BAYREUTH - Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has become a hate figure across much of Europe for her strict austerity drive, put her money where her mouth is and wore an old dress for the Bayreuth Festival.
Merkel, who topped the guest list for the glittering opening gala of the legendary music festival late Wednesday, wore the same metallic blue dress that she appeared in four years ago.
And the national press was quick to pick up and heap praise on Merkel's thriftiness.
"The cost-cutting chancellor recycles her dress," ran the headline in the mass-circulation daily Bild.
The regional Berliner Zeitung pointed out that Merkel last wore the dress in the crisis year of 2008 and the Frankfurter Rundschau said: "It's a time of belt-tightening for everyone."
The weekly magazine Der Spiegel, in its online edition, said that by choosing to wear an old dress, Merkel was practicing what she preached in these times of crisis: "frugality and down-to-earthness."
Nevertheless, the chancellor was carrying a black handbag, rather than the blue purse she had sported four years ago and also wore different shoes, the magazine noted.
Merkel has long been a regular at the annual month-long music festival dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner, even before she became chancellor.
Polls show she remains one of Germany's most popular politicians -- partly because of her austerity-led approach to the eurozone crisis -- and she was swamped with requests to sign autographs as she arrived at the event.
This year's opening night was the premiere of a new production of "The Flying Dutchman" that was hit by scandal when the Russian opera star cast in the title role pulled out just four days before the curtain was due to go up.
In the end, South Korean bass-baritone Samuel Youn stepped in to salvage the night and received tumultuous applause.
By contrast, the artistic team, under director Jan Philipp Gloger, was loudly booed.
After the performance, Merkel praised the musical performances, but said nothing about the staging.