad Vilbel to see Maria Stuart it did indeed start drizzling a couple times, but since the stage and most of the bleachers are roofed over, they just kept on playing. They say they will perform in "almost any weather" but I don't know where they draw the line.
(I also ride my bicycle in almost any weather, but on this particular evening the rain had stopped by the time the play was over. so I didn't even have to get out my rain gear when I started cycling back home along the banks of the Nidda.)
Updated Aug 8, 2005
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.
Updated Sep 15, 2012
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).
Updated Aug 7, 2005