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Which festival made the biggest noise this summer? As always…

… it was Bayreuth. As always, for almost all the wrong reasons.

The celebrity catwalk on opening night, the trivial productions, the wisps of Nazi scandal, the dead spectator in  Götterdämmerung (Riccardo Muti joked to me that, on his only visit to the Festpielhaus, he decided it was the worst place on earth to die because, with no aisles, your body would have to be passed out over the heads of the rest of the audience).

Bayreuth has made all the headlines, Salzburg and Lucerne hardly any. But that could be about to change. We hear on several grapevines that the Wagner family have been told by political friends that this cannot go on. They have one more summer to restore respect to the festival, or face the imposition of non-family management.

There is no new production in 2014, so 2015 becomes the crunch year. The clock starts ticking now. Watch this space.

bayreuth ring

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Comments

  1. “One more summer to restore respect to the festival”?
    Well, that’s going to be difficult since next season there will be no new production.
    The next new production won’t be until 2015 when Katharina Wagner is to direct “Tristan”.
    And then it’ll be Jonathan Meese with “Parsifal” in 2016.

    • Perhaps I should have made it clearer that 2015 is the deadline. I’ll do it right away.

      • Strictly between you and me, I don’t think her “Tristan” will save the festival either, judging by her “Dutchman” in Würzburg, her “Rienzi” in Bremen and her “Meistersinger” in Bayreuth.
        And I know we mustn’t pre-judge, but I really can’t believe Meese is going to save the day for “Parsifal” in 2016, either.
        Dear me.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      “The next new production won’t be until 2015 when Katharina Wagner is to direct “Tristan”.”

      In that case, stick a fork in Bayreuth, it’s done.

  2. harold braun says:

    Much ado about nothing…

  3. Gurnemanz says:

    “They have one more summer to restore respect to the festival, or face the imposition of non-family management.”

    Well, since the former is about as likely as Richard Dawkins professing faith in God, the sooner the latter happens the better.

  4. observing says:

    It depends what you mean by headlines. If you mean scandals, then you might have missed the good news that Salzburg had a fabulous run this year with its Falstaff, Meistersinger, Don Carlo, Harrison Birtwistle’s Gawain, and the under-reported, delightful Midsummer Night’s Dream (with the Mendelssohn music) in a new translation–all of which were shown more or less live on TV. The New York Times reviewed Falstaff and Meistersinger, not just the Bayreuth fare. Pereira’s last season might not have made headlines, but everyone’s talking about it.

  5. David Boxwell says:

    Meanwhile, in Seattle, we are all having a good time this month: climate-controlled performance space, an excellent production that actually respected Wagner’s own conception of the work, pretty decent (and frequenly outstanding) singing and conducting, beautiful sunny weather, and several hundred restaurants to choose from.

    Bayreuth couldn’t offer any of the same this bicentennial year–only its notoriety, past and present. Feh.

  6. Gonout Backson says:

    And then they’ll hire Gérard Mortier whose name has been mentioned before…

  7. There might be more to this than meets the eye. Whatever the quality of the productions, Bavaria has been relatively reluctant among the German states when it comes to addressing its Nazi past. I can well imagine they haven’t appreciated the explorations of recent history that have shown up in Bayreuth productions. (I remember, for example, in the mid 80s when a Dozent at the University of Munich was dismissed because of the displeasure his articles about Wagner’s anti-Semitism caused. That mentality is still alive and well.) The Bavarian government has long wanted to take over Bayreuth. They are looking for excuses. So will Bayreuth become just another sanitized Bavarian Staatsoper? Is it time for Katrina to dig out her sword, hub caps, and horned helmet?

    • Sorry. My own mistake, KATHARINA

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Dear Mr Osborne, these arguments have been answered before, and more than once. WWII ended 68 years ago. Germany has been dealing with its Nazi past for more than half a century and it most certainly didn’t wait for some theatrical quacks. There’s no place for Germany’s “recent history” on Wagnerian stage, because Wagner died 130 years ago and wrote about something else. Most of those who try to force-feed Wagner’s works with it are not moralists, but cynical, calculating businessmen. Putting some Nazis on stage in a Wagner production doesn’t make it good; it might have been thrilling thirty years ago, now it’s only boring and painfully worn out. The recent Tannhäuser by Sebastian Baumgarten (2011) doesn’t contain one single reference to the Nazi past, it’s just an unbelievable piece of crap, and rather unanimously considered as such. Any Festival Director capable to let it happen, and to keep it on stage for three seasons, is in the wrong business.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Excellent post.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          Thank you, but it would have been better in better English: “Any Festival Director capable of letting it happen, and keeping it on stage for three seasons, is in the wrong business.”

          Why do we always see these things when it’s too late?

          • Theodore McGuiver says:

            Concerning Tannhäuser, I think we all saw it as soon as it came on stage, but the decision to leave it there was, sadly, not ours to make.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Sadly, indeed. In any case, it would have been an ex post (and, in fact, an “in extremis”) decision, taken too late and induced by three previous decisions made by the Bayreuth Direction: to engage Baumgarten in the first place, to accept his project (I don’t think a production of such a scope could have been improvised…), and to let it go on at any given stage of the rehearsals (has anybody watched it happen?). Apparently, the Direction is either unable, or unwilling to judge this kind of rubbish and to take its responsibilities.

            We had a similar phenomenon recently in Düsseldorf with the infamous Kosminski’s Tannhäuser, where the direction proved too cowardly to stop the joke before it was to late, and then – to stick by its own decision. First, scared by the progressists, then scared by the conservatists. So grown up.

          • Theodore McGuiver says:

            Regarding the English in your post, such error is human, particularly when pushed for time. The lack of an edit feature for the comments is regrettable, though…

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I would love that…

  8. Who’s “Katrina” when she’s at home?
    No matter what you think of Bayreuth and its management, it’s only common courtesy to spell a person’s name correctly.
    I think you mean KATHERINA.

  9. “We hear on several grapevines that the Wagner family have been told by political friends that this cannot go on…”

    Ahh, the sweet deceptive seduction by unsubstantiated rumors. Don’t we all love it?

    Would be interesting to know which political friends we are talking about, like to share Mr. Lebrecht? You don’t have to name the source/grapevine…

    If Bayreuth would indeed face a cut in funding from the public hand (I think the above mentioned are just unsubstantiated rumors), it would be a purely political decision, not an artistic or economically driven.
    Nowhere in Germany is Opera produced with less public subsidies on that quality level than in Bayreuth. Bayreuth usually requires less than 40% of it’s budget through public subsidies. Other major Opera houses in Germany traditionally require much more, often more than 80% of their budgets, through public subsidies.

  10. Time for the present day Wagners to stop dining out on great grand father’s work.

  11. bluepumpkin says:

    And is any of this affecting the clamour for tickets for Bayreuth? I suspect not.

  12. Theodore McGuiver says:

    @Gonout Backson: Regarding the Düsseldorf Tannhäuser, I’ve recently worked with two of the leads from that production, both very intelligent singers, and both found more in it to praise than criticise. Strange, as it looks repulsive on every level. Couldn’t agree more concerning Baumgarten’s execrescence; why it wasn’t nipped in the bud beggars belief.

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