The Bayreuth Saga
The critic Shirley Apthorp is surely right (in Bloomberg News, relayed by Musical America) that the Bayreuth Festival succession saga is more thrilling to most Germans than any soap opera, maybe even than Wagner's mere operas. Whether Wolfgang Wagner's proposal that Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 63 (his daughter from his first marriage) share power with Katharina Wagner, 29 (his daughter from his second marriage) is his "last joke" is more open to question. (The proposal leaves Nike Wagner, Wolfgang's brother Wieland's daughter, out in the cold, but there seems precious little likelihood she could ever work with Katharina.)
Apthorp quotes the Bayreuth press spokesman as saying that Eva and Katharina are getting along better now, and Eva has apparently made renewed contact wiht her long-estranged father. From what I hear, that's true. What I hear is not, by the way, from Eva, who's a terrific person. We had drinks a few weeks ago in New York and I had the forebearance (farewell, reportorial instincts) and she had the discretion not to mention one word about Bayreuth for the entire hour.
The real question, assuming everyone including the controlling foundation signs off on this deal, is how it will work. Will Eva or Katharina actually or titularly be above the other in the pecking order? How will they get along with Christian Thielemann (the imperious conductor) and Peter Ruzicka (the composer and ex head of the Salzburg Festival) in the day-to-day operation? It's hard to imagine all these egos (not Eva's so much, or maybe even Katharina's) as working together without a clear hierarchy in place. It's even harder to imagine that this rapprochement would have had a chance before the sudden death of Gudrun, Wolfgang's second wife and hence Katharina's mom. Does everyone have their scorecards handy?
For those of us who love Wagner and Bayreuth, anything would be better than the previous entropy and stasis. So let us fervently hope that Eva and Katharina get along in sisterly harmony and that the two men can help them facilitate their ideas without getting in the way.
For an ongoing conversation and news reports about arts journalism, go to the blog of the National Arts Journalism Program, here.