The death of Wolfgang Wagner, announced Sunday night, ends a post-war era at Bayreuth that was almost as unpleasant as the Nazism that preceded it. Wolfgang, with his brother Wieland, conspired in covering up the family’s collaboration with Hitler, which included the operation of a small concentration camp in the grounds of the Bayreuth Festival.
Any independent attempt to investigate Bayreuth’s history was stamped on by the sitting heir, who ruled the estate single-handed for half a century.
Wolfgang’s death, at 90, brings the possibility of fresh air into the stagnant festival, presently run by his youngest child Katharina Wagner and her half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier in a diplomatic compromise that is unlikely to last the test of time. Wolfgang was a petty dictator, modelled on a brutal one. As a stage director he was risible, a regressive shadow of his adventurous brother.
For the best account of his regime, read Jonathan Carr’s book on The Wagner Dynasty. For news of the death, see Bloomberg Muse.