City (pop., 2001 est.: 74,500), east-central Germany. It is situated northeast of Nürnberg. Founded in 1194 under Bishop Otto II of Bamberg, it came under the burgrave of Nürnberg in 1248–1398 and the margraves of Brandenburg-Kulmbach in 1603–1769. The margraves patronized the arts and commissioned many Baroque buildings that still exist. It was ceded to Prussia in 1791, captured by Napoleon in 1806, and passed to Bavaria in 1810. Composer Richard Wagner settled there in 1872 and designed the Festspielhaus, where Wagner festivals have been held since its opening in 1876. Manufactures include machinery, textiles, chemicals, pianos, porcelain, and glassware.
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The turning point of the town's history was in 1603, when Margrave Christian of Kulmbach (Brandenburg-Kulmbach) decided to move his residence to Bayreuth. The development of the new capital stagnated due to the Thirty Years' War, but afterwards many famous baroque buildings were added to the town. Christian died in 1655. His grandson Christian Ernst, who ruled from 1661 until 1712, was an educated and well-travelled man, whose tutor had been the statesman Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal. He had built the fountain of the margraves and an equestral monument, placed at first in the courtyard of the Old Castle and now in the middle of the square in front of the New Castle. In 1701 the town of St. Georgen was founded, later absorbed into Bayreuth in 1811.
Bayreuth's Golden Age was that during the reign of Margravine Wilhelmine, the favourite sister of King Frederick II of Prussia. Several parks and castles were built which constitute much of Bayreuth's present appearance, together with the Opera of the Margraves, the most beautiful extant baroque theatre in Europe.
In 1769 the last margrave of the Principality of Bayreuth died without an heir, and the state was annexed by the neighbouring Principality of Ansbach. Bayreuth was no longer a state capital. Soon after it became Prussian (1792), French (1806) and finally Bavarian (1810).
In 1804, the author Jean Paul Richter moved from Coburg to Bayreuth until his death in 1825.
In 1872 the composer Richard Wagner moved to Bayreuth. For the connection between Wagner and the town, see below.
Later Bayreuth became a scene of the Nazi ideology. Nazi leaders often visited the Wagner festival and tried to turn Bayreuth into a Nazi model town. It was one of several cities in which town planning was administered directly from Berlin, due to Hitler's special interest in the town and in the festival. Hitler loved the music of Richard Wagner, and he became a close friend to Winifred Wagner after she took over the Bayreuth Festival. Hitler frequently attended Wagner performances in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.
During World War II, a subcamp of Flossenburg concentration camp was located here. Bayreuth was heavily bombed at the end of World War II. One third of the city was destroyed and about a thousand people died.
After the war Bayreuth tried to part with its ill-fated past. The Wagner festival started again in 1951. In 1975 the University of Bayreuth was founded and largely contributed to the further growth of the town. In 1999 the world gliding championship took place at Bayreuth municipal airport.
Every summer, Wagner's operas are performed at the Festspielhaus during the month-long Richard Wagner Festival, commonly known as the Bayreuth Festival. The Festival draws thousands of attendees each year, and has consistently been sold-out since its inauguration in 1876. Currently, waiting lists for tickets can stretch for up to 10 years or more.
Owing to Wagner's relationship with the then unknown philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, the first Bayreuth festival is situated as a key turning point in Nietzsche's philosophical development. Though at first an enthusiastic champion of Wagner's music, Nietzsche ultimately became hostile, viewing the festival and its revellers as symptom of cultural decay and bourgeoisie decadence -- an event which lead him to turn his eye upon the esteemed values of morality held by society as a whole. Nietzsche's book "Human, All-Too-Human" developed out of this experience, a summary of which appears in his late book, "Ecce Homo", and where many of these concerns are expounded upon in garrulous detail.