- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

MUNICH — A new generation of Wagners is at the helm as the annual Bayreuth Festival opens this weekend, with composer Richard Wagner’s great-granddaughter saying that she hopes to help bring “opera to the people.”

Half-sisters Katharina Wagner, 31, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 64, were named as co-directors in September, becoming the first new management team in more than a half-century after Ms. Wagner’s 89-year-old father, Wolfgang, agreed to end his long reign.

Festival-goers may not notice much change immediately. With performers booked years ahead, this year’s event offers no new productions. It opens Saturday with Christoph Marthaler’s staging of “Tristan and Isolde” and runs through Aug. 28.

However, the new team has innovations to offer on the sidelines, notably a version of “The Flying Dutchman” for children, reduced to an hour, the 10 performances of which are long since sold out.

Following its first live Internet broadcast in 2008, a move championed by Ms. Wagner, the festival this year will offer a performance of “Tristan and Isolde” live on the Web on Aug. 9, with Webcast prices cut to $21.20 from last year’s steep $69.

The same performance also will be screened live in a central Bayreuth square, with free admission.

“It is a matter of the heart for me to bring opera to the people,” Ms. Wagner said at a news conference in Munich on Monday. “Opera is a niche product. I am working with my heart and soul on this product.”

Ms. Wagner said Mr. Marthaler’s “Tristan and Isolde” would lend itself well to the Webcast and outside screening. “He is a master when it comes to staging boredom, standstill and desperation,” she said.

At the Richard Wagner-designed Festspielhaus itself, the new directors are offering pre-performance talks by experts who Ms. Wagner hopes will promote a “better understanding” of the works. They also are introducing slimmed-down programs as a substitute for the unwieldy $39.50 volumes offered in recent years.

Wagner fans typically wait up to 10 years to obtain tickets for the festival.

Among the offerings on this year’s roster are Ms. Wagner’s own staging of “Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg,” now in its third year; Tankred Dorst’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen”; and Stefan Herheim’s “Parsifal,” which premiered last year.

The half-sisters’ appointment ended a years-long battle in which Wolfgang Wagner, who had a lifetime contract, long resisted efforts to push him out. He finally agreed to step aside after last year’s festival; and Ms. Wagner and Ms. Wagner-Pasquier then teamed up to beat out a rival bid from their cousin, Nike Wagner

The winning team offered a combination of the youth and the steady hand of experience. Ms. Wagner-Pasquier’s resume includes years as an artistic consultant at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide