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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Green Hill Loses Greenbacks

Major Sponsor Pulls From Bayreuth Festival
The Bayreuth Festspielhaus opened in 1876
The Bayreuth Festival, founded in 1876 for the presentation and performance of the operas of Richard Wagner, has lost a major sponsor. 

Siemens, the German conglomerate which had regularly donated 1 million Euros to the Festival since 2008, announced yesterday in German newspaper Die Welt that their relationship with Bayreuth had ended.
The company had pumped the money into the festival in order to expand the festival's media presence under the leadership of Wagner's two great grand-daughters, Katerina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier. The two sisters  succeeded their father Wolfgang Wagner, who kept an iron grip over his grandfather's opera house for almost half a century.

In recent years, efforts to raise the profile of the festival have included a DVD release of Katherina Wagner's controversial staging of Die Meistersinger and a live web-cast of this year's Lohengrin, which reimagined the citizens of Brabant as lab rats trapped in a giant, horrifying experiment. The Festival's recent staging of Tannhäuser reimagined Wagner's medieval world as a series of biogas tanks. It met with a mostly negative reception.

The Bayreuth Festival opened in 1876 with the first production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. All operas are performed in the Festspielhaus, a unique, acoustically perfect auditorium designed by Wagner himself and funded by Ludwig II, the mad monarch who ruled Bavaria in the late 19th century.
Tanke Schön: Camilla Naylund as Elisabeth in the new Tannhäuser.
Photo by Enrico Nawath © 2011 Bayreuth Festival
Following the 1883 premiere of Parsifal and the subsequent death of Wagner himself, the Festival has remained a "family" business. Wagner's widow Cosima, his son Siegfried, and Siegfried's widow Winifred ran the opera house until 1943, when it was closed in the last years of World War II. Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner re-opened the house in 1951, recreating Bayreuth as a venue for experimental treatment of their grandfather's operas.

Since re-opening in 1951, Bayreuth has transformed itself from a hide-bound living museum, to become one of the most important venues for theatrical experimentation in staging Wagner's operas. In the 1970s, following the death of Wieland Wagner, his brother Wolfgang established Werkstatt Bayreuth to encourage experimental stagings of these great works. The repertory remains limited, confined to the ten mature Wagner operas and a season-opening performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

The Festival maintains a ten-year waiting list for tickets.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.