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St. Galler Festspiele offers an outdoor opera experience

I’ve always wanted to go to the opera. I think it started when I saw the movie “Pretty Woman,” and I am glad that this is the only desire this movie ignited in me.

When the opportunity came up to see an outdoor opera in St. Gallen, I jumped on it. And to make it even better, this opera is based on one of my favorite stories: Notre Dame! After a year and a half in lockdown, I can relate to Quasimodo on a whole new level.

The Einstein Hotel in St. Gallen has it all

My friend Shirley and I were offered to lodge at the Einstein Hotel in St.Gallen. How would I rate our stay? It’s relative... Of course, I am kidding: it was top-notch. The Einstein Hotel staff was simply amazing. I cannot remember another hotel that combines luxury and friendliness so perfectly.

Once we had dropped our luggage in the room, we dashed straight to the hotel’s spa. There was a traditional Finnish sauna and a steam bath. But my favorite of all was the crystal bath. At 36°C, it was just the perfect temperature to relax without having a flashback from the last time my mom cooked lobsters.

Our stay happened to be during Shirley’s birthday. The hotel’s staff seized every opportunity to make her day special. From a little surprise in the room to a cake and inflated balloon during the dinner... The waiter was so committed, he was about to sing “Happy Birthday” in every language - but Shirley managed to stop him.

The dishes served at the in-house Bistro St. Gallen were exquisite. They had great vegetarian options, as well as a good selection of wines. Important to know for the foodies: the hotel’s own Restaurant Einstein Gourmet has two Michelin stars and 18 GaultMillau points - I will definitely go back to have a taste of it!

Notre Dame at St. Galler Festspiele

St. Galler Festspiele is a two-week long festival in St. Gallen. The nightly outdoor opera takes place in the Abbey District which was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1983.

The stage is located right in front of the magnificent St. Gallen Cathedral. The setting alone added an extra dimension to the performance of Notre Dame.

The piece was composed by Franz Schmidt (1874–1939) and is rarely performed outside of the Austrian capital. It was truly interesting to see this type of production taking place in the outdoors - in Switzerland! There was even a bird that decided to contribute to the first few songs...

The sheer proximity to the performers left an impression on me. They were almost dancing on my laps, giving me a feeling of immersion in the play. The costumes, lights, and live symphony orchestra were awe-inspiring.

That being said, I do have some recommendations. Firstly, the performance is outdoors with nothing but the sky above. This being Switzerland, it can get a bit chilly after dark - even for this Canadian girl. I recommend bringing a cozy sheet or at least a jacket.

St. Galler Festspiele was my first opportunity to see an opera. I was not expecting it to be so dramatic, an aspect I loved. Every emotion resonated deep inside of me.

St. Galler Festspiele 2021

The Notre Dame opera at St. Galler Festspiele is on through July 9, 2021.

After the opera, Shirley and I decided to stop by the hotel bar.

Of course, the barman would personify that signature friendliness of the Hotel Einstein St. Gallen. He also offered up his great whiskey selection.

I concluded this night of opera and birthday celebrations with the most dramatic old fashioned cocktail in my life. Needless to say, Shirley and I closed the bar...

(Feature photograph copyright Toni Suter/T+T Fotografie)

Vanessa Lépine

Vanessa is originally from Quebec, Canada. She has lived in Switzerland for a while and even knows how to speak in dialect. She's a comedian, too.

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Vanessa Lépine

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