Founded in 1946, one year after World War II, the festival presents a wide variety of musical and theatrical events in several venues:
- Seebühne (or floating stage), with its 7,000 seat open-air amphitheatre , is the location for large-scale opera or musical performances on a stage over water on the shores of Lake Constance.
- Opera or musical productions on the floating stage generally tend to come from the popular operatic repertoire, but often are extravagantly original and innovative productions/ stagings, frequently using the waters of the lake as an extension of the stage. Recent productions have included Aida by Giuseppe Verdi in 2009 & 2010; Tosca by Giacomo Puccini in 2007–2008; Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi in 2005–2006; West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein in 2003-2004; La bohème by Giacomo Puccini in 2001–2002, and Ein Maskenball (Un ballo in maschera) by Giuseppe Verdi in 1999–2000.
- Festspielhaus presents performances of rarely performed opera and concerts.
- Werkstattbühne presents performances of contemporary theatre and opera.
- Theater am Kornmarkt presents operetta and drama performances.
- shed8/Theater Kosmos venue for drama and crossculture performances.
The Festival became an international event in its first year 1946. People from Germany, Switzerland and France came to the festival. Two stages were created out of floating barges. One barge for the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the other barge for carrying stage structures.
The Vienna Symphony Orchestra is the biggest contributor to the Festival. This orchestra has a performance spot every year since the beginning of the festival. They have their own stage area and other venues used thorough out the festival. Every year the orchestra has a different conductor for each piece because it is considered the conductors performance. Kornmarktplatz, vorarlberg museum is the venture they are using for the 2016 Festival.
Since December 2003, David Pountney has been the artistic director of the festival.
In 2010, the festival offered about 100 performances that drew an audience of close to 200,000.
Over April and May 2008, scenes for the 22nd James Bond film Quantum of Solace were filmed on the Seebühne during a performance of Tosca and in June 2008 the German broadcasting corporation ZDF hosted its 2008 European Football Championship live broadcast studio on the floating stage.
In 2001, the festival created a handful of contemporary arts events to go along with their usual performances. These events were a new collaboration with the Kunsthaus Bregenz that revolved around the theme of "America of the 20th century", and The Art of Our Times program, also known as KAZ, that brought together contemporary theatre with Workshop Theatre while collaborating with Hamburg’s Thalia Theater. Other add-ons that the festival created for more variety and entertainment are the Children's Festival, the opera and band workshops, and family and school-group concerts.
Throughout the seasons, the festival puts on many different performances; from operas to plays and orchestral pieces. The performances range in theme and story and many are performed in consecutive seasons. The full list of shows performed is as follows:
- 2015- Turandot, The Tales of Hoffman, The Golden Dragon
- 2014- The Magic Flute, Gloria von Jaxtberg (Gloria- A Pig Tale), Le Rossignol (the nightingale), L’Hirondelle inattendue ('The Unexpected Swallow'), Der Schauspieldirektor ('The Impresario')
- 2013- The Magic Flute, The Merchant of Venice, The Wasp Factory, American Lulu
- 2012- André Chénier, Nico and the Navigators, Panta rhei – everything flows!
- 2011- André Chénier, Achterbahn, Children of the Sun, Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God, As If Stranger, The magical sound and the scoundrels
- 2010- Aida, The Passenger, Jacob's Room
- 2009- Aida, King Roger, Of Thee I Sing, Skin Deep, My Musig
- 2008- Tosca, Karl V (opera)
- 2007- Tosca, Death in Venice, Dangerous Liaisons, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Shops, Playing Away
- 2006- Il trovatore
- 2005- Il trovatore, Der Lustige Krieg, Maskerade
- 2004- West Side Story, The Protagonist and Royal Palace, Der Kuhhandel, The Story of Io
- 2003- West Side Story, The Cunning Little Vixen, Die schöne Wunde, Nacht und Träume
- 2002 and 2001- La Bohème, Of Mice and Men
- 2000 and 1999- A Masked Ball, Greek Passion, The Golden Cockerel, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank (‘The Diary of Anne Frank’), Tango Operita
- 1998 and 1997- Porgy and Bess
- 1996 and 1995- Fidelio, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh
- 1994 and 1993- Nabucco
- 1985- The Magic Flute
- 1972- Der Bettelstudent, Die Feenkönigin
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