an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Katie Wagner, losing it, walks out on Israeli interview

The Bayreuth co-boss got asked about the Nazi-saluting director, Jonathan Meese, whom she has booked for Parsifal in 2016. Pressure must be getting to her.

Read the interview here.

“I told her that because we had very little time left, I would get straight to the questions that interest Israelis. She nodded yes. Referring to the German performance artist accused of making Nazi salutes, I said, ‘I wanted to ask you about Jonathan Meese…’ – and she got up and left.” 

jonathan meese

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Abigail Clifford says:

    I would get straight to the questions that interest Israelis,

    Katie Wagner did the right thing. Why should she have answered that question? Surely most cultured intelligent Israelis care more about Wagner as an iconic composer, his immense influence on the future of music than stupid inane tiddle taddle that is so time wasting to everyone.

    • i agree, very presumptuous question indeed.

    • Given that the Israelis are surrounded by enemies who constantly threaten to destroy them (and whose rhetoric revolves around killing, not “the Israelis”, but “the Jews”), I suspect that the question interests many Israelis.

    • Bassolirico says:

      Bayreuth has become one of the fortresses of opera art denigration in Germany. More relevant than ever are the words of Ferruccio Furlanetto concerning the singers being professionals in the hands of amateurs (like Konwischny, Castorf & Meese). K. Wagner is one of the promotors of this decadence force-fed through the manners of a well-meditated method, her attitude tells everything.

    • legin buddha says:

      @Abigail Clifford. Nazi salutes should be taken seriously and questioned at every opportunity. Those who think otherwise, at least in this context, are, to ridiculously understate it, unrefined. Wagner has a cultural association with one of darkest, most evil phenomenons in modern history. That you consider proper due being given to the horror that this “salute” represents as “stupid inane tiddle taddle” and a “waste of time” is to minimize this evil as a mere inconvenience. Your resistance here is the “waste of time to everyone”. Morally, it is far worse than a waste of time.

    • Abigail Clifford, why is it “time-wasting” and “stupid inane tiddle taddle” for a journalist to ask a festival director about their choice of a stage director?

  2. Shame on Kathie. She continues her granny`s tradition…..

    • Whitehurst says:

      Absolutely! It was a fair question.

    • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

      Mordi, coming to the defense of Winifred: she may have been a Nazi from early on, indeed from the time of Hitler’s first visit to the city of Bayreuth, when Siegfried and Cosima both did NOT join the party but Winifred, Chamberlain, and the others did, HOWEVER, she was very respectful of the integrity of the musical presentations and relied on Tietjens to handled the stagings which they apparently were always fine. Indeed, it was Winifred who championed Toscanini over everybody else and who begged him to return after he turned down his engagement due to the Nazi policies barring jewish musicians. Winifred was shrewd, even in her handling of Hitler, and knew when to rely on the musical and dramatic skills of others. Katrina is a nothing who thinks knows it all. Disgraceful. What needs to happen is for Thielemann to walk out.

      • Cosima joining “the party”? She was born in 1837…

        • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

          David, Cosima died in 1930, followed by Siegfried 6 months later.

          The Nazi Party was founded in 1920. They held a big rally in Bayreuth in the early 1920′s which was Hitler’s first meeting with the Wagner family. Note that Houston Stewart Chamberlain, English “racial theorist” married to one of the Wagner daughters and living with her in Bayreuth, was a big attraction for Hitler. As I said earlier, at that early date Winifred and others in the Wagner family present those days in Bayreuth joined the party, with the sole exceptions of Siegfried and Cosima. Also note that the Nazi rally in question was at dates entirely apart from the Festival. When it comes to running the Festival, Katrina could learn a lot from Winnifred.

          • Gurnemanz says:

            Cosima would have joined, if only, as David H. pointed out already, she had not gone senile already.

        • José Bergher says:

          Cosima died in 1930.

          • Yes, but she had retired in 1906 and by the time little Adolf was the new friend of the house pretty much had lost the marbles in her attic.

  3. Sounds like she handled this badly. But you’ve got to say, surely nobody can suggest that Jonathan Meese is a nazi sympathiser. I mean look at the photo…

  4. Basia Jaworski says:

    Did you ever asked an Israeli about this? Did you, Abigail?
    I am very afraid you even don’t know the history, otherwise you’ve never made a comment like this.

    The journalist has all the rights to ask her question and it was no more then normal to get the answer.
    Walking away….. Easy. Very easy …

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Agreed completely. This pooh-pooh reaction can be called a good many things, but “legitimate” certainly isn’t one of them.

  5. Abigail, fair enough view – but in that case she could have said something along the lines of your comment – taking about 30 seconds of her so valuable time – rather than simply walk out, which is downright rude.

  6. Abigail Clifford says:

    Mordi, you comparison of Kathie Wagner with tha arch facist and Winifred Wagner, is completely overblown and unnecessary.

    • Being a young Jew from Germany I feel very scared when I see things like that one. I once again see that there is no furure in this country, and people have not learned from the past!

      • Mordi, Are you actually saying that the photo of Meese satirically giving the Hitler salute suggests to you that Germans are still prone to Nazi sympathies? Surely you are kidding.

        • I referred to the reaction of Katharina W, not of Meese, who obviously has some sirious issues….if we give him a forum, it is our fault if he gets famous. The Hitlergruss I wouldn’t t call satiric – it is just stupid and tasteless..

  7. I agree with Abigail Clifford, this sort of baiting should be ignored.

  8. harold braun says:

    Oh my,what a wimp!

  9. Edwin Baumgartner says:

    Maybe, what Meese does, is sort of an ironic postmodernistic play with nazi-symbols. But Bayreuth’s connection with nazism is too close not to ask one of the co-bosses about Meese, because even if Meese mocks about nazism (and I hope that he does), I’m not quite sure, if Bayreuth is the right place for these jokes. In my opinion, one could (mis-)understand this also as an offer to late and new nazis.

  10. Well, if you hire a contoversial director, you should be able to deal with controversy.

  11. Israelis are actually very concerned about Nazism becoming just another cultural signifier, which seems to be a trend in Germany now. So I don’t think the question was out of place.

  12. Fourth Norn says:

    The Bayreuth Festival’s most serious weakness is that it continues to be run by Wagner family members. This was never Richard Wagner’s intention (he never intended that Cosima should take over, had reservations about his young son Siegfried’s ability or interest in doing so and, had he lived longer, probably would have given the job to Angelo Neumann). Bayreuth desperately needs to have a professional, non-family member running the show, and the present co-managers should not have their contracts extended beyond 2015.

    • The Oracle says:

      Angelo Neumann was Bohemian and Jewish.

      • Gurnemanz says:

        Believe it or not, when it came to handling his music such things bore little or no importance to Wagner. Not to mention Wagner’s high opinion of Neumann in particular. Fourth Norn basically got it right, although I can not imagine how Wagner could reach such a conclusion about Siegfried who was 14 at the time of his father’s death.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Google who conducted the premiere of Parsifal in Bayreuth.

    • Absolutely, and that is what will happen in the not so distant future. Bayreuth will be managed by professionals, not by family members.

  13. Neil van der Linden says:

    If the underlying tone is all what Mr Salzberg says in this sentence: “Given that the Israelis are surrounded by enemies who constantly threaten to destroy them (and whose rhetoric revolves around killing, not “the Israelis”, but “the Jews”), I suspect that the question interests many Israelis.”, I can imagine that somebody decides that ten minutes would be too short, even if it was due to the persons own fault that only ten minutes remained.
    However meanwhile not only Israelis, but other people as well would like to know why of all possible options Katie Wagner had chosen this director to come to Bayreuth.
    Even if she is a blood-relative, Katie Wagner is from a completely different time and upbringing than Cosima and Winnifred Wagner, so her mindset is most probably completely and absolutely different.
    Moreover Cosima and Winnifred were ultra-reactionary and traditionalist and would never have invited such iconoclastic directors, especially not Mr Meese, who, with whatever logic, stirs up a part of the past that persons with the mindset of Cosima and Winnifred would rather deny.
    It seems that Meese wants to provoke with his work. This is not new of course. It has been done before in often very subtle and yet throughout-provoking ways in opera and spoken theatre by German directors Peter Stein, Harry Kupfer, Jürgen Flimm and many more, as well as in Bayreuth by Gotz Friedrich and most notably by Patrice Chereau in his centenary Ring with Peter Stein. Now with Castorf en next Meese we seem to be in times of aphorisms and more one-dimensional strong symbols. Maybe directors are shouting louder in order to try to find a remaining niche or to be heard at all, maybe it is also because of a loss of a sense of direction in where stage art could go or an idea in the management of Bayreuth of anything goes as long as they are being talked about. But I am quite sure that Mrs Katie Wagner is not a hidden Nazi, but that she rather wants to provoke a still uncomfortable memory of a hideous past in the house. Chereau and Boulez were able not to sacrifice everything else to one message. Instead their whole narrative underlined a more subtle message of that past, and so they hit harder than most shock-therapy directors ever did. By the way their Ring was initially also met with boos. But that was in 1978, when perhaps there were more people still around with memories on the wrong side.
    A pity that Katie Wagner did not find the time to answer any of this for the moment and that she just walked out. But fact is that she had the impression that it was not going to be an interview, while what I read in the article indicates an interview.

  14. Avi Jacobson says:

    This snippet of a quotation leaves out the most pertinent detail as posted by the Israeli journalist herself. ( Ms. Shehori was specifically instructed that she was being granted a “meeting” with Ms. Wagner, and that Ms. Wagner was not conducting any interviews at all. The Israeli journalist provocatively began the meeting by announcing that she was going to ask Ms. Wagner some questions on tape. When Shehori did so, Ms. Wagner walked out. I would have done the same, and I, too, am Israeli.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      As much as I dislike Katharina Wagner, if this is true then she has my sympathy. What this journalist did was unethical and immoral.

      But I can not help but wonder what was the purpose of this “meeting” that was not supposed to be an interview. Surely, she wasn’t expecting for the reporter to write something along the line of “I met Katharina Wagner. Full stop.”

      • “What this journalist did was unethical and immoral.”

        The journalist asked a festival director about their choice of stage director.
        What on earth is unethical and immoral about that?

        • Gurnemanz says:

          She asked in a form of a taped interview even though it was agreed otherwise prior to the meeting. That is what is unethical and immoral.

          • A festival director agrees to meet a journalist, who clearly identifies herself as such.
            Katharina Wagner is media-savvy enough to know that the meeting isn’t going to be a cosy get-together to swap hair-bleaching tips.
            If she’s not prepared to answer any questions, then she shouldn’t have agreed to meet the journalist in the first place.
            If you’re a journalist, you’re only doing your job by asking questions.
            And the journalist was ethical enough to ask Katharina whether she was OK in having her answers recorded on tape.
            Nothing unethical or immoral about that.
            Like I said, Katharina is not obliged to answer any questions, ahtough you could say that is part of — and comes with — the job.
            But if she agrees to meet a journalist then she can’t complain when that journalist asks questions.

          • Gurnemanz says:

            I already said that Katharina was a bit careless when arranging the meeting but that does not change the fact that it is the journalist who is in the wrong here. It is irrelevant that she asked her if she could tape because it was understood under the terms agreed beforehand that she simply wouldn’t.

          • That’s not what journalism is about, I’m afraid.
            I think you’re mistaking the journalist for a mere PR lackey.

          • Gurnemanz says:

            Silly me to believe that journalists should keep their word…

  15. Istvan Horthy says:

    “Patrice Chereau in his centenary Ring with Peter Stein.”

    Correction: Peter Stein was invited to do the 1976 “Ring” by Wolfgang Wagner but he declined the offer and Patrice Chéreau was invited instead.

  16. David Boxwell says:

    This interview had “disaster” written all over it from the get-go.

an ArtsJournal blog